Environment Forum

from Tales from the Trail:

The First Draft: Could Obama’s Olympic sprint be a preview of a Copenhagen climate trip?

THAILAND/OK, so President Barack Obama's lightning jaunt to Copenhagen last week was less than successful. Even with Oprah along, the Cheerleader-in-Chief couldn't clinch the deal for Chicago to host the 2016 Olympics. It happens.

But now that he knows the way to Denmark, might the American president consider arguing the U.S. case at international climate meetings in Copenhagen in December? The White House said he might, if other heads of state showed up.

"Right now you've got a meeting that's set up for a level not at the head of state level," presidential spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters on Air Force One last week. "If it got switched, we would certainly look at coming."

Those climate talks might need a bit of a boost from the United States. White House climate czarina Carol Browner has said it's unlikely Obama will be able to sign any U.S. legislation to curb climate change before the December meeting. And that sets up a familiar Catch-22: if there's no U.S. law in place before Copenhagen climate talks, can the United States commit to anything? And if there IS a U.S. law in place, does the United States have the flexibility to maneuver in these international negotiations?

Climate negotiators already know the answer to the first part of that conundrum; they agreed to the Kyoto Protocol without backing from the U.S. Congress and came home to find no support for this 1997 carbon-capping deal. The United States is still the only industrialized nation not to ratify it.

Endangered yellow taxi? US climate bill could turn them green

The sweeping legislation unveiled in the U.S. Senate today aims to curb climate change, arguably one of the biggest tasks ever undertaken on this planet. But it’s a bill that runs to more than 800 pages, and hidden in its folds is a provision that could turn a noted symbol of New York City — the yellow taxicab — green.

And it wouldn’t just be in New York. Boston, San Francisco, Seattle and other major U.S. cities would be able to create taxi fleets made up entirely of hybrid vehicles under the proposed Green Taxis Act of 2009.

Offered by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who now fills Hillary Clinton’s former seat in the Senate, the measure aims to cut greenhouse gas emissions by more than 296,000 tons in New York City alone, which its sponsors say would be like taking some 35,000 cars off the road and save drivers $4,500 annually in gas costs.

A green Nobel Peace Prize next week? Or one too many?

Will the guardians of the Nobel Peace Prize make another green award in 2009 to encourage sluggish talks on new U.N. climate treaty due to be agreed in Copenhagen?

Or is it too early after environmental prizes in both 2004 and 2007?

The five-member Nobel panel likes to make topical awards to try to influence the world – a prize announcement on Oct. 9 linked to climate change could hardly be better timed since 190 nations will meet in Copenhagen in December to agree a new pact for fighting global warming.

And the Nobel prize will be formally handed over at a ceremony in Oslo on Dec. 10 — the anniversary of the death of founder Alfred Nobel – giving any winner a global loudspeaker during the the Dec. 7-18 meeting in Copenhagen.

Brazil’s Minc gains clout at home before Copenhagen

After a series of setbacks since he took office in May 2008, Brazil’s Environment Minister Carlos Minc has scored several political victories in recent weeks that give his portfolio some clout for the first time in Latin America’s largest country.

Only a few months ago Minc looked like he would follow the path of his predecessor, internationally-renowned Amazon defender Marina Silva, who stepped down in May 2008 citing opposition to her environmental policies.

He had complained to President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva about a plot from the country’s powerful farm lobby and colleagues in the cabinet to undermine his green agenda.

Arctic expedition reaches the ice

    U.S. and Russian scientists exploring the Arctic ocean finally reached ice on Monday, about 435 miles (700 km) northwest of Barrow, Alaska.

    On a year when the Arctic sea ice has receded in the summer to its third-smallest on record, researchers on the RUSALCA expedition got the opportunity to study the water, sea life and the ocean floor at a location where there is rarely open water.

    The mission’s science chief, Terry Whitledge, said it he did not expect explore such a northerly location without an icebreaker. 

‘Not enough ice to make a margarita’

Scientists aboard the Russian research vessel Professor Khromov spent the weekend collecting samples of water, sealife and ocean-floor mud at a spot in the western Arctic Ocean that in most years would be covered with sea ice.

The ship, carrying researchers for the six-week RUSALCA expedition, was in its most northerly planned sampling stop, or “station,”  a location nearly 350 miles (563 km) northwest of Barrow, Alaska. During the mission’s last cruise in 2004, the most northerly accessible location was 345 miles (555 km) south of the weekend’s station.

Mission coordinator Kevin Wood, of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration,  writes from the ship that the water is open on all sides. “There isn’t enough ice here to make a margarita,” Wood said.

from FaithWorld:

Huckabee wins round one in 2012 Republican race

Former Arkanas Governor and Republican presidential contender Mike Huckabee has won the first informal round in what will no doubt be a long race to head the party's White House ticket in 2012.

The affable Baptist preacher, who won the hearts and minds of conservative evangelicals during his failed 2008 bid for the Republican presidential nomination, topped other possible Republican presidential contenders in a straw poll at a summit of Christian conservative voters in Washington.

PALESTINIANS-ISRAEL/

Out of a field of nine, Huckabee garnered the most votes or 28.5 percent. Delegates to the convention were asked: "Thinking ahead to the 2012 presidential election and assuming the nomination of Barack Obama as Democtats' choice for president, who would you vote for as the Republicans nominee for president?"

from Summit Notebook:

Enviro-boxer Britain needs to spend more on climate cure

Scientists may face an uphill battle in trying to warn the world about the looming perils of global warming, but one of Britain's top academics wouldn't trade places with the politicians tasked with negotiating a new global treaty to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

"Although the science (of climate change) is difficult and still uncertain, it's a doddle compared to the politics," said Martin Rees, president of the Royal Society, Britain's science academy.

Thousands of international delegates will convene at UN climate talks in Copenhagen in December. All early indications suggest those talks, seen as critical to agreeing a successor to the Kyoto Protocol after it expires in 2012, will be anything but a cake walk.

from Summit Notebook:

U.N. climate deal in Copenhagen, or København?

A new U.N. deal to step up the fight against climate change is to be agreed this December in the Danish capital 'Copenhagen', or should that be 'København'?

British and American English speakers often differ about whether to pronounce it "Copen'hay'gen" or "Copen'haa'gen". And interviews for the Reuters Global Climate and Alternative Energy summit this week are bringing varieties in between.

But what do Danes reckon? I called up an expert:

"We'd normally say "Copen'hay'gen in English," said Ida Ebbensgaard," spokeswoman for Danish Environment Minister Connie Hedegaard who will host the Dec. 7-18 meeting.

Zodiac man gets his day

Rodney Russ lives for the times he is at the rudder of a Zodiac.

For the owner of Heritage Expeditions, the New Zealand-based company that is operating the Russian research ship Professor Khromov in the Bering Sea, the more challenging the conditions the better.

“The rougher the waves, the more difficult the landing, the more remote and obscure the place, the more I enjoy it,” Russ said in a corridor on the Khromov.

So it was with disappointment that Russ was forced to put the inflatable boat with the outboard motor away, after he had donned his wet-weather gear and readied the craft for a spin off the Siberian coast in late August.

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