June 25, 2008

6/23/2008 Special JVNA Online Newsletter

Shalom everyone,

This specialJewish Vegetarians of North America (JVNA) Online Newsletter is devoted to a consideration of the growing hunger and global warming crises and the vegetarian connections.

The bottom lines are that it is scandalous that over 70 percent of the grain grown in the United States and over 40 percent of the grain grown worldwide are fed t animals destined for slaughter, while an estimated 20 million people die of hunger and its effects annually worldwide, and that we are continuing and expanding diets that are contributing so much to global warming at a time when the effects are coming increasingly apparent, as seen by the severe flooding in mid-Western states, the widespread wild fires in California and much more.

Please use the material in this newsletter, including my two sample letters in item 32 to compose your own letters and for talking points to help make people understand that a major shift toward vegetarianism is a societal imperative today, essential to move our imperiled planet to a sustainable path.

The newsletter has the following items:

1. Are Human Activities Worsening Floods and Other Weather-Related Problems?

2. My Letters Re the Food Crisis, Phasing Out Factory Farms and Related Issues

3. How Vegetarianism Can Reduce the Global Food Crisis

4. New York Times Editorial Blasts Factory Farming

5. Have We Reached the End of Relatively Inexpensive Food?

6. Book Review on “The End of Food”

7. Severe Weather Extremes Projected for North America

8. Noted NASA Scientist Renews Call for Action on Global Warming

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. Are Human Activities Worsening Floods and Other Weather-Related Problems?

Iowa Flooding Could Be An Act of Man, Experts Say

Residents along the Mississippi River are experiencing the worst flooding in 15 years.
By Joel Achenbach
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, June 19, 2008; Page A01


As the Cedar River rose higher and higher, and as he stacked sandbags along the levee protecting downtown Cedar Falls, Kamyar Enshayan, a college professor and City Council member, kept asking himself the same question: "What is going on?"

The river would eventually rise six feet higher than any flood on record. Farther downstream, in Cedar Rapids, the river would break the record by more than 11 feet.
Enshayan, director of an environmental center at the University of Northern Iowa, suspects that this natural disaster wasn't really all that natural. He points out that the heavy rains fell on a landscape radically reengineered by humans. Plowed fields have replaced tallgrass prairies. Fields have been meticulously drained with underground pipes. Streams and creeks have been straightened. Most of the wetlands are gone. Flood plains have been filled and developed.

"We've done numerous things to the landscape that took away these water-absorbing functions," he said. "Agriculture must respect the limits of nature."

Officials are still trying to understand all the factors that contributed to Iowa's flooding, and not everyone has the same suspicions as Enshayan. For them, the cause was obvious: It rained buckets and buckets for days on end. They say the changes in land use were lesser factors in what was really just a case of meteorological bad luck.

But some Iowans who study the environment suspect that changes in the land, both recently and over the past century or so, have made Iowa's terrain not only highly profitable but also highly vulnerable to flooding. They know it's a hard case to prove, but they hope to get Iowans thinking about how to reduce the chances of a repeat calamity.

"I sense that the flooding is not the result of a 500-year event," said Jerry DeWitt, director of the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University. "We're farming closer to creeks, farming closer to rivers. Without adequate buffer strips, the water moves rapidly from the field directly to the surface water."

Corn alone will cover more than a third of the state's land surface this year. The ethanol boom that began two years ago encouraged still more cultivation.

Between 2007 and 2008, farmers took 106,000 acres of Iowa land out of the Conservation Reserve Program, which pays farmers to keep farmland uncultivated, according to Lyle Asell, a special assistant for agriculture and environment with the state's Department of Natural Resources (DNR). That land, if left untouched, probably would have been covered with perennial grasses with deep roots that help absorb water.

The basic hydrology of Iowa has been changed since the coming of the plow. By the early 20th century, farmers had installed drainage pipes under the surface to lower the water table and keep water from pooling in what otherwise could be valuable farmland. More of this drainage "tiling" has been added in recent years. The direct effect is that water moves quickly from the farmland to the streams and rivers.
"We've lost 90 percent of our wetlands," said Mary Skopec, who monitors water quality for the Iowa DNR.

Crop rotation may also play a subtle role in the flooding. Farmers who may have once grown a number of crops are now likely to stick to just corn and soybeans -- annual plants that don't put down deep roots.

Residents along the Mississippi River are experiencing the worst flooding in 15 Another potential factor: sediment. "We're actually seeing rivers filling up with sediment, so the capacity of the rivers has changed," Asell said. He said that in the 1980s and 1990s, Iowa led the nation in flood damage year after year.

This landscape wasn't ready for the kind of deluge that hit Iowa in May and early June. Central and eastern portions of the state received 15 inches of rain. That came on top of previous rains that had left the soil saturated. Worse, the rain came at the tail end of an unusually cool spring. Farmers had delayed planting their crops. The deluge struck a nearly naked landscape of small plants and black dirt.
"With that volume of rain, you're going to have flooding. There's just no way around it," said Donna Dubberke, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in the Quad Cities. "This is not just because someone put in a parking lot."

The rising Mississippi River is expected to peak this week, threatening towns and farmland north of St. Louis as floodwaters continue to move down the river. So far, flooding and severe weather have killed at least 24 people in three states and injured 106, forced the evacuations of about 40,000, and driven corn prices to record highs.

Two levees burst just north of Quincy, Ill., yesterday morning, forcing the evacuation of the small town of Meyer. Yesterday afternoon, Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) visited the town after viewing the nearby Sny Island Levee, about 12 miles downstream from Quincy and, at 54 miles long, the second-biggest levee on the Mississippi.

In Iowa, the National Weather Service has reported record flooding at 12 locations on four rivers, including the Cedar, the Iowa, the Wapsipinicon and the Mississippi. The U.S. Geological Survey has preliminary data showing 500-year floods on the Cedar, the Shell Rock, the Upper Iowa and the Nodaway.

The Great Flood of 2008 has, for many inhabitants of sandbagged Iowa, come awfully soon after the Great Flood of 1993. Or, as Elwynn Taylor, a meteorologist at Iowa State University, put it: "Why should we have two 500-year floods within 15 years?"
Taylor attributes the flooding in recent years to cyclical climate change: The entire Midwest, he says, has been in a wet cycle for the past 30 years. There has also been speculation that global warming could be a factor.

"Something in the system has changed," said Pete Kollasch, a remote-sensing analyst with the Iowa DNR. "The only thing I can point my finger at is global warming, but there's no proof of that."

Jeri Neal, a program leader for ecological systems and research at Iowa State's Leopold Center, said all these things have a cumulative effect on the landscape: "It doesn't have the resilience built into it that you need to withstand disturbances in the system."

The idea of a 500-year flood can be confusing. Hydrologists use the term to indicate a flooding event that they believe has a 0.2 percent chance -- 1 in 500 -- of happening in any given year in a specific location. A 100-year flood has a 1 in 100 chance of happening, and so on. Such estimates are based on many years of data collection, in some cases going back a century or more.

But the database can be spotty. Robert Holmes, national flood coordinator with the U.S. Geological Survey, said a lack of funding since 1999 has forced his agency to discontinue hundreds of stream gauges across the country. "It's not sexy to fund stream flow gauges," he said.

What's certain is that a lot of water had nowhere to go when the sky opened over Iowa this spring. Some rivers did things they'd never done before. The flood stage at Cedar Rapids, for example, is 12 feet. The previous record flood happened in 1929, when the Cedar hit 20 feet. This year the Cedar hit 20 feet and kept rising. Experts predicted it would crest at 22 feet, and then upped the estimate to 24 feet. The river had other ideas. At mid-morning last Friday, it finally crested at 31.3 feet.

The entire downtown was flooded and a railroad bridge collapsed, dumping rail cars filled with rock into the river.

"Cities routinely build in the flood plain," Enshayan said. "That's not an act of God; that's an act of City Council."

Staff writer Kari Lydersen contributed to this report from Quincy, Ill.

© Copyright 1996-2008 The Washington Post Company |

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2. My Letters Re the Food Crisis, Phasing Out Factory Farms and Related Issues

Editor, NY Post

Dear Editor:

RE: "Gov'ts Fiddle Through the Food Crisis" (May 21 article)

An important factor that is being overlooked re the current food crisis is animal-based diets.

At a time when food prices are skyrocketing, food riots are occurring in many areas and an estimated 20 million people are dying annually worldwide from hunger and its effects, it is scandalous that over 70 percent of the grain produced in the United States and over 40 percent produced worldwide are fed to farmed animals. Also, in an increasingly thirsty and energy-dependent world, animal-based diets require up to 14 times as much water and 10 times as much energy as vegan (all plants) diets.

While the world is increasingly threatened by global warming, animal-based agriculture emits more greenhouse gases (in CO2 equivalents) than all the cars and other means of transportation worldwide combined (18 percent vs. 13.5 percent). And, the consumption of animal products is projected to double in 50 years. Hence, a major shift toward plant-based diets is essential to move our precious, but imperiled, planet to a sustainable path.


June 20, 2008

Editor, VegNews

Dear Editor:

Kudos on a wonderful July/August 2008 issue, with much valuable material. Especially important, I believe, is Mat Thomas's insightful article, “Phasing Out Factory Farms.”

In response to Mat's question: no it is not just you, Mat, factory farming IS utterly immoral and insane! Here are just a few reasons why:

* While the world is increasingly threatened by global warming, animal-based agriculture emits more greenhouse gases (in CO2 equivalents) than all the cars and other means of transportation worldwide combined (18 percent vs. 13.5 percent).

* At a time when food prices are skyrocketing, food riots are occurring in many areas and an estimated 20 million people are dying annually worldwide from hunger and its effects, over 70 percent of the grain produced in the United States and over 40 percent produced worldwide are fed to farmed animals.

* In an increasingly thirsty and energy-dependent world, animal-based diets require up to 14 times as much water and 10 times as much energy as vegan (all plants) diets.

* Animal-centered diets are contributing to an epidemic of heart disease, several types of cancer and other diseases;

Making all of the above points even more compelling, the consumption of animal products is projected to double in 50 years. If this happens, it will make it very difficult, if not impossible, to reduce greenhouse emissions enough to avoid extremely severe effects from global climate change.

And, of course, producing all of these negative effects is at the expense of the billions of animals who are so cruelly treated on factory farms before being slaughtered.

It is essential that the vegetarian and animal rights movements make it a number one priority to respond to the immorality and insanity of animal-based diets and agriculture by mounting a comprehensive campaign to educate people on the realities of factory farming. Many thanks, VegNews for playing such an important role in doing this.

Very truly yours,

Richard H. Schwartz

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3. How Vegetarianism Can Reduce the Global Food Crisis

Taking the Food Crisis Personally

by Bruce Friedrich


In April, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on food policy called the diversion of crops to be turned into biofuels "a crime against humanity." Indeed, 100 million tons of corn and other crops that could feed people instead feed our cars.

What then to make of the fact that more than 750 million tons of corn and wheat are diverted from the mouths of the global poor (and away from biofuels) to feed chickens, pigs, and other farmed animals? And that doesn't even include the 80 percent of the global soy crop that is also fed to farmed animals.

Surely this is a crime against humanity of even greater impact: First, it's more than seven times as many crops that are diverted to feed farmed animals so that we can eat the animals; second, while diverting grains for biofuels does decrease global warming, the impact of eating meat is bad for our
health and environment -- there is no upside.

I adopted a vegetarian diet more than 20 years ago, after I read Diet for a Small Planet , by Frances Moore Lappe. In the book, Lappe makes the argument that using land to grow crops for animals is inefficient, polluting, and that it steals food from the mouths of the global poor. The point is echoed by the respected environmental think tank, The WorldWatch Institute, which published a report a few years back that declares:

"[M]eat consumption is an inefficient use of grain--the grain is used more efficiently when consumed by humans. Continued growth in meat output is dependent on feeding grain to animals, creating competition for grain between affluent meat-eaters and the world's poor."

More and more, that message is getting a hearing, so that a few weeks ago, the UN's climate chief Yvo de Boer told the Reuters news agency, "The best solution would be for us all to become vegetarians."

De Boer was talking about both the global food crisis and global warming, because a U.N. report recently found that eating meat is the number one human cause of global warming, causing almost a fifth of the global greenhouse gas total -- and, of course, poor communities are the first to suffer the potentially grave consequences of climate change.

The chairperson of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, who shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore, is himself a vegetarian and has been outspoken on the need for people who care about the climate to move in that direction. At a press conference just after winning the Peace Prize, the IPCC declared "Please eat less meat -- meat is a very carbon-intensive commodity".

Indeed it is, which is why the official handbook for the Live Earth concerts says that "refusing meat" is "the single most effective thing you can do to reduce your carbon footprint" (emphasis in original).

And the U.N. report also found that eating meat is "one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global." Specifically, the 408-page report noted the meat industry's contribution to "problems of land degradation, climate change and air pollution, water shortage and water pollution, and loss of biodiversity".

Clearly problems of climate change and the global food crisis warrant global and political solutions, but one of those solutions will have to include a shift away from the massive handouts that governments give to their meat industries in the form of government-paid inspection programs (these industries should pay their own bills), subsidies for feed crops, teams of scientists helping to grow larger animals with fewer resources, and so on. And it should also include government programs to encourage a public shift away from the consumption of chickens, pigs, and other
farmed animals.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown stated last month that "[h]unger is
a moral challenge to each one of us as global citizens... [w]ith one child dying every five seconds from hunger-related causes, the time to act is now".

The current issue of the New Scientist, in discussing the food crisis and the vast additional crops that are required to feed meat-eaters, as opposed to vegetarians, explains in discussing solutions, "We could try to reduce the demand by persuading people to return to a less meaty diet for example, but that is unlikely to work."

I think the New Scientist editors underestimate people. In Taiwan, they're taking the concept seriously; the Guardian reported on Wednesday (http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/jun/19/food.environment) that to address the global food crisis and global warming, "around a million people in Taiwan -- including the speaker of parliament, the environment minister, and the mayors of Taipei and Kaohsiung -- vowed to never again touch flesh nor fish."

If we also take global warming and global poverty seriously, isn't adopting a vegetarian diet the least that each of us can do?

For more on this topic, please visit GoVeg.com,
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bruce-friedrich/ . Find
recipes and more at www.VegCooking.com.

Bruce Friedrich is vice-president in charge of international grassroots campaigns for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) http://www.peta.org/ , the world's largest animal rights organization, with more than 2 million members and supporters. He has been an
anti-hunger advocate and Oxfam member and activist for more than 20 years.

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4. New York Times Editorial Blasts Factory Farming

New York Times Editorial - May 31, 2008

"The Worst Way of Farming"

"In the past month, two new reports have examined how farm animals are raised in this country. The report funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts calls the prevailing system 'industrial farm animal production.' The report from the Union of Concerned Scientists prefers the term 'confined animal feeding operations.'

No matter what you call it, it adds up to the same thing. Millions of animals are crowded together in inhumane conditions, causing significant environmental threats and unacceptable health risks for workers, their
neighbors and all the rest of us.

The astonishing increase in the number and size of confined animal operations has been spawned largely by the very structure of American farm supports, which always has been skewed in a way that concentrates farming in fewer and fewer hands. As both of these reports make clear, the so-called efficiency of industrial animal production is an illusion, made possible by cheap grain, cheap water and prisonlike confinement systems.

In short, animal husbandry has been turned into animal abuse. Manure - traditionally a source of fertilizer - has been turned into toxic waste that fouls the air and adjacent water bodies. Crowding creates health problems, resulting in the chronic overuse of antibiotics.

And, because the modest profits in confinement operations require the lowest possible labor costs, including automated feeding, watering and manure-handling systems, these operations have helped empty and impoverish rural America.

The Pew report recommends new laws regulating pollution rom industrial farms as rigorously as pollution from other industries, a phasing-out of confinement systems that restricts 'natural movement and normal behavior,' a ban on antibiotics used only to promote animal growth and the application of antitrust laws to encourage more competition and less concentration.

These are all useful guideposts for the next Congress and a new administration."


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5. Have We Reached the End of Relatively Inexpensive Food?

Culture Change Letter #189

You. Will. Not. Be. Able. To. Get. Food. - report on trends

The empire of cheap food is crumbling

by Jan Lundberg

You. Will. Not. Be. Able. To. Get. Food. Need this be spelled out any more plainly? It is time to consider that the stage has been set for petroleum-induced famine.

We have "innocently" accommodated rising population with greater and greater food production via technology and the profit motive. But now we have run out of room to grow, as biotechnology, for example, has severe limitations -- major ones being petroleum dependence and topsoil loss. The biggest wild card for our existence is climate change, as we see with floods and other extreme weather affecting our food supply.

We are headed for massive shortages of food and other essentials, mainly brought about by the depletion of geological fossil reserves of cheap energy and water. The situation is demonstrated regularly with easy arithmetic based on statistical indicators from the United Nations, Worldwatch Institute, World Resources Institute, Earth Policy Institute, and numerous governments. Usually the full force of the message is offset by predictions of huge rises in future human population growth that are simple extrapolations of historical trends.

No one can say with certainty that the worst effects of today's crisis will occur tomorrow or by any particular date. But it is irrational to assume there will only be gradual tightening of supplies until some solutions miraculously come to our aid. One ought to at least admit that one year ago few people thought we'd be going in the direction we're going in, this fast, today.

Three days is our average food supply around the modernized world, i.e., for cities and their supermarkets. Long-term food stocks have plummeted: "Cereal stocks that are at their lowest level in 30 years," according to Worldwatch institute in its most recent Vital Signs. This is exacerbated by increasingly weirder weather, compounded by the oil price/supply pressure on food. What can interfere with the three-day situation are truckers on strike (as in Europe), extended/repeated power outages, and the inability of the work force to commute to work.

I asked Chris Flavin, Worldwatch Institute president, about the escalating crisis that I assumed he was quite worried about. He told me on Wednesday,

To continue reading this article, go to: http://culturechange.org/cms/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=179&Itemid=1#cont.]

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6. Book Review on “The End of Food”

'End of Food' - It's the system, stupid

Book Review by Anna Lappé, San Francisco Chronicle

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The End of Food

By Paul Roberts

Houghton Mifflin; 390 pages; $26

With at least 100 million people in 22 countries threatened by the global food crisis, world leaders are meeting in Rome to discuss a joint response. But to settle on solutions, we must understand root causes.

To explain this crisis, some put forth a simple story of shrinking supply: Severe drought in Australia decimated the harvest of one of the world's largest wheat exporters. Biofuel production in the United States alone is diverting 33 percent of our corn harvest to feed automobiles, not people.

But these are just proximate causes, others argue. The real culprit? The global food system itself: its inherent vulnerability, lack of democracy and increasingly concentrated power. Sure, droughts and biofuels have affected global supplies, but in Paul Roberts' new book, "The End of Food," we hear the "It's the system, stupid" argument. Though its ink was drying before this current crisis hit CNN's news cycle, "The End of Food" helps us connect the dots.

As more of the planet shifts to our centralized, industrial model of food procurement and our over-processed, fast-food style of food consumption, we are careening ever faster, Roberts argues, down an unsustainable road.

This global food system is wasteful at its core: "By one estimate, it takes 2,200 calories of hydrocarbon energy (from oil, natural gas, or coal) to produce a can of soda that contains just 200 calories of food energy." Roberts takes particular aim at factory-farmed meat, with its inherent squandering of abundance: Feedlot cattle, for example, require 20 pounds of grain to make a single pound of beef. (This conversion ratio is much higher than other estimates, because Roberts accounts for all of a cow's weight, including what is inedible.) And our food fate is increasingly determined by a cabal of companies controlling the market, from beef to bananas. Roberts peppers his pages with examples such as these: Chiquita and Dole control more than half of the world's banana trade; 21 cents of every dollar we Americans spend for food is now spent at Wal-Mart.

- - -

Full story:




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7. Severe Weather Extremes Projected for North America

Study forecasts greater extremes in North American weather

By Juliet Eilperin
The Washington Post
5:24 PM CDT,
June 19, 2008


WASHINGTON - As greenhouse gas emissions rise, North America is likely to experience more droughts and excessive heat in some regions even as intense downpours and hurricanes pound others more often, according to a report issued Thursday by the U.S. Climate Change Science Program.

The 162-page study, which was led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, provides the most comprehensive assessment yet of how global warming has helped to transform the climate of the United States and Canada over the past 50 years -- and how it may do so in the future.

Coming at a time when record flooding is ravaging the Midwest, the new report paints a grim scenario in which severe weather will exact a heavy toll. It warned that extreme weather events "are among the most serious challenges to society in coping with a changing climate."

While the Southwest is likely to face even more intense droughts, the scientists wrote, heavy downpours will become more frequent in some other parts of the country because of increased water vapor in the air.

"This report addresses one of the most frequently asked questions about global warming: What will happen to weather and climate extremes?" said one of the report's two co-chairs, Thomas Karl, who directs of NOAA's National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C. He added that the report, which synthesizes the findings of more than 100 academic papers, "concludes that we are now witnessing and will increasingly experience more extreme weather and climate events."

The authors found that the last decade has seen fewer cold snaps than any other 10-year period in the historical record dating back to 1895. Under a middle-range scenario of future greenhouse gas emissions, climate models indicate that by mid-century, extremely hot days that now occur only once every 20 years will occur every three years.

Richard Moss, vice president and managing director for climate change at the World Wildlife Fund, said in an interview that the report was prepared by "an A-list of authors" and is "really frightening."

In a conference call with reporters, Karl and the other co-chair, Gerald Meehl, senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, said there is no doubt that human-generated heat-trapping gases have helped intensify both the Southwest's current drought and heavy downpours, which have been increasing at a rate three times that of average precipitation over the past century.

"That's a certainty," Karl said. "People aren't questioning whether there's been an increase in heavy downpours."

By the end of the century, he added, models predict that intense bouts of precipitation that might have occurred once every 20 years will take place every five years.

The researchers, from both the federal and private sectors, reached more tentative conclusions about the connection between greenhouse gas emissions and hurricanes.

The report noted that the intensity of hurricanes and tropical storms, as measured by an index that combines wind strength, duration and frequency, has had a "substantial" increase since 1970 and that "there has been a strong statistical connection between tropical Atlantic sea surface temperatures and Atlantic hurricane activity." But the scientists said this suggestion of a connection to human activity is not conclusive.

NOAA research meteorologist Thomas Knutson, who contributed to the report (and recently published an article in the journal Nature saying that it is too early to attribute more intense hurricane activity to a detectable human influence), said the synthesis reflects the current disagreement among scientists on the question of hurricanes.

"This is a report that is a consensus document, where you have a number of authors who may not agree on all things," Knutson said.
Article #2:

U.S. experts: Forecast is more extreme weather.
Rare events likely to become commonplace, climate report says

Frank Polich / Reuters

MSNBC staff and news service reports
updated 7:23 p.m. ET June 19, 2008


WASHINGTON - Droughts will get drier, storms will get stormier and floods will get deeper with a warming climate across North America, U.S. government experts said in a report billed as the first continental assessment of extreme events.

Events that have seemed relatively rare will become commonplace, said the latest report from the U.S. Climate Change Science Program, a joint effort of more than a dozen government agencies.

"Heat waves and heavy downpours are very likely to further increase in frequency and intensity," the report stated. "Substantial areas of North America are likely to have more frequent droughts of greater severity. Hurricane wind speeds, rainfall intensity and storm surge levels are likely to increase. The strongest cold season storms are likely to become more frequent, with stronger winds and more extreme wave heights."

There has been an increase in the frequency of heavy downpours, especially over northern states, and these are likely to continue in the future, Thomas Karl, director of the National Climatic Data Center, said in a briefing Thursday.

For example, Karl said, by the end of this century rainfall amounts expected to occur every 20 years could be taking place every five years.

Such an increase "can lead to the type of events that we are seeing in the Midwest," said Karl, though he did not directly link the current flooding to climate change.

The report itself noted that "intense precipitation (the heaviest 1 percent of daily precipitation totals) in the continental U.S. increased by 20 percent over the past century while total precipitation increased by 7 percent."

Shifting dangers

But the report cautioned that preparing for weather that has been relatively common can leave people vulnerable as extreme events occur more and more.

"Moderate flood control measures on a river can stimulate development in a now 'safe' floodplain, only to see those new structures damaged when a very large flood occurs," the report said.

At the same time heavy rains increase, there'll be more droughts, especially in the Southwest, Karl said.

"When it rains, it rains harder and when it's not raining, it's warmer - there is more evaporation, and droughts can last longer," he explained.

The Southwestern drought that began in 1999 is beginning to rival some of the greatest droughts on record including those of the 1930s and 1950s, he added.

Gerald Meehl, a senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, said there has been a trend toward increasing power in hurricanes since the 1970s in the Atlantic and western Pacific, a change that can be linked to rising sea surface temperatures.

There is a statistical connection between rising sea surface temperatures and hurricane activity, Meehl said, but linking changes in hurricanes to human actions will require more study.

Hotter days more often

More easily attributed to human impact, through release of greenhouse gases, is an overall increase in temperatures, he said.

It's not getting as cold at night as it did in earlier decades and there are fewer nights with frosts, a trend expected to continue into the future, Meehl said.

"A day so hot that it is experienced only once every 20 years would occur every three years by the middle of the century," under the mid-range projections of climate models, the report said.

Researchers can use computer models of climate to separate out cause and effect of this warming, he explained - looking at the effect of things like changes in solar radiation or volcanic eruptions - and the result is to attribute climate warming to the burning of fossil fuels.

"It is well established through formal attribution studies that the global warming of the past 50 years is due primarily to human-induced increases in heat-trapping gases," the report itself states.

Other future projections cited in the report include:

* Sea ice extent in the Arctic Ocean is expected to continue to decrease and may even disappear in summer in coming decades;
* Precipitation, on average, is likely to be less frequent but more intense;
* Droughts will likely be more frequent and severe in some areas;
* Hurricanes will likely spawn increased precipitation and wind;
* The strongest cold-season Atlantic and Pacific storms are likely to create stronger winds and higher extreme wave heights.

Participating in the Climate Change Science Program are the Agency for International Development, Department of Agriculture, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Institute of Standards and Technology, Department of Defense, Department of Energy, National Institutes of Health, Department of State, Department of Transportation, U.S. Geological Survey, Environmental Protection Agency, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, National Science Foundation and the Smithsonian Institution.

The full report is online at www.usgcrp.gov

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8. Noted NASA Scientist Renews Call for Action on Global Warming

Published: June 23, 2008


Twenty years ago Monday, James E. Hansen, a climate scientist at NASA, shook Washington and the world by telling a sweating crowd at a Senate hearing during a stifling heat wave that he was “99 percent” certain that humans were already warming the climate.

“The greenhouse effect has been detected, and it is changing our climate now,” Dr. Hansen said then, referring to a recent string of warm years and the accumulating blanket of heat-trapping carbon dioxide and other gases emitted mainly by burning fossil fuels and forests.

To many observers of environmental history, that was the first time global warming moved from being a looming issue to breaking news. Dr. Hansen's statement helped propel the first pushes for legislation and an international treaty to cut emissions of greenhouse gases. A treaty was enacted and an addendum, the Kyoto Protocol, was added.

Even as the scientific picture of a human-heated world has solidified, emissions of the gases continue to rise.

On Monday, Dr. Hansen, 67, plans to testify at a House committee hearing that it is almost, but not quite, too late to start defusing what he calls the “global warming time bomb.” He will offer a plan for cuts in emissions and also a warning about the risks of further inaction.

“If we don't begin to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the next several years, and really on a very different course, then we are in trouble,” Dr. Hansen said Friday at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, which he has directed since 1981. “Then the ice sheets are in trouble. Many species on the planet are in trouble.”

In his testimony, Dr. Hansen said, he will say that the next president faces a unique opportunity to galvanize the country around the need for a transformed, nonpolluting energy system. The hearing is before the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming.

Dr. Hansen said the natural skepticism and debates embedded in the scientific process had distracted the public from the confidence experts have in a future with centuries of changing climate patterns and higher sea levels under rising carbon dioxide concentrations. The confusion has been amplified by industries that extract or rely on fossil fuels, he said, and this has given cover to politicians who rely on contributions from such industries.

Dr. Hansen said the United States must begin a sustained effort to exploit new energy sources and phase out unfettered burning of finite fossil fuels, starting with a moratorium on the construction of coal-burning power plants if they lack systems for capturing and burying carbon dioxide. Such systems exist but have not been tested at anywhere near the scale required to blunt emissions. Ultimately he is seeking a worldwide end to emissions from coal burning by 2030.

Another vital component, Dr. Hansen said, is a nationwide grid for distributing and storing electricity in ways that could accommodate large-scale use of renewable, but intermittent, energy sources like wind turbines and solar-powered generators. The transformation would require new technology as well as new policies, particularly legislation promoting investments and practices that steadily reduce emissions.

Such an enterprise would be on the scale of past ambitious national initiatives, Dr. Hansen said, like the construction of the federal highway system and the Apollo space program.

Dr. Hansen disagrees with supporters of “cap and trade” bills to cut greenhouse emissions, like the one that foundered in the Senate this month. He supports a “tax and dividend” approach that would raise the cost of fuels contributing to greenhouse emissions but return the revenue directly to consumers to shield them from higher energy prices.

As was the case in 1988, Dr. Hansen's peers in climatology, while concerned about the risks posed by unabated emissions, have mixed views on the probity of a scientist's advocating a menu of policy choices outside his field.

Some also do not see such high risks of imminent climatic calamity, particularly disagreeing with Dr. Hansen's projection that sea levels could rise a couple of yards or more in this century if emissions continue unabated.

Dr. Hansen is a favorite target of conservative commentators; on FoxNews.com, one called him “alarmist in chief.” But many climate experts say Dr. Hansen, despite some faults, has been an essential prodder of the public and scientific conscience.

Jerry Mahlman, who recently retired from a long career in climatology, said he disagreed with some of Dr. Hansen's characterizations of the climate problem and his ideas about solutions. “On the whole, though, he's been helpful,” Dr. Mahlman said. “He pushes the edge, but most of the time it's pedagogically sound.”

Dr. Hansen said he was making a new public push now because the coming year presented a unique opportunity, with a new administration and the world waiting for the United States to re-engage in treaty talks scheduled to culminate with a new climate pact at the end of 2009.

He said a recent focus on China, which has surpassed the United States in annual carbon dioxide emissions, obscured the fact that the United States, Britain and Germany are most responsible for the accumulation of greenhouse gases.
Dr. Hansen said he had no regrets about stepping into the realm of policy, despite much criticism.

“I only regret that we haven't gotten the story across as well as it needs to be,” he said. “And I think we're running out of time.”

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