The Great Debate UK

from Global News Journal:

Hope and Fear at the World Bank

It was early March and Kristalina Georgieva, the European Commissioner of International Cooperation Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response, was traveling in Asia. Her plan was to attend a 7.5 magnitude earthquake simulation that would hit Indonesia and generate a tsunami. A few things, however, changed in her itinerary: The destination turned out to be Japan, the earthquake was 9.0 and it not only generated a huge tsunami, but also a nuclear catastrophe. Plus, it was real.

“Usually our fears are bigger than reality. In this case our reality was worse than our fears,” Georgieva said recently at a World Bank panel on the climate, food and financial crises the world is facing today and the way they all intertwine. Georgieva’s strong Slavic optimism brightened the gloomy panel, but the data she threw in didn’t back up her positive view:

Hold on for a second. How can these disasters have such a devastating impact on us when cutting-edge technology, extensive knowledge and interconnectedness are here to help us mitigate them?

This question left the representatives of Uganda – who followed the event via webcast -- puzzled. So they raised the simplest but toughest question for the panel:

from Environment Forum:

Is Earth due for a mass extinction?

extinction2_h1It has all the signs of a sick good-news/bad-news tale. The bad news is that Earth may be ripe for a mass extinction, where 75 percent or more of the life on the planet vanishes forever.

The good news is it's unlikely to happen for at least three more centuries.

Scientists writing in the journal Nature warn that we could be on the brink of a mass extinction, the kind of species loss that has happened just five times in the last 540 million years.

from Environment Forum:

“The Harry Potter theory of climate”

USA/Climate doesn't change by magic.

Just ask Mark Serreze, director of the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center in Colorado. On a conference call with other scientists and reporters, Serreze and others linked climate change to the last two harsh winters over much of the United States and Europe. And they squarely blamed human-caused greenhouse gas emissions for the rise in world temperatures that got the process going.

"Climate doesn't change all by itself," Serreze said. "It's not like the Harry Potter theory of climate, where he flicks his magic wand and the climate suddenly changes. Climate only changes for a reason."

from Environment Forum:

Pure water from solar power; will it catch on?

water1 Remote villages in developing countries might benefit from these twin 40-ft long containers (left) -- a water purification system driven by solar power -- as a substitute for noisy diesel-powered generators, trucks bringing in water or people spending hours every day walking to fetch water.

That's the hope of the makers, environmental technology group SwissINSO Holding Inc. The small company has recently won its first contracts to supply the systems to Algeria and Malaysia and is aiming to sell 42 units of what it calls the world's "first high-volume, 100 percent-solar turnkey water purification system" in 2011.

from Reuters Investigates:

WikiLeaks, OpenLeaks, GreenLeaks and more leaks

A Reuters exclusive details the emergence of two anti-corporate, WikiLeaks-style websites in Europe, both called GreenLeaks. The sites promise to leak confidential documents regarding environmental abuses by a host of industries.

The report by Mark Hosenball also reveals the rise of other possible WikiLeaks copycats that would focus on specialized topics or regions -- from Russia and the European Union bureaucracy to international trade, the pharmaceutical industry and the Balkans.

from Environment Forum:

Cancun talks ignore intrusive aspect of climate change

pine beetle

One pesky aspect of climate change is that rising temperatures  and stronger storms may increase  invasions of non-native species to places that have no natural defenses against them.

The issue is mostly being ignored at the annual U.N. climate talks in Cancun, Mexico, California's Agriculture Secretary A.G. Kawamura said.

Why we should still be constructive about Cancun

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Lord Professor Julian Hunt is Vice President of GLOBE (Global Legislators for a Balanced Environment), Visiting Professor at Delft University, and former Director-General of the UK Met Office. The opinions expressed are his own.

Ahead of the UN Summit in Cancun, legislators from across the world, ranging from United States Congressman Bart Gordon to Chinese Congressman Wang Guangtao, met in China earlier this month at the GLOBE Climate Change Symposium.  While the prospects for a comprehensive deal being reached in Mexico have been widely talked down, much progress can still be made and there remains substantial room for optimism.

from Reuters Investigates:

Weird weather and the Amazon

As scientists from around the world gather in Cancun for the latest U.N. conference on climate change, Stuart Grudgings reports from Caapiranga, in the heart of the Amazon rainforest, for his special report "Weird weather leaves Amazon thirsty."

This year's drought in the Amazon was the kind of thing experts call a "once in a century" event. Unfortunately, it was the second one in five years.

from The Great Debate:

Obama, Moses and exaggerated expectations

-Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own-

President Barack Obama is close to the half-way mark of his presidential mandate, a good time for a brief look at health care, unemployment, war, the level of the oceans, the health of the planet, and America's image. They all featured in a 2008 Obama speech whose rhetoric soared to stratospheric heights.

"If...we are willing to work for it, and fight for it, and believe in it, then I'm absolutely certain that generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs for the jobless; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal; this was the moment when we ended a war and secured our nation and restored our image as the last best hope on earth."

What next for the environment under the new government?

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- Juliet Davenport is founder and CEO of Good Energy, a renewable electricity supplier. The opinions expressed are her own. -

When parliament resumes, roughly a third of all MPs will be taking their seats in Westminster for the first time.

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