Nov 05 2007

CLIMATE CHANGE IS REAL

Too much news. Too few penguins. We are buried here at Penguin Central. News reports. Photographs. No wonder humans abandon non-profits for the private sector.
Penguin 8 has barely seen the outdoors. Penguin 4 has a back ache and a stiff neck.

It is not only emotionally exhausting to be reading about the effects of climate change everywhere in the world, but physically exhausting as well to be gathering the information.
We haven’t seen the television program called “Heroes” but we would like to thank one of its heroes or heroines, Hayden Panettiere for her brave action on behalf on our close friends, the dolphins and whales.


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Hayden Panettierre

Tim Nudd and Bryan Alexander report in People magazine:

This week a video surfaced from Britain’s Sky News of the actress and six other activists paddling on surfboards out into a cove in the town of Taiji in southwestern Japan, in an attempt to interfere with a dolphin hunt there …

The protesters were intercepted on Tuesday by fishermen on a boat who told them to leave and prodded them with a pole. They were eventually forced back to shore, unable to prevent the hunt. The video shows Panettiere breaking down in tears as she describes what happened. “This baby stuck its head out and kind of looked as us, and the thought that the baby is no longer with us is very difficult,” she said …

“The world and the environment are evolving and that means we must change our ways as human beings as well … The dolphins and whales in our ocean are a part of a larger eco-system that prevents the killing off of other marine life. By destroying these animals and not allowing our future generations to enjoy their beauty, we are causing our own selves damage. I always felt the need to speak on behalf of these helpless creatures who can not defend themselves.”



Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.


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Chinese coal workers – AP Photo/Elizabeth Dalziel



Speaking of morality. Former Senator John Edwards put the issue of the climate crisis in perspective:

“This is the great moral test of our generation. Are we actually going to leave this planet and America better for our children than we found it?” Edwards said at an environmental rally in New Orleans.

“Why have we not addressed the issue of climate change and global warming?” Edwards said. “I’ll tell you why, no question about it: oil companies, gas companies, power companies and the lobbyists in Washington, D.C. We have to have a president who will stand up to these people.”



Coal is a good place to start when we think about the challenges facing us.

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China pollution – Photo: Natalie Behring/Bloomberg News



Michael Casey offers this interesting report from Taiyuan, China:

It takes five to 10 days for the pollution from China’s coal-fired plants to make its way to the United States, like a slow-moving storm.

It shows up as mercury in the bass and trout caught in the Willamette River in the western U.S. state of Oregon. It increases cloud cover and raises ozone levels. And along the way, it contributes to acid rain in Japan and South Korea and health problems everywhere from Taiyuan to the United States …

Cheap and abundant, coal has become the fuel of choice in much of the world, powering economic booms in China and India that have lifted millions of people out of poverty. Worldwide demand is projected to rise by about 60 percent through 2030 to 6.9 billion tons a year, most of it going to electrical power plants.

But the growth of coal-burning is also contributing to global warming, and is linked to environmental and health issues ranging from acid rain to asthma. Air pollution kills more than 2 million people prematurely, according to the World Health Organization.

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Indian woman carries water jug across Osman Sagar Lake – Photo AFP



Some of the most pressing problems you humans are facing. How does climate war sound? Well, there’s a sad analysis in a recent report, “A Climate of Conflict.” Robin McKie, the science editor of the UK Observer writes:

A total of 46 nations and 2.7 billion people are now at high risk of being overwhelmed by armed conflict and war because of climate change. A further 56 countries face political destabilisation, affecting another 1.2 billion individuals.

Much of Africa, Asia and South America will suffer outbreaks of war and social disruption as climate change erodes land, raises seas, melts glaciers and increases storms, it concludes. Even Europe is at risk.

‘Climate change will compound the propensity for violent conflict, which in turn will leave communities poorer and less able to cope with the consequences of climate change,’ the report states.

The worst threats involve nations lacking resources and stability to deal with global warming, added the agency’s secretary-general, Dan Smith. ‘Holland will be affected by rising sea levels, but no one expects war or strife,’ he told The Observer. ‘It has the resources and political structure to act effectively. But other countries that suffer loss of land and water and be buffeted by increasingly fierce storms will have no effective government to ensure corrective measures are taken. People will form defensive groups and battles will break out.’

Consider Peru, said Smith. Its fresh water comes mostly from glacier meltwater. But by 2015 nearly all Peru’s glaciers will have been removed by global warming and its 27 million people will nearly all lack fresh water. If Peru took action now, it could offset the impending crisis, he added. But the country has little experience of effective democracy, suffers occasional outbreaks of insurgency, and has border disputes with Chile and Ecuador. The result is likely to be ‘chaos, conflict and mass migration’.



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Australian Drought affects Lake Eucumbene – Photo: Mark Nolan/Getty Images



Already drought is taking its toll on Australian farmers. Leigh Dayton writes “Climate fears paint bleak future” for the Australian News:

CRAIG Harsant is coping. But the Queensland farmer confesses it’s been tough making a living in his bone-dry corner of Australia, and he worries some of his neighbours may be feeling the bite of the black dog of depression. “But blokes are not keen on talking about that sort of thing,” he says …

Little wonder Harsant is “not surprised” by findings of a report released this week by Research Australia (RA), a national non-profit alliance of health and medical research organisations.

It warns of skyrocketing rates of depression in rural communities if, as predicted, climate change triggers ever more extreme events, from drought to fire to flood. “Assuming climate change is real, you can imagine life on the land would become harder,” says Harsant. “You can imagine health issues like depression would follow suit.”



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Wivenhoe Dam, Brisbane, AU Photo: Jonathan Wood/Getty Images

Some facts from Reuters about the Australian drought:

Australia had its driest September this year since records began in 1900.
The eastern state of New South Wales is 78.6 percent in drought.
The southern state of Victoria has declared 100 percent of farmland in drought.
Australia is the second-largest wheat, canola and beef exporter in the world and the largest barley exporter.
Drought cut the 2006/07 wheat crop to 9.8 million tonnes from 25.0 million tonnes the year before. Forecasts for the current wheat crop are 15 million tonnes or less, down from 26 million tonnes earlier this year before the drought hit.
The number of Australian farms has declined by 25 percent over the last 20 years to 129,934, due to falling commodity prices, mechanisation, technology and a strong trend of younger people moving to cities. About 99 percent of farms are family-owned.
Average farm income dropped to A$26,000 in the year to June 30, 2007, its lowest level in over 30 years, because of drought. A total of 77 percent of farms operated at a loss in 2006/07.
Average farm debt rose to A$412,700 at June 30, 2007, from A$357,380 the year before, bureau figures show. Farmers say debt has now risen into the millions for many.





Back to Laigh Dayton’s report:

Climate experts have long argued that climate change is real. But it’s only recently that their medical colleagues have begun considering the implications planetary warming holds for the health of people living on a changing globe, claims epidemiologist Tony McMichael. “Climate change doesn’t exist in isolation,” said McMichael, the head of the National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health at Canberra’s Australian National University and lead author of the Research Australia report. “Increasingly, the risk it poses to human well-being and health is now being seen as part of the policy discussion agenda.”




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