Global environmental challenges
It’s not often you go to a part of the world that disappears from the map a few weeks later.
Luckily we weren’t on the Wilkins Ice Shelf (above) in Antarctica on April 4, when an ice bridge that may be holding ice the size of Jamaica in place shattered into dozens of giant pieces (story here).
The break-up was captured on satellite images by the European Space Agency (below left from today, with an image of the ice bridge intact from April 2, below right)
But we were there in January — Stuart McDill of Reuters TV and I travelled with a group of scientists from the British Antarctic Survey who landed on the flat-topped ice in sunshine in a bright red Twin Otter plane. (main photo above: the ice cliff at the front is about 20 metres high. Photo below left shows the plane on the ice).
The results are in and no surprise — California’s lean snowpack means a third year of drought for the state whose farms supply about half the nation’s fruit and vegetables.
The state’s survey clocks in at 81 percent of normal water content in the snow, with the state fearing early spring heat could melt the white stuff, leaving fewer reserves later in the summer when they are most needed. Plus a National Marine Fisheries Service report, called a biological opinion, may trigger more conservation measures to protect salmon and steelhead, cutting water left for farms and homes.
A curious thing is happening at a U.N. meeting in Bonn this week on a new climate pact – countries least interested in a deal such as OPEC members are doing more and more of the talking.
Organisers of the talks have set up a new ”Countdown to Copenhagen” clock in the main hall (above left) to try to spur the sluggish negotiations. It shows 248 days left until the talks in the Danish capital in December.
Has it come to this in California? Is the Golden State really banning black cars from its famous freeways, as reported in various auto industry blogs – and even The Washington Post – on the grounds that they require more air conditioning to cool?
The answer, a slightly exasperated spokesman for air quality regulator the California Air Resources Board tells Reuters, is an emphatic “NO.”
When I attended a talk by Al Gore about global warming in Oslo in March 2007, I noticed that one of the people clapping loudest — about two rows in front of me — was the head of the committee that awards the Nobel Peace Prize.
Ole Danbolt Mjoes also joined in a minute-long standing ovation for the former U.S. vice president. “A very important message,” was all Mjoes would tell me of Gore’s speech afterwards when I went up and asked him if Gore had a chance of winning.
The tough part for households is that Moody’s expects industrial users to figure out a way to duck the cost with special rates, meaning residential electric customers will carry “the vast majority” of the cost burden. Check out our story here.
Last year’s horrendous China earthquake may have big, lingering effects on the atmosphere. Mudslides after the deadly May 12 quake in Sichuan province are likely to trigger a release of carbon dioxide equal to 2 percent of the world’s current carbon emissions from fossil fuel combustion, geophysicists say.
“Mudslides wipe away plants and topsoil, depleting terrain of nutrients for plant regrowth and burying swaths of vegetation. Buried vegetable matter decomposes and releases carbon dioxide and other gases to the atmosphere,” according to a statement ahead of a report in American Geophysical Union journal Geophysical Research Letters.
The following guest blog is by Holman Jenkins, a Wall Street Journal columnist and member of the WSJ editorial board, in response to a blog (here) by Stuart Gaffin, a climate researcher at Columbia University who is a regular contributor to these pages. Thomson Reuters is not responsible for the content — the views are the author’s alone.
By Holman Jenkins
Several of my emailers in response to my WSJ column were also perplexed what I meant when I wrote that climate science has managed to yield on the most important issue -– namely mankind’s actual impact on the climate — only a “negative finding.” In fact, clarification appears in the next sentence: Science hasn’t been able to how “an increase in the atmosphere’s component of CO2 is impacting our climate, though the most plausible indication is that the impact is too small to untangle from natural variability.”
There is so much snow in Oslo, where I live, that the city authorities are resorting to dumping truckloads of it in the sea because the usual storage sites on land are full.
That is angering environmentalists who say the snow is far too dirty – scraped up from polluted roads — to be added to the fjord. The story even made it to the front page of the local paper (‘Dumpes i sjøen’: ‘Dumped in the sea’).