CLIMATE: Climate Change Killing Now October 07, 2005 8:07 AM
CLIMATE CHANGE NEWS TODAY
Climate Change Killing Now
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October 7, 2005
OVERVIEW & COMMENTARY by Dr. Glen Barry
Climate change is a reality, it is happening now, and it is widely killing
plants, animals and people. A new book indicates the magnitude of the
threat posed to biodiversity by climate change. And the World Bank reports
huge numbers of deaths and ill health in poor nations are the result of
climate change and pollution. A small blurb below quotes the U.S. energy
chief as saying that global warming is real. When top scientists, the
world's economists, and the political elite all agree climate change is
happening and is deadly, where is the action? A dreadfully important
question is whether the energy guzzling rich countries intend to do
anything about the death of ecosystems, species and millions of humans
while there is still time to stabilize climate in a livable condition?
Or as long as the death and suffering is relegated mostly to the poor
and other species, will the over developed world continue to use yet
more energy, causing even more climate change, in order to live
comfortably through the lead up to Armageddon? After all, this World
is expendable as the faithful will be whisked away to an after-life in
paradise, where surely energy and ecological crises are non-existent.
Meanwhile, back on Earth our profligate use of energy is destroying
the ecosystems upon which the human family is entirely dependent. Do
we get the fact humanity and the Earth are dying? Do you? And what
are you going to do about it?
RELAYED TEXT STARTS HERE:
Title: When Hotspots Get Too Hot
Source: Copyright 2005, American Scientist
Date: October 6, 2005
Byline: Norman Myers
Climate Change and Biodiversity. Edited by Thomas E. Lovejoy and Lee
Hannah. xiv + 418 pp. Yale University Press, 2005. $65.
Much has been made of the idea that the principal agents in the mass
extinction now under way are the slash-and-burn "shifting
cultivators"-small farmers who torch huge blocks of tropical forest each
year. The forests harbor at least half or maybe even three-quarters of all
terrestrial species, and they are being eliminated faster than any other
biome. That the sole remaining habitats of thousands of species each year
are thus being destroyed does not mean that the species become extinct
forthwith; mostly they don't. They may hang on for decades, but their
final refuges will ultimately prove too small to maintain such key factors
for survival as sufficient genetic variability. So after decades of
last-gasp existence as "living dead," they eventually succumb.
It now turns out, as we learn in Climate Change and Biodiversity, that
another great eliminator of species is at work: the people who burn fossil
fuels and thus contribute to the buildup of carbon dioxide in the
atmosphere and hence to global warming. Scientists anticipate that climate
change on a grand scale will alter entire biomes, degrading and otherwise
depleting them. Consider, for instance, two sectors of South Africa that
feature such exceptional concentrations of species that they qualify as
global epicenters ("hotspots") of biodiversity: The Cape Floristic Region
contains the sole remaining habitats of 6,210 plant species (almost
one-third as many as in the United States), and the Succulent Karoo
harbors 2,439 endemic plant species. In a globally warmed world with just
2 degrees Celsius of increased temperature, these two hotspots might well
lose between one-third and one-half, perhaps even more, of their present
It is roughly reckoned that when an endemic plant species becomes extinct,
it takes with it between 10 and 30 endemic animal species. In just these
two areas, which have a total expanse of a mere 45,500 square kilometers
and are thus no bigger than Vermont and New Hampshire put together, we can
expect a mini-mass extinction within the next few decades-supposing, of
course, that we continue doing all too little to curb global warming
The editors of Climate Change and Biodiversity, Thomas E. Lovejoy and Lee
Hannah, assert in their preface that "It is now clear that climate change
is the major new threat that will confront biodiversity this century." The
burning of fossil fuels, if it is not restricted, may eventually impose at
least as many extinctions as most other causes put together. That, at
least, is the startling conclusion that can be drawn from reading the
book, which tackles what surely ranks as the single most pressing issue of
our time. After all, a mass extinction that overtook the most species-rich
areas in the world would be the biggest such spasm since the dinosaurs and
their associates were driven over the edge 65 million years ago. Worse, it
would take evolution several million years to resto
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October 07, 2005 8:08 AM
restore the damage by
generating replacement species with numbers and variety to match today's.
Indeed we live in interesting times.
Not that climate change should be considered in isolation, however much it
is coming to rank as the number one phenomenon in the mass extinction
arena. It will interact with, and its impact will be compounded by,
parallel disruptions from habitat fragmentation through other causes.
Pollution and a slew of other environmental problems that are detailed in
chapter after chapter of this book will also have impoverishing
repercussions. All of these factors will reinforce one another, so that
their effects will be multiplicative rather than merely additive. This
dimension of the biotic crisis makes global warming the biggest threat we
face. Although other sources of mass extinction are important, this
"driver of drivers" is in a league of its own.
All of this contrasts with certain traditionalist approaches of
conservation biology, which evaluates threats in terms of discrete factors
such as adverse ecological and life-history attributes (for example,
rarity, endemism and very localized distribution). As this book's articles
demonstrate, it is more revealing to consider the synergies at work. For
instance, a few species feature "slow" life histories because they are
large-bodied, mature late and live a long time. Examples include
elephants, whales and redwood trees. If these same species also have
specialized habitat needs, such as assured food supplies, they face a much
greater risk of extinction.
The most admirable feature of this book, then, is that its chapters
address a spectrum of issues within a single conceptual framework. Topics
covered include climate modeling and projections (also "backcasting"
assessments), recent evolutionary effects of climate change, and the
adaptive responses of biotas both present and prospective. In particular,
the articles contributed by Terry Root, Chris Thomas, Lesley Hughes and
Camille Parmesan offer conclusive evidence that many plants and animals
are already reacting to climate change by altering their distributions,
phenologies and genetic structures.
Other issues discussed in the book include practical questions, such as
how to design landscapes and seascapes in response to climate change and
how to manage protected areas in ways that reduce the damage of global
warming. Consider the outlook, cited above, for the Cape Floristic Region.
In a globally warmed world, temperature bands will tend to migrate away
from the equator and toward the poles. Vegetation communities will need to
follow suit as best they can, albeit at a speed perhaps 10 times greater
than that necessitated by the vicissitudes of climate during the late
Pleistocene. In principle, the vegetation communities of, say, Florida
could migrate northward toward the Carolinas, although to do so they would
have to traverse a "development desert" of farmlands and urban
settlements. The vegetation communities of the Cape Floristic Region will
seek to migrate southward-but to the south lies only the ocean. Similar
roadblocks will be encountered in at least one-third of the world's 34
biodiversity hotspots. True, certain vegetation communities could seek
refuge by migrating up such mountains as are available, but opportunities
for escape of this sort will often be limited at best.
The book reflects the aggregate expertise of 66 leading scientists,
notably environmental biologists and evolutionary ecologists, drawn from
academia, agencies and nongovernmental organizations. The contributors
summarize the evidence for climate change, assess what it means for
biodiversity, discuss trends and consider what action conservation
biologists and policy makers should take. Two recommendations are made: to
integrate the climate change phenomenon more systematically (and
systemically) into conservation responses writ large, and to contribute
more vociferously to those many organizations that seek both to restrict
and to adapt to climate change.
Conversely, as long as we largely persist with "business as usual"-that
is, doing all too little to reduce climate change and its impacts-we are
essentially saying that the consequences for biodiversity are such that we
can pretty well ignore them. That, at least, is the implicit message that
certain "sit on your hands" scientists are sending out to policy makers
and political leaders as well as the public at large. This book will go
far to modify that message-and, let us earnestly hope, will generate even
more bang than its predecessor volume, Global Warming and Biological
Diversity, coedited by Lovejoy with Robert L. Peters (Yale University
It is fitting to end this review with a note on the global warming role of
the United States. With 4.5 percent of the world's population, the nation
accounts for 25 percent of the world's carbon dioxide emissions. President
George W. Bush claims that the Kyoto Protocol and other efforts to curb
carbon dioxide emissions would wreck the American economy, given how
strongly it is based on fossil fuels. He should consider that the economy
will surely suffer far greater injury through global warming. He might
also note that in the view of several front-rank American economists, an
attack on global warming could actually boost the American economy through
greater emphasis on energy efficiency. By getting more work from every
last drop of oil (there is huge scope for improvement, as Japanese
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October 07, 2005 8:10 AM
achievements attest), U.S. industry could do much to save the world's
Norman Myers is a fellow of the University of Oxford and an adjunct
professor at Duke University. In the early 1970s he was the first to
demonstrate that we are in the opening phase of a mass extinction of
species. In the late 1980s he propounded the conservation strategy of
identifying biodiversity hotspots, showing that roughly two-fifths of all
species are confined to just 1.4 percent of the planet's land surface.
Title: Climate change and pollution are killing millions, says study
Poor sanitation to blame, says World Bank report; Economic growth
stalled by environmental
Source: Copyright 2005, Guardian
Date: October 6, 2005
Byline: John Vidal
Almost a fifth of all ill health in poor countries and millions of deaths
can be attributed to environmental factors, including climate change and
pollution, according to a report from the World Bank.
Unsafe water, poor sanitation and hygiene as well as indoor and outdoor
air pollution are all said to be killing people and preventing economic
development. In addition, says the bank, increasing soil pollution,
pesticides, hazardous waste and chemicals in food are significantly
affecting health and economies.
More controversially, the report, released yesterday in New York, links
cancers to environmental conditions and says global warming has a major
impact on health. "For almost all forms of cancer, the risk of contracting
this disease can be reduced if physical environments are safe for human
habitation and food items are safe for consumption," says the report.
It also cites the spread of malaria and dengue fever as climate change
intensifies. Global warming, says the report, is leading to lower yields
of some crops and the salination of coastal areas.
"In 2000 more than 150,000 premature deaths were attributed to various
climate change impacts, according to the World Health Organisation," it
While tobacco, alcohol and unsafe sex are still the most likely threats to
health in developing countries, rapid urbanisation and the spread of slum
conditions are now major hazards, says the report.
"Some 1.1 billion people lack access to safe water and 2.6 billion lack
access to safe sanitation. [This leads to] about 4 billion cases of
diarrhoea a year, which cause 1.8 million deaths a year, mostly among
children under five," it says.
Sanitation, says the bank, which is committed to increasing spending on
the environment, is very much "a forgotten problem", with spending on
improvements estimated at just $1bn in 2000 - less than 10% of that spent
Millions of people who have moved to cities to find work have swapped
indoor for outdoor air pollution, suggests the report. Urban air pollution
is estimated to cause about 800,000 premature deaths, it says, approaching
the number of people affected by indoor air pollution from wood fires in
poorly ventilated homes in rural areas.
According to the report, which uses WHO statistics, high concentrations of
minute particles released by smoky fires are now responsible for over 1.6
million deaths a year. Acute respiratory infection, largely caused by
indoor air pollution, it says, was responsible for 36% of all registered
infant deaths in Guatemala between 1997 and 2000.
The report also says manmade chemicals such as pesticides have an
increasing impact on the health of poor people.
A survey of child labour in several developing countries, it says, found
more than 60% of all working children were exposed to hazardous
conditions, and more than 25% of these hazards were due to exposure to
"Without a healthy, productive labour force, we will not have the economic
growth that is necessary to ensure a pathway out of poverty. Poor people
are the first to suffer from a polluted environment," said Warren Evans,
director of the bank's environment department.
Title: Energy chief: Global warming is real
Source: Copyright 2005, U.S. News and World Report
Date: October 6, 2005
Byline: Paul Bedard
The Bush administration has determined that carbon-dioxide-fueled global
warming exists and is now working to determine the damage and what can be
done to fix it.
There is an "increasing level of certainty that the impact is real," said
Samuel Bodman, energy secretary. "It's measurable; it's real."
Speaking to reporters, Bodman said that the administration has been
funding programs to reduce emissions and study the issue, even though it
has a reputation for ignoring global warming.
"It's a matter that we take seriously," he said, adding that he talks
about it regularly at his dinner table because his wife is an
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