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How to survive the coming century
Gaia Vince, New Scientist
... Fearing that the best efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions may fail, or that planetary climate feedback mechanisms will accelerate warming, some scientists and economists are considering not only what this world of the future might be like, but how it could sustain a growing human population. They argue that surviving in the kinds of numbers that exist today, or even more, will be possible, but only if we use our uniquely human ingenuity to cooperate as a species to radically reorganise our world.
The good news is that the survival of humankind itself is not at stake: the species could continue if only a couple of hundred individuals remained. But maintaining the current global population of nearly 7 billion, or more, is going to require serious planning.
Four degrees may not sound like much - after all, it is less than a typical temperature change between night and day. It might sound quite pleasant, like moving to Florida from Boston, say, or retiring from the UK to southern Spain. An average warming of the entire globe by 4 °C is a very different matter, however, and would render the planet unrecognisable from anything humans have ever experienced.
(25 February 2009)
Polar research reveals new evidence of global environmental change
Press release, International Council for Science
Multidisciplinary research from the International Polar Year (IPY) 2007-2008 provides new evidence of the widespread effects of global warming in the polar regions. Snow and ice are declining in both polar regions, affecting human livelihoods as well as local plant and animal life in the Arctic, as well as global ocean and atmospheric circulation and sea level. These are but a few findings reported in “State of Polar Research”, released today by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the International Council for Science (ICSU). In addition to lending insight into climate change, IPY has aided our understanding of pollutant transport, species’ evolution, and storm formation, among many other areas.
The wide-ranging IPY findings result from more than 160 endorsed science projects assembled from researchers in more than 60 countries. Launched in March 2007, the IPY covers a two-year period to March 2009 to allow for observations during the alternate seasons in both polar regions. A joint project of WMO and ICSU, IPY spearheaded efforts to better monitor and understand the Arctic and Antarctic regions, with international funding support of about US$ 1.2 billion over the two-year period.
“The International Polar Year 2007 – 2008 came at a crossroads for the planet’s future” said Michel Jarraud, Secretary-General of WMO. “The new evidence resulting from polar research will strengthen the scientific basis on which we build future actions.”
(25 February 2009)
Adapting to Water Woes
Stephanie Tavares, Las Vegas Sun
The southwestern United States is moving headlong toward an environmental catastrophe of apocalyptic proportions.
"A lot of people say that in global warming there will be winners and losers. In the Southwest, we'll be in the losers' category," University of Arizona climatologist Jonathan Overpeck said at a symposium on global warming's effect on the Southwest.
Overpeck discussed the latest scientific consensus on climate change at the Feb. 19 symposium, hosted by the Urban Land Institute at the Palms.
... The problem of climate change in the Southwest is fairly complex, but can be summed up in one word: water.
The Southwest is the most persistent hot spot on the globe and has a history of severe drought.
(27 February 2009)
Also at Common Dreams.
Las Vegas Running Out of Water Means Dimming Los Angeles Lights
John Lippert and Jim Efstathiou Jr., Bloomsburg
... Water upheavals are intensifying because the population is growing fastest in places where fresh water is either scarce or polluted. Dry areas are becoming drier and wet areas wetter as the oceans and atmosphere warm. Economic roadblocks, such as the global credit crunch and its effects on Mulroy’s attempts to sell bonds, multiply during a recession.
Yet local governments that control water face unyielding pressure from constituents to keep the price low, regardless of cost. Agricultural interests, commercial developers and the housing industry clash over dwindling supplies. Companies, burdened by slowing profits, will be forced to move from dry areas such as the American Southwest, Udall says.
“Water is going to be more important than oil in the next 20 years,” says Dipak Jain, dean of the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, who studies why corporations locate where they do.
(26 February 2009)