Fires and climate change prompt soul-searching in Australia
February 17, 2009 09:43 AM - Herald Tribune

Scientists say that Australia can expect more of the scorching conditions that fanned the firestorms that killed at least 181 people this month, prompting a nationwide debate about how to prepare for a hotter, more fire-prone future. As investigators pick through the tangled wreckage left by Australia's deadliest wildfires, which flattened townships and destroyed more than 1,000 homes starting Feb. 7, a wide-ranging discussion has begun about the way the country handles wildfires - from greenhouse-gas emissions standards to planning codes to an emergency protocol that encourages people to stay and defend their properties.

South Asia's largest rivers threatened, warns UN
February 17, 2009 09:09 AM - SciDev

[NEW DELHI] Water resources in three of South Asia's largest river basins are highly vulnerable, with millions of people at risk of increasing water scarcity, a new report has found. The report - jointly released by the UN Environment Programme and the Asian Institute of Technology- studied the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna (GBM), Indus and Helmand river basins, all of which span multiple countries within the region.

US calls for treaty on mercury reduction
February 16, 2009 03:14 PM - AP

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) - The new U.S. administration wants a legally binding international treaty to reduce mercury in the environment, a senior diplomat said Monday, announcing a reversal of previous policy. Mercury finds its way into the food supply and is commonly found in high concentrations in fish. Children and fetuses are particularly vulnerable to effects of the toxic metal, which can damage the development of the nervous system. The U.S wants negotiations to begin this year and conclude within three years, said Daniel Reifsnyder, the deputy assistant secretary of state for environment and sustainable development.

United States Considers Ethanol Blend Increase
February 16, 2009 09:22 AM - Worldwatch Institute

The United States, the world's largest ethanol producer, is weighing options to boost domestic use of the controversial fuel, according to the country's new agriculture administrator. U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack recommends that a higher percentage of ethanol be blended into gasoline to support the nation's struggling biofuel industry. The United States currently allows gasoline to contain a maximum of 10.2 percent ethanol, most of which is produced from corn.

D.C. proposes fees for paper, plastic bags
February 16, 2009 08:25 AM - innovations.harvard.edu/

District of Columbia legislators are considering imposing a 5-cents-per-bag fee on plastic or paper bags at liquor stores, grocers, drug stores and other businesses. The fee would be split between businesses and the city, with the District using its share to help clean the Anacostia River and offer free reusable bags to elderly and low-income residents.

Japan rules out 40 pct 2020 carbon emissions goal
February 13, 2009 10:54 AM - World Business Council for Sustainable Development

Japan has ruled out cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent by 2020 from 1990 -- the most ambitious possible action according to a reference target set by a U.N. panel of climate scientists. Agreeing a 2020 target to curb greenhouse gases is one of the most contentious aspects for rich countries of U.N. climate talks meant to end with a new treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol in December this year. Japan is expected to announce its 2020 goal by June. The country argues that because it is so energy efficient already, it will be more expensive to meet the same emissions-cutting target of other rich countries.

CO2 hits new peaks, no sign global crisis causing dip
February 12, 2009 10:08 AM - Reuters

OSLO (Reuters) - Atmospheric levels of the main greenhouse gas are hitting new highs, with no sign yet that the world economic downturn is curbing industrial emissions, a leading scientist said on Thursday. "The rise is in line with the long-term trend," Kim Holmen, research director at the Norwegian Polar Institute, said of the measurements taken by a Stockholm University project on the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard off north Norway.

Why Global Warming May Be Fueling Australia's Fires
February 12, 2009 09:40 AM - Time

The raging infernos that have left more than 160 people dead in southern Australia burned with such speed that they resembled less a wildfire than a massive aerial bombing. Many victims caught in the blazes had no time to escape; their houses disintegrated around them, and they burned to death.

Aerosols: their part in our rainfall
February 12, 2009 09:29 AM - CSIRO Australia

"We have identified that the extensive pollution haze emanating from Asia may be re-shaping rainfall patterns in northern Australia but we wonder what impact natural and human-generated aerosols are having across the rest of the country," Dr Rotstayn said.

Merged climate, pollution fight seen saving cash
February 12, 2009 09:14 AM - WBCSD

Merging separate fights against air pollution and climate change could save cash and encourage developing nations such as China to do more to curb global warming, researchers said on Wednesday. "There are big gains to be made" from a combined policy, said Petter Tollefsen, a researcher at the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research, Oslo (CICERO).

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