Archive for the 'Climate change news' Category

Yellowstone is warming…

An article in last week’s NYT reports evidence that the Yellowstone is warming up, and triggering a cascade of environmental and ecological changes.   One change is the increase in suitable habitat for the Canada thistle, which outcompetes other plants, and is a food source for Grizzly bears, among other foragers.   Climate change, associated with increasing drought within the park, has made previously marshy terrain suitable to the thistle.

Skeptics seize upon cold winter

Climate change skeptics, including the communications director for the Republican minority in the Senate Environment and Public Works committee, have seized upon  the unusually cold winter in North America as evidence that global warming is not really happening.  There is no doubt that this year’s La Niña has led to cooler winter weather over North America than we have seen for the past decade (see figure from NYT: 1980-2008 trend), but even this cooler weather is above the 1960-1990 monthly winter average.

Cold winter, but glacier melt accelerates

The World Glacier Monitoring Service in Zurich, Switzerland reports accelerating glacier melt based on 30 glaciers in 9 mountainous regions.  The biggest worry is loss of glaciers in regions that rely on them for summer drinking water and hydroelectric power, such as those on the western slope of the S. American Andes.  The full technical report is here.  A quote from the final remarks section, regarding melt rate since 1980:  “The melt rate and loss in glacier thickness continues to be extraordinary. This development further confirms the accelerating trend in worldwide glacier disappearance, which has become more and more obvious during the past two decades. “

Ethanol sucks!

I hate to say I told you so, but two new science articles have made corn-based ethanol, and even more futuristic cellulosic ethanol, seem much less legitimate as an option to combat global warming.  Appearing in the prestigious journal Science, both new papers suggest that switching to ethanol will actually add to net greenhouse gasses in the near term (i.e., for at least 100 years if not more).  One of the reasons is that clearing more land for biofuels will immediately release a large pulse of carbon into the atmosphere. Moreover, as the pressure to both grow food and fuel mount, more land will be cleared, thereby accelerating such a carbon release.  Here are the abstracts for both articles (lead authors were from Princeton University and the Nature Conservancy) and here is some commentary from Grist.  The authors are careful to note that producing fuel from the waste stream (i.e., used cooking oil and grease, etc) does not have this drawback. 

UN eyes global warming pact by 2009

By JOSEPH COLEMAN, Associated Press Writer

BALI, Indonesia – In a dramatic finish to a U.N. climate conference, world leaders adopted a plan Saturday for negotiating a new global warming pact by 2009, after the United States backed down in a battle over wording supported by developing nations and Europe.

The U.S. stand had drawn loud boos and sharp rebukes — “Lead … or get out of the way!” one delegate demanded — before Undersecretary of State Paula Dobriansky reversed her position, clearing the way adoption of the so-called Bali Roadmap.”

World poised to sign climate deal

The world was poised to agree an historic deal to tackle global warming tonight, as a last-minute compromise appeared to have saved the UN climate talks.

The agreement, which lays the foundation for a new worldwide treaty to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, was expected to be finalised tonight. The breakthrough comes after two weeks of torturous discussions, insults, arguments, threatened boycotts and trade sanctions, as countries fought over who should take responsibility for major cuts in carbon pollution.

Al Gore lays blame for Bali stalemate on U.S.

By Gerard Wynn

NUSA DUA, Indonesia, Dec 13 (Reuters) – Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore drew cheers at 190-nation talks by saying the United States was the main block to launching negotiations in Bali on a new global climate treaty.