Sunday, October 18, 2009

Malidives Cabinet's underwater meeting to highlight the threat of Global Warming


The Maldives government held a cabinet meeting underwater in a bid to attract international attention to the dangers of global warming.

President Muhammad Nasheed, dressed in full scuba gear, held Saturday's 30 minute meeting at a depth of six metres just north of the capital Male.

A tourist paradise we most associate with its coral reefs and white sand beaches, many of the 1200 islands that make up this country are less than one metre above sea level.

President Mohammed Nasheed and 13 other government officials submerged and took their seats at a table on the sea floor -- 20 feet (6 meters) below the surface of a lagoon off Girifushi, an island usually used for military training.

With a backdrop of coral, the meeting was a bid to draw attention to fears that rising sea levels caused by the melting of polar ice caps could swamp this Indian Ocean archipelago within a century. Its islands average 7 feet (2.1 meters) above sea level.

''What we are trying to make people realize is that the Maldives is a frontline state. This is not merely an issue for the Maldives but for the world,'' Nasheed said.

As bubbles floated up from their face masks, the president, vice president, Cabinet secretary and 11 ministers signed a document calling on all countries to cut their carbon dioxide emissions.
The issue has taken on urgency ahead of a major U.N. climate change conference scheduled for December in Copenhagen. At that meeting countries will negotiate a successor to the Kyoto Protocol with aims to cut the emission of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide that scientists blame for causing global warming by trapping heat in the atmosphere.

Wealthy nations want broad emissions cuts from all countries, while poorer ones say industrialized countries should carry most of the burden.

Dozens of Maldives soldiers guarded the event Saturday, but the only intruders were groupers and other fish.

Nasheed had already announced plans for a fund to buy a new homeland for his people if the 1,192 low-lying coral islands are submerged. He has promised to make the Maldives, with a population of 350,000, the world's first carbon-neutral nation within a decade.

''We have to get the message across by being more imaginative, more creative and so this is what we are doing,'' he said in an interview on a boat en route to the dive site.

Nasheed, who has emerged as a key, and colorful, voice on climate change, is a certified diver, but the others had to take diving lessons in recent weeks.

Three ministers missed the underwater meeting because two were not given medical permission and another was abroad.

IPCC warning

The Maldives, located southwest of Sri Lanka, has become a vocal campaigner in the battle to halt rising sea levels. In 2007, the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that a rise in sea levels of 18 to 59 centimetres by 2100 would be enough to make the country virtually uninhabitable.

More than 80 per cent of the country's land, composed of coral islands scattered some 850km across the equator, is less than one metre above sea level.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Artic ocean turns into acid


Carbon-dioxide emissions are turning the waters of the Arctic Ocean into acid at an unprecedented rate, scientists have discovered. Research carried out in the archipelago of Svalbard has shown in many regions around the north pole seawater is likely to reach corrosive levels within 10 years. The water will then start to dissolve the shells of mussels and other shellfish and cause major disruption to the food chain. By the end of the century, the entire Arctic Ocean will be corrosively acidic.

"This is extremely worrying," Professor Jean-Pierre Gattuso, of France's Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, told an international oceanography conference last week. "We knew that the seas were getting more acidic and this would disrupt the ability of shellfish – like mussels – to grow their shells. But now we realise the situation is much worse. The water will become so acidic it will actually dissolve the shells of living shellfish."

Just as an acid descaler breaks apart limescale inside a kettle, so the shells that protect molluscs and other creatures will be dissolved. "This will affect the whole food chain, including the North Atlantic salmon, which feeds on molluscs," said Gattuso, speaking at a European commission conference, Oceans of Tomorrow, in Barcelona last week. The oceanographer told delegates that the problem of ocean acidification was worse in high latitudes, in the Arctic and around Antarctica, than it was nearer the equator.

"More carbon dioxide can dissolve in cold water than warm," he said. "Hence the problem of acidification is worse in the Arctic than in the tropics, though we have only recently got round to studying the problem in detail."

About a quarter of the carbon dioxide pumped into the atmosphere by factories, power stations and cars now ends up being absorbed by the oceans. That represents more than six million tonnes of carbon a day.

This carbon dioxide dissolves and is turned into carbonic acid, causing the oceans to become more acidic. "We knew the Arctic would be particularly badly affected when we started our studies but I did not anticipate the extent of the problem," said Gattuso.

His research suggests that 10% of the Arctic Ocean will be corrosively acidic by 2018; 50% by 2050; and 100% ocean by 2100. "Over the whole planet, there will be a threefold increase in the average acidity of the oceans, which is unprecedented during the past 20 million years. That level of acidification will cause immense damage to the ecosystem and the food chain, particularly in the Arctic," he added.

The tiny mollusc Limacina helicina, which is found in Arctic waters, will be particularly vulnerable, he said. The little shellfish is eaten by baleen whales, salmon, herring and various seabirds. Its disappearance would therefore have a major impact on the entire marine food chain. The deep-water coral Lophelia pertusa would also be extremely vulnerable to rising acidity. Reefs in high latitudes are constructed by only one or two types of coral – unlike tropical coral reefs which are built by a large variety of species. The loss of Lophelia pertusa would therefore devastate reefs off Norway and the coast of Scotland, removing underwater shelters that are exploited by dozens of species of fish and other creatures.

"Scientists have proposed all sorts of geo-engineering solutions to global warming," said Gattuso. "For instance, they have proposed spraying the upper atmosphere with aerosol particles that would reduce sunlight reaching the Earth, mitigating the warming caused by rising levels of carbon dioxide.

"But these ideas miss the point. They will still allow carbon dioxide emissions to continue to increase – and thus the oceans to become more and more acidic. There is only one way to stop the devastation the oceans are now facing and that is to limit carbon-dioxide emissions as a matter of urgency."

This was backed by other speakers at the conference. Daniel Conley, of Lund University, Sweden, said that increasing acidity levels, sea-level rises and temperature changes now threatened to bring about irreversible loss of biodiversity in the sea. Christoph Heinze, of Bergen University, Norway, said his studies, part of the EU CarboOcean project, had found that carbon from the atmosphere was being transported into the oceans' deeper waters far more rapidly than expected and was already having a corrosive effect on life forms there.

The oceans' vulnerability to climate change and rising carbon-dioxide levels has also been a key factor in the launching of the EU's Tara Ocean project at Barcelona. The expedition, on the sailing ship Tara, will take three years to circumnavigate the globe, culminating in a voyage through the icy Northwest Passage in Canada, and will make continual and detailed samplings of seawater to study its life forms.

A litre of seawater contains between 1bn and 10bn single-celled organisms called prokaryotes, between 10bn and 100bn viruses and a vast number of more complex, microscopic creatures known as zooplankton, said Chris Bowler, a marine biologist on Tara.
"People think they are just swimming in water when they go for a dip in the sea," he said. "In fact, they are bathing in a plankton soup."

That plankton soup is of crucial importance to the planet, he added. "As much carbon dioxide is absorbed by plankton as is absorbed by tropical rainforests. Its health is therefore of crucial importance to us all."

However, only 1% of the life forms found in the sea have been properly identified and studied, said Bowler. "The aim of the Tara project is to correct some of that ignorance and identify many more of these organisms while we still have the chance. Issues like ocean acidification, rising sea levels and global warming will not be concerns at the back of our minds. They will be a key focus for the work that we do while we are on our expedition."

The toll by 2100

■ The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change forecast in 2007 that sea levels would rise by 20cm to 60cm by 2100 thanks to global warming caused by man-made carbon-dioxide emissions. This is now thought to be an underestimate, however, with most scientific bodies warning that sea levels could rise by a metre or even higher. Major inundations of vulnerable regions such as Bangladesh would ensue.

■ The planet will be hotter by 3C by 2100, most scientists now expect, though rises of 4.5C to 5C could be experienced. Deserts will spread and heatwaves will become more prevalent. Ice-caps will melt and cyclones are also likely to be triggered.

■ Weather patterns across the globe will become more unstable, numbers of devastating storms will increase dramatically while snow will disappear from all but the highest mountains.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Climate Change - The Road to Copenhagen


We now have 100 days until Copenhagen. Greenpeace China displayed 100 children carved from ice at the Temple of Earth in Beijing, to symbolise the “disappearing future” for the 1.3 billion people in Asia at risk of water shortage as a result of climate change. This event, matched in India with another ice sculpture, marks the 100-day countdown before the UN Climate Summit in Copenhagen - where we are urging governments to take strong, effective action to stop climate change.

The melting sculptures of 100 children are made from Himalayan glacier water from the source of Yangtse, Yellow and Ganges rivers. The ice sculpture in India is a huge “100” on a World Map and was unveiled in New Delhi to show “the world washed away” by glacial melts.

The melting sculptures of 100 children are made from Himalayan glacier water from the source of Yangtse, Yellow and Ganges rivers. The ice sculpture in India is a huge “100” on a World Map and was unveiled in New Delhi to show “the world washed away” by glacial melts.

A climate tipping point is unfolding in the Himalayas. The rapid melting of glaciers caused by global warming is jeopardising the water supply for 1.3 billion Asians who live in the watershed of the 7 great rivers that originate in the region. If we cannot stop runaway climate change, babies born today – at this moment – will face a very different reality when they grow up, where water availability would be a serious problem.

The Himalayan glaciers are melting at a rate faster than recorded for other glaciers anywhere in the world. The IPCC suggests that glacier coverage will fall by at least 43 percent and possibly as much as 81 percent by the end of the century - depending on how effectively we act to restrain our greenhouse gas emissions.

China and India together account for one-third of the world’s population but both countries’ water resources (per capita are far below the global average. The two largest developing countries share the challenge of balancing the goals of development and environmental protection. They must pursue a low-carbon development path if we are to avert environmental and humanitarian disaster.

Global countdown to Copenhagen

In other parts of the world - our activists staged public events to highlight the number of days left for our leaders to take action. In Brazil, we set up large clocks in eight cities together with the tcktcktck campaign. In Belgium, 10,000 people formed a giant human banner in the shape of a big clock. Our team in Switzerland placed a giant banner on a retreating glacier saying 'Our Climate, Your Decision' and there was bike riding activity in the Philippines.

Tcktcktck...

We're proud to be part of the Tcktcktck campaign this year. It's a global campaign for climate action, which has launched 100 days ahead of the UN Climate Summit, and brings together an unprecedented alliance of faith groups, non-governmental organisations, trade unions and individuals at this crucial time. We're working with Tcktcktck to harness the voices of people from around the world - calling for an ambitious, fair and binding international agreement that reflects the latest science. As December’s meeting in Copenhagen approaches, tcktcktck will organise around major international meetings and other relevant events to demonstrate the support from citizens around the world in having world leaders attend the negotiations in Copenhagen and produce an ambitious, fair and binding agreement. http://www.tcktcktck.org/
Time to take responsibility

The latest scientific research shows catastrophic climate impacts can be averted by reducing global greenhouse gas emissions after 2015 in order to keep global temperature increase below 2 degrees Celsius. We are urging developed countries, as a group, to agree to cut emissions by 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020. And developing countries must reduce their projected emissions growth by 15-30 percent by 2020.

With 100 days until the most important meeting of our time, we're working together with other organisations as part of the global TckTckTck campaign to show that the world is ready for bold climate action. We're asking world leaders to ensure a fair, ambitious, and binding climate deal in Copenhagen this December.

A strong climate treaty will not only reverse the march of dangerous climate change - it will also help us tackle the world’s largest challenges. We will create millions of green jobs, reduce healthcare costs, lift millions out of poverty, and put renewable energy into the hands of everyday citizens in the developing world.


Ref: Greenpeace

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Converting garbage into biofuel may cut CO2 emissions by 80 percent


Scientists in Singapore and Switzerland have suggested that converting the trash that fills the world’s landfills into biofuel could cut global carbon emissions by 80 percent. Biofuels produced from crops have proven controversial because they require an increase in crop production that has its own severe environmental costs.

However, second-generation biofuels, such as cellulosic ethanol derived from processed urban waste, may offer dramatic emissions savings without the environmental catch. Converting the rubbish that fills the world’s landfills into biofuel may be the answer to both the growing energy crisis and to tackling carbon emissions. New research published in Global Change Biology: Bioenergy, reveals how replacing gasoline with biofuel from processed waste could cut global carbon emissions by 80%.

Biofuels produced from crops have proven controversial because they require an increase in crop production which has its own severe environmental costs. However, second-generation biofuels, such as cellulosic ethanol derived from processed urban waste, may offer dramatic emissions savings without the environmental catch.

“Our results suggest that fuel from processed waste biomass, such as paper and cardboard, is a promising clean energy solution,” said study author Associate Professor Hugh Tan of the National University of Singapore. “If developed fully this biofuel could simultaneously meet part of the world’s energy needs, while also combating carbon emissions and fossil fuel dependency.”

“If this technology continues to improve and mature these numbers are certain to increase,” concluded co-author Dr. Lian Pin Koh from ETH Z├╝rich. “This could make cellulosic ethanol an important component of our renewable energy future.”

Data from the United Nation’s Human Development Index and the Earth Trends database was used to arrive at an estimate of how much waste is produced in 173 countries and how much fuel the same countries annually require.

The research team has calculated that 82.93 billion liters of cellulosic ethanol can be produced by the available landfill waste in the world and the resulting biofuel can reduce global carbon emissions in the range of 29.2% to 86.1% for every unit of energy produced.

Reference: Wiley - Blackwell (2009, September 29). Is Garbage The Solution To Tackling Climate Change?. ScienceDaily.

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