Environment Forum

from Global News Journal:

What to do while the world burns

fireBangkok.jpg

A firefighter puts out a fire at a village near Bangkok March 31, 2008. REUTERS/Sukree Sukplang

This opinion piece by Mort Rosenblum originally appeared in GlobalPost. The views expressed are his own. For the full article, click here.


PARIS, France — Back when primal-scream therapy was the rage in California, a friend fell asleep in a tangle of limbs by a blazing hearth. At dawn, sparks ignited the shag rug.

Someone shrieked, “FIRREEE!” Others, stupefied from the previous day’s psycho-dramatics and smoke from other sources, sleepily mumbled stuff like, “Yeah, man, let it out.”

Copenhagen is now upon us, and I think about this scene. For 20 years, climate scientists have banged ever louder on alarms. Still, we open one eye and nod off again.

What will they say in 2100 about what (didn’t) happen in 2009?

Hans Joachim Schellnhuber can speak eloquently and at length in English, German, French or Spanish about the perils of climate change. But the cold language of science in any of those languages melts away when the director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, 59, mentions his 18-month-old son and the impact that global warming will have on  the toddler’s life. 

“I’ve got a young son,” Schellnhuber says, pictured at the right with the boy, his wife and Britain’s Prince Charles on a visit to Potsdam in April. “I hope this all turns out to be wrong. I would be delighted if it turns out that we haven’t understood the system as well as we think we do, and that we might get a 20- to 30-year ‘breathing period’ when global warming slows or is even halted,” Schellnhuber said in an interview.

“I hope my son can live in a world where there won’t be massive conflicts because the sea level rises by a metre in his life time. I hope he’ll be able to have a happy life. But I’m growing increasingly worried.” 

In dengue-infested Indonesian village: clinic or trees?

It was as I lay in a Singapore hospital bed — ablaze with dengue fever but shivering in a sweat that chilled my aching bones — that I began to understand why villagers in a remote part of Indonesia would trade their forest for decent health services.

Teluk Meranti is a tiny, 800-family fishing hamlet in Riau province of Sumatra island in Indonesia, where dengue is common but health services are poor and infrastructure is very basic.

With a monthly income of around $200, the average Teluk Meranti dweller doesn’t have much — but they do have customary rights to an enormous tract of rainforest in the lush Kampar Peninsula, home to rare flora and fauna.

Catching rays + cutting emissions

The phrase “catching a few rays” might conjure up images of lying on a sunny beach.

But Germany’s Renewable Energy Act has given that phrase a whole new meaning. I’ve discovered that you can get paid for capturing the sun’s energy on your roof, converting it into CO2-free electricity with the help of special equipment, and feeding it into the grid — and watch the investment yield handsome long-term returns.

The German feed-in tariff system is as simple as it is successful – which is probably why Germany produces as much solar power as the rest of the world combined. German utilities are obliged under the Renewable Energy Act to pay above-market feed-in tariffs to producers of photovoltaic or wind energy for a period of 20 years. Germany will add up to 3 gigawatt of PV electricity this year. 

Could denying bedroom privileges save the planet?

There will be a record number of side events at the United Nations-sponsored climate talks in Copenhagen next month, but one woman’s one-woman show could give the delegates, most of whom will be men, the incentive they really need to agree a new global warming treaty.

In “The Boycott“, Kathryn Blume plays Lyssa, First Lady of the United States and climate crusader.  Loosely borrowing from a play from ancient Greece, Lyssa launches a nationwide sex strike to fight global warming. As the play unfolds, Lyssa is forced to take on her indifferent husband, a hostile press and a romantic rival who’s not only in bed with the President, but with the oil industry as well.

Blume is co-founder of the Lysistrata Project, named after the Aristophanean comedy on which The Boycott is based.  Originally performed in ancient Athens in 411 BC, Lysistrata tells the tale of one woman’s attempt to end the Peloponnesian War by convincing all women to withhold bedroom privileges from their husbands.

from The Great Debate UK:

A freakonomic view of climate change

Ahead of a U.N. summit in Copenhagen next month, scepticism is growing that an agreement will be reached on a global climate treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol, due to expire in 2012.

The protocol set targets aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions, which are believed to be responsible for the gradual rise in the Earth's average temperature. Many scientists say that reducing carbon dioxide emissions is key to preventing climate change.

But authors Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner argue in their new book SuperFreakonomics that humanity can take an alternative route to try and save the planet.

The view from the Arctic: on Sarah Palin and caribou soup

While the world gets ready for December’s climate meeting in Copenhagen, a group of native Arctic women traveled to Washington this week to talk about what climate change is doing right now in places like Arctic Village, Alaska, and Whitehorse, in Canada’s Yukon.******Five of the women talked emotionally about how much harder it is to hunt for traditional game animals like caribou in a time of global warming, and how important these traditional foods are to their culture and health. They also took aim at some of Sarah Palin’s statements, especially her push for oil and gas exploration in the Arctic.******Watch below as Norma Kassi, a member of the Gwich’in nation — sometimes translated as “People of the Caribou” — talks about her practices as a hunter, and her take on Palin and her “drill baby drill” strategy. (It’s a fairly long video; her comments on Palin start about halfway through):************Now watch Sarah James, of Arctic Village, talk about the plain fact that “Western” fare like pizza, meatloaf and fast food simply can’t satisfy her son like a soothing caribou soup:************Kassi, James and other members of the Arctic delegation are telling their story on Capitol Hill and to members of the Obama administration. Some are planning to attend the Copenhagen conference, despite dampening hopes of a major agreement from that gathering.******They have an invitation for President Barack Obama: they’d like him to visit the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge next year, the 50th anniversary of this far-north protected area where caribou herds have their calves and where some energy companies have hoped to drill.******Video credits: REUTERS/Deborah Zabarenko (Washington, November 11, 2009) ******Photo credit: REUTERS/Nathaniel Wilder (Sarah Palin outside the Mocha Moose Espresso after voting in Wasilla, Alaska, November 4, 2008)

from The Great Debate UK:

Can emissions be tackled without Copenhagen deal?

Even if a deal is reached among political delegates at the upcoming United Nations Climate Conference in Copenhagen, it is unlikely to set out specific emission targets, says Mike Hulme, author of "Why We Disagree About Climate Change" and a professor at the University of East Anglia in Norwich.

"What we've done with climate change is to attach so many pressing environmental concerns to the climate change agenda that trying to secure a negotiated multilateral agreement between 190 nations is actually beyond the reach of what we can achieve," he argues.

Hulme, who will take part in a debate hosted by the Institute of Economic Affairs in November about carbon emission policies and economic activity before he heads to the Copenhagen conference, discussed his views with Reuters.

Copenhagen…DOpenHAgen…DOHA?

Some politicians are mentioning “Copenhagen” and “Doha” in the same breath — a worrying lament less than 2 months to go before a U.N. climate deal is meant to be wrapped up in the Danish capital.

So is there a risk – if negotiators are not smart — that the new U.N. accord to fight global warming will stall like the long-running Doha round on freeing world trade, launched in 2001?

India’s Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh, for instance, said on Oct. 10 that negotiators should aim for a realistic agreement in Copenhagen from Dec. 7-18 that was not too ambitious. He said there was a risk of repeating the “mistake of the Doha round”, saying that “the basic problem of the Doha round was ‘all or nothing’.”

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."

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