Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Royal Society tells Exxon: stop funding climate change denial

David Adam, environment correspondent
Wednesday September 20, 2006

Britain's leading scientists have challenged the US oil company ExxonMobil to stop funding groups that attempt to undermine the scientific consensus on climate change.

In an unprecedented step, the Royal Society, Britain's premier scientific academy, has written to the oil giant to demand that the company withdraws support for dozens of groups that have
"misrepresented the science of climate change by outright denial of the

The scientists also strongly criticise the company's public statements on global warming, which they describe as "inaccurate and misleading".

In a letter earlier this month to Esso, the UK arm of ExxonMobil, the Royal Society cites its own survey which found that ExxonMobil last year distributed $2.9m to 39 groups that the society says misrepresent the science of climate change.

These include the International Policy Network, a thinktank with its HQ in London, and the George C Marshall Institute, which is based in Washington DC. In 2004, the institute jointly published a report with the UK group the Scientific Alliance which claimed that global temperature rises were not related to rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere.

"There is not a robust scientific basis for drawing definitive and objective
conclusions about the effect of human influence on future climate,"

it said.

In the letter, Bob Ward of the Royal Society writes:

"At our meeting in July ... you indicated that ExxonMobil would not be
providing any further funding to these organisations. I would be grateful if you
could let me know when ExxonMobil plans to carry out this pledge."
The letter, a copy of which has been obtained by the Guardian, adds:
"I would be grateful if you could let me know which organisations in the UK and
other European countries have been receiving funding so that I can work out
which of these have been similarly providing inaccurate and misleading
information to the public."

This is the first time the society has written to a company to challenge its activities. The move reflects mounting concern about the activities of lobby groups that try to undermine the overwhelming scientific evidence that emissions are linked to climate change.

The groups, such as the US Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), whose senior figures have described global warming as a myth, are expected to launch a renewed campaign ahead of a major new climate change report. The CEI responded to the recent release of Al Gore's climate change film, An Inconvenient Truth, with adverts that welcomed increased carbon dioxide pollution.

The latest report from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), due to be published in February, is expected to say that climate change could drive the Earth's temperatures higher than previously predicted.

Mr Ward said:
"It is now more crucial than ever that we have a debate which is properly
informed by the science. For people to be still producing information that
misleads people about climate change is unhelpful. The next IPCC report
should give people the final push that they need to take action and we can't
have people trying to undermine it."

The Royal Society letter also takes issue with ExxonMobil's own presentation of climate science. It strongly criticises the company's "corporate citizenship reports", which claim that "gaps in the scientific basis" make it very difficult to blame climate change on human activity. The letter says:
"These statements are not consistent with the scientific literature. It is very
difficult to reconcile the misrepresentations of climate change science in these
documents with ExxonMobil's claim to be an industry leader."

Environmentalists regard ExxonMobil as one of the least progressive oil companies because, unlike competitors such as BP and Shell, it has not invested heavily in alternative energy sources.

ExxonMobil said:
"We can confirm that recently we received a letter from the Royal Society on the
topic of climate change. Amongst other topics our Tomorrow's Energy and
Corporate Citizenship reports explain our views openly and honestly on climate
change. We would refute any suggestion that our reports are inaccurate or
A spokesman added that ExxonMobil stopped funding the Competitive Enterprise Institute this year.

Recent research has made scientists more confident that recent warming is man-made, a finding endorsed by scientific academies across the world, including in the US, China and Brazil.

The Royal Society's move emerged as Chris Rapley, director of the British Antarctic Survey, warned that the polar ice caps were breaking up at a faster rate than glaciologists thought possible, with profound consequences for global sea levels. Professor Rapley said the change was almost certainly down to global warming.
"It's like opening a window and seeing what's going on and the message is that
it's worse than we thought,"
he said.


Monday, September 18, 2006

Climate Change and War in Darfur

ESPOO, Finland, July 17 - There will be no peace in war-torn Darfur unless the region's water shortages are tackled, a top economist said on Monday.

International efforts to resolve wars like Darfur in western Sudan focus too heavily on peacekeeping and military strategy and not enough on climate and development, Jeffrey Sachs, director of Columbia University's Earth Institute, told Reuters AlertNet in an interview at a conference on climate change.

The origins of Darfur's three-year conflict can be traced to decreased rainfall and population growth in the 1980s that sparked a struggle between settled farmers and pastoralists, according to Sachs.

"In general, crises like these are viewed through the optic of geopolitics
and the military,"

he said.

"But when you are dealing with very hungry people and desperately poor
people, unless you also put forward a realistic and viable development option,
you can't make peace."
Sachs called for better international recognition of the role of climate in sparking violence and deeper understanding of the interaction between climate change and vulnerable communities.

Richer societies tend to be better equipped to cope with extreme weather events, he said at the conference in Finland.

For example, during last year's drought in the midwest of the United States crop yields actually increased thanks to irrigation, whereas in Africa, where 96 percent of agriculture depends on rainfall, the same event could cause widespread death as a result of crop failure and food shortages.

Sachs also criticised the slow global response to disasters.

"We need to buffer agencies so that (when a disaster happens) they don't have to
beg rich governments for money,"

he said.

Droughts that cause food shortages and hunger can often be predicted using climate modelling and seasonal forecasting, but the current international system for raising funds only kicks in once a crisis is under way - meaning that relief may not start arriving until months after its onset.

"By then, there may be violence, and then people say they can't respond because
the situation is too violent,"

Sachs said.

"Where rains fail in Africa, violence increases. We know that, but we
don't seem to be able to do anything about it."

Sachs said Africa's population would grow by 1 billion by the middle of the century.

He told reporters that the international community would need to come up with a global framework for dealing with growing migration caused by droughts, floods and other disasters linked to climate change.

Dry, landlocked places were likely to be a source of environmental refugees.

"The world needs a better response than locked gates, barbed wire and
shooting people. The political challenge is enormous and governments need to get
serious about addressing it,"
Sachs said.

The conference which continues until July 21, is oganised by the World Meteorological Organization.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Global Warming Debuts on Supreme Court Docket

Global Warming Debuts on Supreme Court Docket
September 12, 2006
By Roddy Scheer

For the first time in history, the U.S. Supreme Court has decided to
take up a case on global warming. This latest version of the lawsuit
(Massachusetts v. EPA) was filed by a coalition of states, cities and
environmental groups in an effort to force the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA) to set mandatory limits for greenhouse gases
emitted from automobiles. The first iteration of the lawsuit originated
in U.S. District Court back in the summer of 2003, but subsequent
conflicting judgments mean that its trip to the Supreme Court later
this year or in early 2007 will represent the case's third and final
opportunity to mandate car emissions limits.
At issue is whether the EPA is shirking its responsibility under the
Clean Air Act to protect Americans from dangerous amounts of emissions
that could “reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or
welfare.” The crux of the issue, then, is whether EPA officials--and
now Supreme Court justices--consider carbon dioxide and other
greenhouse gases to be serious threats to the health and well-being of
Americans. Massachusetts and its long list of co-petitioners (see
below) cite hundreds of studies linking greenhouse gas emissions to
droughts and flooding throughout the U.S., as well as myriad other

EPA lawyers counter that the health impacts of climate change are
uncertain and that there’s no way to differentiate between the effects
of human activity and natural climatic cycles. Meanwhile, the Bush
administration has refused to mandate any greenhouse gas emission curbs
due to the impact it would have on the U.S. economy.

Given the right-leaning nature of the Supreme Court these days,
environmentalists aren’t optimistic.


Sunday, September 03, 2006

Climate Camp and Contracton and Covergence

As Climate Camp Activists wield their logic at Drax in response to
rising risks of runaway climate change:

“Tony Blair's target on curbing emissions is based on the science of
1990 not that of 2006. This year we've seen the evidence that the Earth
is becoming effectively ill. We've already reached the tipping point on
the permafrost. It will come in the Amazon in the next three to five
years. We need a 90 per cent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by
2030. That means less air and car travel, electric cars, banning night
flights, congestion charging, changes to domestic heating and
electricity from renewable sources.” [Stephen Stretton Cambridge physics

. . . . Zac’s [as in Goldsmith] message is that “Climate change brings
us an uncomplicated choice”.

If only he and his Conservative colleagues would actually organise
logically in the light of that.
[Thursday August 31, 2006 - Guardian],,1861670,00.html

Zac quotes the Archbishop of Canterbury "The economy is a wholly-owned
subsidiary of the environment". In fact it was Tim Wirth US
Under-Secretary of State who made this remark famous nearly ten years

With the help of Sir Crispin Tickell, it has been recycled since then,
but sadly more and more as a ‘planet-as-market’ where ‘choice’ becomes
‘chance’ while our chances of survival actually diminish.

The remark has been to negligible effect on organising the rapid global
retreat from climate-changing greenhouse emissions needed to defuse the
threat - “worse than terrorism” that Sir David King routinely chants -
of the dangerous rates of climate change to which we are now almost
irreversibly committed.

As Teddy Goldsmith’s nephew, Zac knows this as well as anyone alive.

However, the claim by him that the Conservatives and their quality of
life policy group have understood this ‘choice’ would be more credible
if Zac quoted the Archbishop of Canterbury on “Contraction and
Convergence” (C&C).

The purpose-specific comment on this which the Archbishop made famous
two year ago was, “C&C is Utopian only if we refuse to honestly
contemplate the alternatives” . . .

. . . while the UN itself says, “Achieving the objective of the
[climate] convention inevitably requires “Contraction and Convergence”

Speechless as it left me last year, both the UK Prime Minister and 25
Corporations from the World Economic Forum led by BP, effectively took
the same view. They specified that climate policy and the United Nations
Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is meaningless without a
specified ceiling to atmospheric greenhouse gas (ghg) concentration
target with everyone involved on common metrics, subsequently praising
the C&C model for precisely this reason. Blair called for “a rational
science-based unity.”

[All quotes above are sourced in this UN lobbying material: – ].

C&C shows a way to put ghg emission shares on the same global account.
As the eminent MP Colin Challen, Chair of the House of Commons All Party
Group on Climate Change says, we can demonstrate up front what is
needed, namely “solving the problem faster than we cause it” - it takes
us from guesswork to framework.

Using this way of summing both problem and solution, Colin has already
achieved a high degree of consensus with his parliamentary colleagues in
this cause – see reference above and the report – and is destined for
further success: -

In earlier times and to his great credit as Conservative Environment
Secretary in the 90’s, Mr John Gummer was a champion of this logic and
he now, albeit from the backbenches, is one of Zac’s colleagues in this
Conservative Party group.

The unpredicted oddity with John now is that, at a recent
‘climate-policy-conference’ in Whitehall, it became clear that he has
done a complete turnaround on C&C. He vehemently denounced the very idea
of their being a ghg concentration target, let-alone a C&C framework
because that’s where the logic leads. When asked if he would suggest a
concentration target he snapped, “I know where you are trying to lead
me.” This conference organised by the Peter Luff’s Action Committee for
a Global Climate Community, was attended by many NGOs and the great and
the good, Sir Crispin Tickell, Elliott Morley etc.

This time it was at least nearly everyone who was speechless with
surprise at Mr Gummer’s stance. In fact some of the things muttered by
some of the great and the good were unflattering and wholly unprintable.

Though the choice for C&C is uncomplicated and recognised clearly by so
many, it remains a complete mystery as to why this man and this party,
in league with the world’s premiere environmental organisations
Greenpeace and WWF [now re-branded as the “I Count” [sic]] campaign,
continually choose to oppose the C&C framework and try to frustrate and
dissipate the C&C consensus as it grows here and abroad.

However much it is longed for, more policy guesswork will not do it. Not
choosing C&C forecloses on choice itself as we fail to avoid climate
change and these organisations surely know this. Indeed, it is based on
the very fear of this, that they now very largely raise their

These ['I-Count'] actions are also tinged with a little bathos.

Over many many years now, the one thing that personnel in “I Count’s”
present and prior incarnations would do is actually to ‘count’ . .
. . and so to put up a numerate global framework.

It was this and this alone that the US described - and continues to
describe - as “Kyoto’s fatal flaw’. The US conceded C&C with the Byrd
Hagel Resolution: -

and at COP-3"

But as they graft with Zac’s group they are trying not to count all over
again; - so ‘I Count’s’ structure-less proposals for Kyoto-2 draw the
Tories deeper onto the axis of error in their future without a plan.

To get as sense of the diminishing timeframe left to us all, the rising
risks are counted out here: -

Aubrey Meyer

'Compost effect' may cause global warming to reach crisis point in 2050

'Compost effect' may cause global warming to reach crisis point in 2050
By Sarah Cassidy Published: 01 September 2006

The world faces a catastrophic rise in global warming in 2050 unless urgent action is taken to cut human-induced carbon emissions, a leading academic warned yesterday.

Professor Peter Cox, of Exeter University, told the Royal Geographical Society annual conference that temperatures could rise 8C by 2100 because of a "compost effect" which could see carbon dioxide levels increase 50 per cent faster than previously estimated.

Currently, around one quarter of carbon emissions are absorbed by the soil and one quarter by the oceans. It had previously been assumed that these proportions would remain the same. But Professor Cox said that global warming is damaging the soil's ability to absorb carbon emissions.

He said this vicious circle would reach crisis point in 2050 when a key threshold would be passed. After this point the land would begin to release carbon into the atmosphere. He predicted that this "compost effect" would lead to carbon dioxide levels rising from the current 380 parts per million to more than 1,000 parts per million by 2100.

Professor Cox warned that the Amazonian rainforest would be lost unless urgent action was taken to keep carbon dioxide levels below 500 parts per million. Higher levels of CO2 would see rainfall move away from the Amazon basin causing its lush vegetation to die.

In a separate report, the growing threat of climate change to Britain was highlighted yesterday with an urgent call for the reintroduction of salt marshes along the country's coasts and estuaries.

A leading academic said that action was needed to stop flooding of coastal areas as global warming produced higher sea levels.

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