October 30, 2007

10/28/2007 Special JVNA Newsletter on Evidence of a Very Imperiled Planet

Shalom everyone,

This special/ Jewish Vegetarians of North America (JVNA) Online Newsletter focuses on the widening threats from global warming. I think the many recent items below indicate that the world is increasingly approaching an unprecedented catastrophe, and it shows why our efforts are so essential.

The newsletter has the following items:

1. New UN Report Shows Seriousness of Environmental Crises

2. Landmark UN Report Warns: Save the Planet - It Is Now Or Never

3. Responding to Global Warming and Other Environmental Crises Urged

4. Is California Burning Due to Global Scorching?

5. Indications That the Earth is Drying Up

6. Chile One More Country Threatened by Global Warming

7. Eminent Scientist Claims Global Warming Already Irreversible

8. Atmospheric CO2 Rises More Than Expected Since 2000

9. Rising Seas Will Swamp America's Shores

10. “60 Minutes Report: Does Global Warming Fuel Major Wildfires?"

11. Are Major Power Outages Ahead?

12. Global warming May Fuel Massive Species Extinctions

13. Some Additional Reports on Global Warming and Its Effects

14. Should We Let Uncertainties Re Global Warming and Its Effects Prevent Us From Acting?

Some material has been deferred to a later update/newsletter to keep this one from being even longer.

[Materials in brackets like this [ ] within an article or forwarded message are my editorial notes/comments.]

Opinions expressed do not necessarily represent the views of the JVNA, unless otherwise indicated, but may be presented to increase awareness and/or to encourage respectful dialogue. Also, material re conferences, retreats, forums, trips, and other events does not necessarily imply endorsement by JVNA or endorsement of the kashrut, Shabbat observances, or any other Jewish observances, but may be presented for informational purposes. Please use e-mail addresses, telephone numbers, and web sites to get further information about any event that you are interested in. Also, JVNA does not necessarily agree with all positions of groups whose views are included or whose events are announced in this newsletter.

As always, your comments and suggestions are very welcome.



1. New UN Report Shows Seriousness of Environmental Crises

U.N. Warns of Rapid Decay of Environment


Published: October 26, 2007


PARIS, Oct. 25 - The human population is living far beyond its means and inflicting damage to the environment that could pass points of no return, according to a major report issued Thursday by the United Nations.

Climate change, the rate of extinction of species, and the challenge of feeding a growing population are putting humanity at risk, the United Nations Environment Program said in its fourth Global Environmental Outlook since 1997.

“The human population is now so large that the amount of resources needed to sustain it exceeds what is available at current consumption patterns,” Achim Steiner, the executive director of the Environment Program, said in a telephone interview.

Many biologists and climate scientists have concluded that human activities have become a dominant influence on the Earth's climate and ecosystems. But there is still a range of views on whether the changes could have catastrophic impacts, as the human population heads toward nine billion by mid-century, or more manageable results.

Over the last two decades, the world population increased by almost 34 percent, to 6.7 billion, from 5 billion. But the land available to each person is shrinking, from 19.5 acres in 1900 to 5 acres by 2005, the report said.

Population growth combined with unsustainable consumption has resulted in an increasingly stressed planet where natural disasters and environmental degradation endanger people, plants and animal species.

Persistent problems include a rapid rise of “dead zones,” where marine life no longer can be supported because pollutants like runoff fertilizers deplete oxygen.

But Mr. Steiner, of the Environment Program, did note that Western European governments had taken effective measures to reduce air pollutants and that Brazil had made efforts to roll back some deforestation. He said an international treaty to tackle the hole in the earth's ozone layer had led to the phasing out of 95 percent of ozone-damaging chemicals.

“Life would be easier if we didn't have the kind of population growth rates that we have at the moment,” Mr. Steiner said. “But to force people to stop having children would be a simplistic answer. The more realistic, ethical and practical issue is to accelerate human well-being and make more rational use of the resources we have on this planet.”

Mr. Steiner said parts of Africa could reach an environmental tipping point if changing rainfall patterns turned semi-arid zones into arid zones and made agriculture much harder. He said another tipping point could occur in India and China if Himalayan glaciers shrank so much that they no longer supplied adequate amounts of water.

He also warned of a global collapse of all species being fished by 2050, if fishing around the world continued at its current pace. The report said that two and a half times more fish were being caught than the oceans could produce in a sustainable manner, and that the level of fish stocks classed as collapsed had roughly doubled over the past 20 years, to 30 percent.

In the spirit of the United Nations report, President Nicolas Sarkozy of France outlined plans on Thursday to fight climate change.

He said he would make 1 billion euros, or $1.4 billion, available over four years to develop energy sources and maintain biodiversity. He said each euro spent on nuclear research would be matched by one spent on research into clean technologies and environmental protection.

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2. Landmark UN Report Warns: Save the Planet - It Is Now Or Never

From: AFP.com | Agence France-Presse, a global news agency


Save the planet? It's now or never, warns landmark UN report

NAIROBI (AFP) - Humanity is changing Earth's climate so fast and devouring resources so voraciously that it is poised to bequeath a ravaged planet to future generations, the UN warned Thursday in its most comprehensive survey of the environment.

The fourth Global Environment Outlook (GEO-4), published by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), is compiled by 390 experts from observations, studies and data garnered over two decades.

The 570-page report -- which caps a year that saw climate change dominate the news -- says world leaders must propel the environment "to the core of decision-making" to tackle a daily worsening crisis

"The need couldn't be more urgent and the time couldn't be more opportune, with our enhanced understanding of the challenges we face, to act now to safeguard our own survival and that of future generations," GEO-4 said.

The UNEP report offers the broadest and most detailed tableau of environmental change since the Brundtland Report, "Our Common Future," was issued in 1987 and put the environment on the world political map.

"There have been enough wake-up calls since Brundtland. I sincerely hope GEO-4 is the final one," said UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner.

"The systematic destruction of the Earth's natural and nature-based resources has reached a point where the economic viability of economies is being challenged -- and where the bill we hand on to our children may prove impossible to pay," he added.

Earth has experienced five mass extinctions in 450 million years, the latest of which occurred 65 million years ago, says GEO-4.

"A sixth major extinction is under way, this time caused by human behaviour," it says.

Over the past two decades, growing prosperity has tremendously strengthened the capacity to understand and confront the environmental challenges ahead.

Despite this, the global response has been "woefully inadequate," the report said.

The report listed environmental issues by continent and by sector, offering dizzying and often ominous statistics about the future.

Climate is changing faster than at any time in the past 500,000 years.

Global average temperatures rose by 0.74 degrees Celsius (1.33 Fahrenheit) over the past century and are forecast to rise by 1.8 to four C (3.24-7.2 F) by 2100, it said, citing estimates issued this year by the 2007 Nobel Peace co-laureates, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

With more than six billion humans, Earth's population is now so big that "the amount of resources needed to sustain it exceeds what is available," the report warned, adding that the global population is expected to peak at between eight and 9.7 billion by 2050.

"In Africa, land degradation and even desertification are threats; per capita food production has declined by 12 percent since 1981," it said.

The GEO-4 report went on to enumerate other strains on the planet's resources and biodiversity.

Fish consumption has more than tripled over the past 40 years but catches have stagnated or declined for 20 years, it said.

"Of the major vertebrate groups that have been assessed comprehensively, over 30 percent of amphibians, 23 percent of mammals and 12 percent of birds are threatened," it added.

Stressing it was not seeking to present a "dark and gloomy scenario", UNEP took heart in the successes from efforts to combat ozone loss and chemical air pollution.

But it also stressed that failure to address persistent problems could undo years of hard grind.

And it noted: "Some of the progress achieved in reducing pollution in developed countries has been at the expense of the developing world, where industrial production and its impacts are now being exported."

GEO-4 -- the fourth in a series dating back to 1997 -- also looks at how the current trends may unfold and outlines four scenarios to the year 2050: "Markets First", "Policy First", "Security First", "Sustainability First".

After a year that saw the UN General Assembly devote unprecedented attention to climate change and the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to the IPCC and former US vice president Al Gore for raising awareness on the same issue, the report's authors called for radical change.

"For some of the persistent problems, the damage may already be irreversible," they warned.

"The only way to address these harder problems requires moving the environment from the periphery to the core of decision-making: environment for development, not development to the detriment of environment."

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3. Responding to Global Warming and Other Environmental Crises Urged

Hold Politicians' Feet to the Fire


Posted on Oct 23, 2007 Truthdig

By Amy Goodman

Fires rage through Southern California. Massive rainstorms drench New Orleans. The Southeast U.S., from Tennessee across the Carolinas and into Georgia, is in the midst of what could be the worst drought on record there. Atlanta could run out of water. While the press does an admirable job bringing us live images of extreme weather, it doesn't explain why these events are happening. What links these crises? Global warming. Two words that have all too often been vacuumed off government Web sites and erased from government scientific studies.

If the press isn't making the connection, Bill McKibben is. In 1989, he wrote the book “The End of Nature,” one of the first books to describe global warming as an emerging environmental crisis. Now, almost 20 years later, he is leading a campaign to draft mass grass-roots participation to publicize the potential catastrophe of climate change and to demand federal action to “Step It Up.” The first Step It Up day of action, April 14, 2007, organized in local communities through a central Web site, saw 1,400 coordinated activities pulled together in just three months. The second day of action is planned for Nov. 3, organized through the Web site stepitup2007.org.

“What's important to remember and the reason that we spend all our time organizing now, trying to change all this, is that so far human beings have raised the temperature of the planet about one degree Fahrenheit,” says McKibben. “The computer modeling makes it very clear that before the century is out, unless we take very strong action, indeed, we're going to raise the temperature of the planet another five degrees Fahrenheit. So, take whatever you see now, multiply it by five, and then toss in all those cascading effects that come, as we exceed one threshold after another.”

The cascade effect is what is so important to understand. How could one degree Fahrenheit make such a big difference? One immediate, measurable impact of that seemingly slight temperature rise, according to University of Arizona scientist Tom Swetnam, is the increase in the frequency and duration of large wildfires in the U.S. West. Swetnam and his team have linked a warming, drying trend since the 1980s to the incidence of fires, like the more than a dozen that are raging out of control in Southern California.

The predictions are not good. Trees take in carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, releasing oxygen. In his August 2006 Science article, Swetnam reports that western U.S. forests remove 20 percent to 40 percent of the carbon dioxide in the U.S. As forests burn, McKibben notes, carbon is released into the atmosphere. Fewer trees then remain to take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, making warmer conditions, supporting more and longer fires, and so on, creating a positive feedback loop. A central warning of the scientific community is this: At some point, if Earth's temperature rises much more, maybe three degrees, maybe six degrees, an irreversible feedback loop will overwhelm the planet's climate, with cascading impacts leading to a warmer and warmer planet.

Corporate America is feeling the heat. Carbon-emitting industries like the oil companies, chastened by the experience of Big Tobacco and asbestos, see that in the future they might be held accountable-especially since they are funding junk science and “Astroturf” (i.e., fake grass-roots groups) to cast doubt about the effects of global warming. Insurance companies can't afford to ignore the consequences of global warming, as extreme weather causes billions of dollars in damage.

McKibben and the Step It Up campaign lay out three basic demands:

-Green jobs now, for all: 5 million green jobs conserving 20 percent of our energy by 2015. Green jobs are those created by transforming the economy from a coal- and oil-burning one to a sustainable economy built on a new set of energy sources, ensuring that the same people left behind by the last economy are not left behind again.

-Cut carbon 80 percent by 2050: Freeze climate pollution levels now and cut at least 80 percent by 2050, and 30 percent by 2020.

-No new coal: a moratorium on new coal-fired power plants.

McKibben explains: “We need a movement as strong, as willing to sacrifice, as morally urgent, as passionate as the civil rights movement was a generation ago. If we don't get it soon-and we have a real time limit here-if we don't get it soon, then we're not going to be able to force the changes that we need over the power of the very strong vested interests that would like to keep things the way they are, even though it's now destabilizing the planet in the most powerful and most tragic ways.”

People are taking action. On Monday, 60 people were arrested in Washington, D.C., as part of the No War, No Warming days of action, linking the war in Iraq, post-Katrina recovery and climate change, and demanding action from Congress, holding elected officials' feet to the fire. Humans are causing global warming. For a short time, we have a chance to limit the damage. But time is running out. Step it up.

Amy Goodman is the host of “Democracy Now!,” a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on 500 stations in North America.

© 2007 Amy Goodman

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4. Is California Burning Due to Global Scorching?

Forwarded message from Rabbi Arthur Waskow and the Shalom Center:

California Burning: Dammit, Global SCORCHING!

Dear friends,

I'm sorry that I can't use HTML here to put that headline in Fiery Red, as it should be.

As I watch the California firestorms on TV, I can see a line of trees, tufts of grass, a house begin to scorch at the edges, then go up in flames. That is what is beginning to happen to the whole state of California, and to our country - our planet.

It is NOT that pleasant sense of "warming," that feeling we have in the arms of a beloved, or as we drift to sleep, or as we listen to delicious music.

We should stop calling it "global warming." It is global scorching; we face not the cool prospect of "climate change" but "climate crisis."

Despite the danger, is there hope? YES.

Just yesterday, Tuesday, The Shalom Center held a meeting of climate activists from New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington. Among us, expert Jewish lobbyists and community organizers talked about the Congressional scene and the readiness of the Jewish community to act. They emphasized the need to remind the secular Washington environmental lobbyists to insist on equity and justice in addressing the climate crisis.

Indeed, that outlook draws on the ancient Jewish commitment to social justice that should be intertwined with the revived Jewish concern for the earth.

Why are equity and justice so important?

This morning, 500,000 "evacuees" - most of them, temporarily fleeing their homes. In the years ahead, unless we act, hundreds of millions of refugees - fleeing permanently from lands where the drinking water has dried up, where the coastlines have been flooded, where new diseases have moved into new regions and plagues are spreading.

The California fires are not just a metaphor; they are global scorching already, in microcosm. The terrible droughts that have dried the forests, the uniquely high temperatures, are connected with our climate crisis.

The California firestorms are no more a "natural" disaster than was Hurricane Katrina. There, global scorching heated up the Gulf waters to make a moderate hurricane ferocious. And there, oil drills and wells smashed the precious wetlands that have absorbed much of the fury of previous hurricanes.

Meanwhile, the NY Times reports that global scorching has dried the Great Lakes to the point where ships that once moved easily now can't sail through them at all. So the price of food and all sorts of other materials is rising.

It is a raging disregard for the earth AND FOR OTHER HUMAN BEINGS that has fueled - and I use that word deliberately -- these disasters.


Not just polar bears. Mostly, the poor.

Adam - the human race - and Adamah - the earth - are in fact as intertwined as those Hebrew words sound.

Yesterday we also explored how to build around the fact that there will be an International Day of Climate Action on December 8 -the Shabbat of Hanukkah.

For Jews that moment can be one for rabbis and synagogues to teach and learn from each other.

And the whole eight days of Hanukkah can be time for families to deal with the personal changes AND the public advocacy that we need, to avert climate disaster.

We need cool shuls.

Check out our Green Menorah Covenant campaign on http://.www.shalomctr.org

And write Rabbi Jeff Sultar at Greenmenorah@shalomctr.org

The Shalom Center is now developing specific proposals for Hanukkah programs in home and shul. We will get them out to you very soon.

And please help us work on this by making your special tax-deductible contributions. Please click on the Donate Now button below.

MANY MANY THANKS -- With blessings of healing for adam and adamah, for California now and all humanity and earth -


[Unfortunately, this initiative, as valuable as it is, has not addressed connections between animal-based diets and global warming/scorching. I have contacted the group several times in the past re this. Below is a letter from JVNA advisor and secretary/treasurer John Diamond. Please also contact the group and urge that they put dietary considerations on their agenda. Thanks.]
Dear Rabbi Waskow,

You would do an incredible Kiddush Hashem in bringing to everyone's attention that the factory farming of over 50 Billion animals worldwide, to satisfy he "Carnivorous Gluttony" of both Jews and non-Jews is the PRIMARY cause of global warming and that a switch to plant-based diets is absolutely essential today to prevent the ULTIMATE CATASTROPHE of HUMAN EXTINCTION.

Very respectfully,

John K. Diamond
Secretary/Treasurer (JVNA)

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5. Indications That the Earth is Drying Up

Jon Gertner | The Future Is Drying Up


The New York Times Magazine's Jon Gertner writes: "Last May, Steven Chu, a Nobel laureate and the director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, one of the United States government's pre-eminent research facilities, remarked that diminished supplies of fresh water might prove a far more serious problem than slowly rising seas. When I met with Chu last summer in Berkeley, the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada, which provides most of the water for Northern California, was at its lowest level in 20 years. Chu noted that even the most optimistic climate models for the second half of this century suggest that 30 to 70 percent of the snowpack will disappear. 'There's a two-thirds chance there will be a disaster,' Chu said, 'and that's in the best scenario.'"

The Future Is Drying Up

By Jon Gertner

The New York Times Magazine

Sunday 21 October 2007

Scientists sometimes refer to the effect a hotter world will have on this country's fresh water as the other water problem, because global warming more commonly evokes the specter of rising oceans submerging our great coastal cities. By comparison, the steady decrease in mountain snowpack - the loss of the deep accumulation of high-altitude winter snow that melts each spring to provide the American West with most of its water - seems to be a more modest worry. But not all researchers agree with this ranking of dangers. Last May, for instance, Steven Chu, a Nobel laureate and the director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, one of the United States government's pre-eminent research facilities, remarked that diminished supplies of fresh water might prove a far more serious problem than slowly rising seas. When I met with Chu last summer in Berkeley, the snow pack in the Sierra Nevada, which provides most of the water for Northern California, was at its lowest level in 20 years. Chu noted that even the most optimistic climate models for the second half of this century suggest that 30 to 70 percent of the snow pack will disappear. "There's a two-thirds chance there will be a disaster," Chu said, "and that's in the best scenario."

In the Southwest this past summer, the outlook was equally sobering. A catastrophic reduction in the flow of the Colorado River - which mostly consists of snowmelt from the Rocky Mountains - has always served as a kind of thought experiment for water engineers, a risk situation from the outer edge of their practical imaginations. Some 30 million people depend on that water. A greatly reduced river would wreak chaos in seven states: Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada and California. An almost unfathomable legal morass might well result, with farmers suing the federal government; cities suing cities; states suing states; Indian nations suing state officials; and foreign nations (by treaty, Mexico has a small claim on the river) bringing international law to bear on the United States government. In addition, a lesser Colorado River would almost certainly lead to a considerable amount of economic havoc, as the future water supplies for the West's industries, agriculture and growing municipalities are threatened. As one prominent Western water official described the possible future to me, if some of the Southwest's largest reservoirs empty out, the region would experience an apocalypse, "an Armageddon."

One day last June, an environmental engineer named Bradley Udall appeared before a Senate subcommittee that was seeking to understand how severe the country's fresh-water problems might become in an era of global warming. As far as Washington hearings go, the testimony was an obscure affair, which was perhaps fitting: Udall is the head of an obscure organization, the Western Water Assessment. The bureau is located in the Boulder, Colo., offices of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, the government agency that collects obscure data about the sky and seas. Still, Udall has a name that commands some attention, at least within the Beltway. His father was Morris Udall, the congressman and onetime presidential candidate, and his uncle was Stewart Udall, the secretary of the interior under Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson. Bradley Udall's great-great-grandfather, John D. Lee, moreover, was the founder of Lee's Ferry, a flyspeck spot in northern Arizona that means nothing to most Americans but holds near-mythic status to those who work with water for a living. Near Lee's Ferry is where the annual flow of the Colorado River is measured in order to divvy up its water among the seven states that depend on it. To many politicians, economists and climatologists, there are few things more important than what has happened at Lee's Ferry in the past, just as there are few things more important than what will happen at Lee's Ferry in the future.

The importance of the water there was essentially what Udall came to talk about. A report by the National Academies on the Colorado River basin had recently concluded that the combination of limited Colorado River water supplies, increasing demands, warmer temperatures and the prospect of recurrent droughts "point to a future in which the potential for conflict" among those who use the river will be ever-present. Over the past few decades, the driest states in the United States have become some of our fastest-growing; meanwhile, an ongoing drought has brought the flow of the Colorado to its lowest levels since measurements at Lee's Ferry began 85 years ago. At the Senate hearing, Udall stated that the Colorado River basin is already two degrees warmer than it was in 1976 and that it is foolhardy to imagine that the next 50 years will resemble the last 50. Lake Mead, the enormous reservoir in Arizona and Nevada that supplies nearly all the water for Las Vegas, is half-empty, and statistical models indicate that it will never be full again. "As we move forward," Udall told his audience, "all water-management actions based on 'normal' as defined by the 20th century will increasingly turn out to be bad bets."

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6. Chile One More Country Threatened by Global Warming

Global warming in Chile threatens industry, water supplies

By Jack Chang | McClatchy Newspapers

Helen Hughes / MCT

Ski lifts stand over barren ground after the snow has melted in Lagunillas, Chile. | View larger image

SAN JOSE DE MAIPO, Chile - With a population of 16 million people, Chile doesn't produce much of the greenhouse gases that cause global warming. But it's paying the price.

Giant glaciers are disappearing. Mudslides are becoming more common. Snow no longer falls in the spring, replaced instead by tepid rains.

Last May, an entire lake in southern Chile disappeared practically overnight after the Tempano Glacier, which had acted as a dam, melted and destabilized.

“Without a doubt, global warming is the cause,” said Gino Casassa, a researcher at the nonprofit Center of Scientific Studies and a member of the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. “The only question now is what will be the effects for Chile over the next decades.”

The answers have been coming in at an alarming rate as scientists scramble to record the changes happening up and down the country's mountainous spine.

Chilean researchers have found that more than half of the 120 glaciers they monitor are shrinking, with many disappearing at twice the rate recorded just a decade ago. That includes glaciers near the capital of Santiago that provide water to the city's 6 million residents.

In central Chile, where most of the population lives, the altitude at which snow begins to fall rose by 400 feet in the winter and more than 650 feet in the summer between 1975 and 2001. Rain has fallen instead at higher altitudes, causing the snow pack to shrink and triggering erosion on many mountains.

Average temperatures in the region over the past century have risen by half a degree to 1.26 degrees over the past century, enough to melt glaciers and snow.

The rising temperatures have produced a rise in water levels in the short term, but are likely to result in long-term shortages when the glaciers are gone, Casassa said.

Adding to Chile's worries, rain levels are dropping in the Patagonian south, where many of the country's hydroelectric dams are.

“It's like we're killing the goose that lays the golden egg,” said Jorge Quinteros, 75, a veteran alpinist who researches snow and water levels for Chile's government. “Rivers are growing like they never did, and they'll continue growing for a few years, but when the glaciers are gone, then what?”

The damage isn't limited to Chile. Neighboring Argentina faces droughts near its side of the Andes due to dropping rain levels. Shrinking glaciers in Bolivia are threatening water supplies in some towns.

“What's happening in Argentina is very similar to what's happening in Chile,” said Mario Nunez, director of the Argentine Sea and Atmosphere Investigations Center. “We're all trying to prepare for an uncertain future.”

The changes have been both big and small.

Mario Martinez, 82, said the weather at his mountain lodge in the shadow of the San Jose volcano in central Chile is the same as it was - cold - when he first arrived 30 years ago. In fact, the worst winter he remembers hit recently, in 2002, when snow nearly buried his two-story house.

But the volcano is often no longer snowcapped, he said, “while the bottom part is covered.”

Jose Manquez said declining snowfall has cut the ski season from three months to one month at the Lagunillas resort he helps manage. New snow-making machines, especially on lower-altitude runs, are his only hope for drawing customers.

The country's mining industry, which produces about two-thirds of Chilean exports, is researching new ways of doing business, said mining minister Karen Poniachik. Miners use vast amounts of water to crush, screen, wash and extract minerals, and disputes over water in the country's dry north, where many of Chile's mines are, already have sparked demonstrations and violence.

“The availability of water is definitely a concern,” she said.

For Quinteros, who has spent decades roaming Chile's wilds, an era has already come to an end. The mountains he knew and loved have changed for good, he said, and the future doesn't look promising.

He remembers when the foothills above Santiago were covered with snow year-round instead of being bare for most of the year, as they are now. He also remembers visiting legendary glaciers in Chile's south, such as the San Rafael and the O'Higgins, before they were visibly in retreat.

“I see the changes every time I'm in the mountains,” Quinteros said. “The impact of all this has been impossible not to see.”
McClatchy Newspapers 2007

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7. Eminent Scientist Claims Global Warming Already Irreversible

The Prophet of Climate Change: James Lovelock

One of the most eminent scientists of our time says that global warming is irreversible - and that more than 6 billion people will perish by the end of the century

Jeff GoodellPosted Oct 17, 2007 2:20 PM

Thanks to JVNA advisor Steve Schuster for forwarding this article from Rolling Stone to Us:


At the age of eighty-eight, after four children and a long and respected career as one of the twentieth century's most influential scientists, James Lovelock has come to an unsettling conclusion: The human race is doomed. "I wish I could be more hopeful," he tells me one sunny morning as we walk through a park in Oslo, where he is giving a talk at a university. Lovelock is a small man, unfailingly polite, with white hair and round, owlish glasses. His step is jaunty, his mind lively, his manner anything but gloomy. In fact, the coming of the Four Horsemen -- war, famine, pestilence and death -- seems to perk him up. "It will be a dark time," Lovelock admits. "But for those who survive, I suspect it will be rather exciting."

In Lovelock's view, the scale of the catastrophe that awaits us will soon become obvious. By 2020, droughts and other extreme weather will be commonplace. By 2040, the Sahara will be moving into Europe, and Berlin will be as hot as Baghdad. Atlanta will end up a kudzu jungle. Phoenix will become uninhabitable, as will parts of Beijing (desert), Miami (rising seas) and London (floods). Food shortages will drive millions of people north, raising political tensions. "The Chinese have nowhere to go but up into Siberia," Lovelock says. "How will the Russians feel about that? I fear that war between Russia and China is probably inevitable." With hardship and mass migrations will come epidemics, which are likely to kill millions. By 2100, Lovelock believes, the Earth's population will be culled from today's 6.6 billion to as few as 500 million, with most of the survivors living in the far latitudes -- Canada, Iceland, Scandinavia, the Arctic Basin.

By the end of the century, according to Lovelock, global warming will cause temperate zones like North America and Europe to heat up by fourteen degrees Fahrenheit, nearly double the likeliest predictions of the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the United Nations-sanctioned body that includes the world's top scientists. "Our future," Lovelock writes, "is like that of the passengers on a small pleasure boat sailing quietly above the Niagara Falls, not knowing that the engines are about to fail." And switching to energy-efficient light bulbs won't save us. To Lovelock, cutting greenhouse-gas pollution won't make much difference at this point, and much of what passes for sustainable development is little more than a scam to profit off disaster. "Green," he tells me, only half-joking, "is the color of mold and corruption."

If such predictions were coming from anyone else, you would laugh them off as the ravings of an old man projecting his own impending death onto the world around him. But Lovelock is not so easily dismissed. As an inventor, he created a device that helped detect the growing hole in the ozone layer and jump-start the environmental movement in the 1970s. And as a scientist, he introduced the revolutionary theory known as Gaia -- the idea that our entire planet is a kind of superorganism that is, in a sense, "alive." Once dismissed as New Age quackery, Lovelock's vision of a self-regulating Earth now underlies virtually all climate science. Lynn Margulis, a pioneering biologist at the University of Massachusetts, calls him "one of the most innovative and mischievous scientific minds of our time." Richard Branson, the British entrepreneur, credits Lovelock with inspiring him to pledge billions of dollars to fight global warming. "Jim is a brilliant scientist who has been right about many things in the past," Branson says. "If he's feeling gloomy about the future, it's important for mankind to pay attention."


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8. Atmospheric CO2 Rises More Than Expected Since 2000


The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is increasing more than expected due to less-efficient use of fossil fuels, and carbon sinks that are absorbing less carbon, according to research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Overall, "atmospheric carbon dioxide growth has increased 35 percent faster than expected since 2000," said the British Antarctic Survey, a group involved in the research. The report said that changes in carbon levels "characterize a carbon cycle that is generating stronger-than-expected and sooner-than-expected climate forcing." In lay terms, that means many climate models may be off the mark since only the most gloomy have forecasted less-efficient carbon sinks in the present. The effect of the weakening sinks alone could translate into an increase in the global average temperature of 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100, according to study coauthor Corinne Le Quere. Le Quere said it's not clear precisely where the sinks are weakening, except in the Southern Ocean. A separate study of the North Atlantic Ocean to be published in the Journal of Geophysical Research next month also suggests the world's oceans may be sequestering far less carbon dioxide than previously thought.

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9. Rising Seas Will Swamp America's Shores


According to Seth Borenstein, The Associated Press, because of rising waters caused by climate change, "In about a century, some of the places that make America what it is may be slowly erased."

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10. “60 Minutes Report: Does Global Warming Fuel Major Wildfires?"

Warming Climate Fuels Megafires


Scott Pelley, CBS News, reports: "Every year you can count on forest fires in the West like hurricanes in the East, but recently there has been an enormous change in Western fires. In truth, we've never seen anything like them in recorded history. It appears we're living in a new age of megafires - forest infernos ten times bigger than the fires we're used to seeing."

Expert: Warming Climate Fuels Mega-Fires
By Scott Pelley
CBS News

Sunday 21 October 2007

Scott Pelley reports from the American West's fire lines on the rising number of mega-fires.

Every year you can count on forest fires in the West like hurricanes in the East, but recently there has been an enormous change in Western fires. In truth, we've never seen anything like them in recorded history. It appears we're living in a new age of mega-fires - forest infernos ten times bigger than the fires we're used to seeing.

To find out why it's happening, 60 Minutes correspondent Scott Pelley went out on the fire line to see the burning of the American West.

Last fire season was the worst in recorded history. This year is already a close second, with two months to go. More than eight million acres have burned this year already. The men and women facing the flames are elite federal firefighters called "Hotshots."

Nationwide there are 92 hotshot crews of 20 members each. 60 Minutes found a group of New Mexico hotshots in the Salmon River Mountains of Idaho. They had set up camp in a burned out patch of forest with fire raging all around. They were hitting the day, exhausted, halfway through a 14-day shift.

Leaving camp to scout out the situation, the firefighters anticipated a mess and they found it: the valley was engulfed in smoke. The flames blew through the firebreak lines they dug the day before.


"You know, there are a lot of people who don't believe in climate change," Pelley remarks.

"You won't find them on the fire line in the American West anymore," Tom Boatner says. "'Cause we've had climate change beat into us over the last ten or fifteen years. We know what we're seeing, and we're dealing with a period of climate, in terms of temperature and humidity and drought that's different than anything people have seen in our lifetimes."

Produced By David Gelber and Joel Bach.

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11. Are Major Power Outages Ahead?

At the End of the Climate Policy Tunnel, Will the Light Be Out?


Coral Davenport, writing for Congressional Quarterly, reports: "America may be speeding toward power shortages and rolling blackouts, according to new studies and a host of experts, as the demand for power outpaces industry's moves to meet it."

South Struggles to Cope With Drought

In The Christian Science Monitor, Patrik Jonsson says, "Kids in Jefferson, Georgia, are shutting the tap off as they brush their teeth. Adults are doing bigger, but fewer, laundry loads. And just about everybody is glancing nervously at the puddle passing for the town's reservoir."

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12. Global warming May Fuel Massive Species Extinctions

Study of fossil record predicts climate change could fuel mass extinction

Climate change may fuel a mass extinction in which half of all plant and animal species could -- how to put this delicately? -- exit stage left, according to a new study. If the past 520 million years of fossil records are any predictor of the future, a globally warmed world will not bode well for biodiversity, researchers found. "We found that over the fossil record as a whole, the higher the temperatures have been, the higher the extinctions have been," said University of York ecologist Peter Mayhew. The study also found that four of five of the world's mass extinctions occurred when the Earth was significantly warmer, and that in cooler times, biodiversity tends to be higher. Researchers warned that the Earth is on track to hit temperatures similar to the higher, extinction-correlated ones in about 100 years or so.

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13. Some Additional Reports on Global Warming and Its Effects

a. California's Age of Megafires
The Christian Science Monitor's Daniel B. Wood writes: "There's a reason fire squads now battling more than a dozen blazes in southern California are having such difficulty containing the flames, despite better preparedness than ever and decades of experience fighting fires fanned by the notorious Santa Ana winds. The wildfires themselves, experts say, generally are hotter, move faster, and spread more erratically than in the past."

b. Global Warming "Is Happening Faster"
Paul Eccleston and Charles Clover, The Telegraph UK, report: "A weakening in the Earth's ability to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere means that global warming is happening faster than we thought, scientists said yesterday."

c. Panel Urges Global Shift on Sources of Energy
Andrew C. Revkin, The New York Times, writes: "Energy experts convened by the world's scientific academies yesterday urged nations to shift swiftly away from coal and other fuels that are the main source of climate-warming greenhouse gases and to provide new energy options for the two billion people who still mostly cook in the dark on wood or dung fires."

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14. Should We Let Uncertainties Re Global Warming and Its Effects Prevent Us From Acting?

Climate Change's Uncertainty Principle

Scientists say they can never be sure exactly how
extreme global warming might become, but that's no
excuse for delaying action

By David Biello

October 25, 2007

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in its first report in 1990 predicted that temperatures would warm by 0.5 degree Fahrenheit (0.3 degree Celsius) per decade if no efforts were made to restrain greenhouse gas emissions. But the panel of scientists and other experts was wrong: By 2001, the group estimated that average temperatures would increase by 2.7 to 8.1 degrees F (1.5 to 4.5 degrees C) in the 21st century, and they raised the lower end to 3.6 degrees F (2 degrees C) this year in their most recent report. In essence, neither this international team of experts nor any other can say with any certainty just how bad global warming may get.

There is a simple explanation for this, says atmospheric physicist Gerard Roe of the University of Washington (U.W.) in Seattle: Earth's climate is extremely sensitive. In other words, small changes in various physical processes that control climate lead to big results. "If nothing else changed by [warming], a doubling of carbon dioxide would ultimately lead to a temperature change of about 1.2 [degrees] C," [(2.1 degrees F)] Roe says. "In fact, because of internal processes within the climate system, such as changing snow cover, clouds and water vapor in the atmosphere, our best estimate is that the actual warming would be
two to four times larger than that."

Some of these feedback processes are poorly understood--like how climate change affects clouds-and many are difficult to model, therefore the climate's propensity to amplify any small change makes predicting how much and how fast the climate will change inherently difficult. "Uncertainty and sensitivity are inextricably linked," Roe says. "Some warming is a virtual certainty, but the amount of that warming is much less certain."

Roe and his U.W. co-author, atmospheric physicist Marcia Baker, argue in Science that, because of this inherent climate effect, certainty is a near impossibility, no matter what kind of improvements are made in understanding physical processes or the timescale of observations.

"Once the world has warmed 4 degrees C [(7.2 degrees F)] conditions will be so different from anything we can observe today (and still more different from the last ice age) that it is inherently hard to say when the warming will stop," physicists Myles Allen and David Frame of the University of Oxford wrote in an editorial accompanying the article. "If the true climate sensitivity really is as high as 5 degrees C [(9 degrees F)], the only way our descendants will find that out is if they stubbornly hold greenhouse gas concentrations constant for centuries at our target stabilization level."

Therefore, waiting for more scientific certainty before acting is a mistake, Roe says. "People are comfortable with the idea that stock markets, housing prices and the weather are uncertain, and they are used to making decisions on that basis," he notes.

But this also means that targets such as stabilizing atmospheric concentrations of CO2 at 450 parts per million (nearly double pre-industrial levels) to avoid more than a 3.6 degree F (2 degree C) temperature rise are nearly impossible as well. There is no guarantee that such a target would achieve its stated goal. "Policymakers are always going to be faced with uncertainty and so the only sensible way forward to minimize risk is to adopt an adaptive policy," argues climatologist Gavin Schmidt of the NASA Goddard Institute of Space Studies, "which adjusts emissions targets and incentives based on how well, or badly, things are going."

It also means that scientists and other experts are going to have to monitor measures other than just atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases to catch catastrophic climate change developing. "It is essential that we designate the harbingers of abrupt and significant changes or, perhaps more importantly, the triggers and thresholds that could commit the planet to these changes well before their tell-tale signs appear," says economist and IPCC author Gary Yohe of Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn. "We cannot accept the adaptive design completely without having confidence in our abilities to determine exactly what to monitor."

The IPCC has taken a crack at that, identifying 26 "key vulnerabilities" in its most recent assessment, ranging from declines in agricultural productivity to the melting of ice sheets and polar ice cover as well as determining how to judge if they are spiraling out of control. Disappearing Arctic ice is already helping to amplify global warming beyond what the IPCC had predicted in the past. "We already know about as much as we are going to about climate system's response to greenhouse gases," Roe says. "We already have the basis for making the decisions we need to make."

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