Thu, Mar

ENN Weekly: April 24th - 28th

ENN rounds up the most important and compelling environmental news stories of the week. In the news April 24th - 28th: Diplomats go green, Canada breaks from Kyoto, Cape Cod debates wind farms, glaciers keep on melting, and much more.

The Week's Top Ten Articles

In the news April 24th - 28th: Diplomats go green, Canada breaks from Kyoto, Cape Cod debates wind farms, glaciers keep on melting, and much more.

1. Energy Bill Aimed at Smarter Energy Consumption
The Energy Policy Act of 2005 was established in part to help the U.S. better manage its energy consumption and incorporates incentives for American consumers to embrace new energy-conscious technologies and products.

2. Canada Backs Breakaway Six-Nation Climate Group
Canada's new Conservative government, which is openly skeptical about the Kyoto climate change protocol, said Tuesday it backs a breakaway group of six nations that favor a voluntary approach to cutting emissions of greenhouse gases.

3. Shrinking Alpine Glacier Points to Snowless Future for Swiss Mountain Resorts
In Switzerland, a bare expanse of jumbled rocks and boulders stretches where the tongue of ice mass used to be. And the glacier will shrink more -- even if temperatures should stay at current levels -- because the warming of the last few decades has yet to take full effect, Holzhauser said.

4. Report Says U.S. Air Quality Has Improved in Past Decade
U.S. residents can breathe a bit easier than they did a decade ago, as the number of days that air quality was deemed unhealthy has fallen, according to a report by the American Lung Association Thursday.

5. Power Plant Waste Eyed for Green Building
Coal-burning power plants spend millions disposing of fly ash, a fine powder loaded with mercury, lead and other toxic chemicals. Henry Liu has a solution to the quandary of fly ash disposal: He wants to bring it into our homes and offices.

6. Scientists Say Rising Temperatures Threaten Repeat of Caribbean Coral Death
Warming sea temperatures have scientists worried that the Caribbean could see a repeat this year of the widespread coral death that swept the region in 2005.

7. Cape Cod Debates First U.S. Offshore Wind Farm
A plan to build the world's largest offshore wind-power farm off Massachusetts is dividing residents of the Cape Cod resort region, in a debate involving million-dollar ocean views, migrating birds and soaring energy bills.

8. Health Organization Gives Waikiki's Sand a Clean Bill of Health
Concerns that a massive sewage spill polluted Waikiki's world-famous beaches all but washed away after a health group said the sand "seems" to be clean.

9. Eco-Friendly Belize Wary of Oil Fever
Some worry that Belize's reputation as a pristine tourist haven -- with its barrier reef declared a world heritage site by the United Nations -- could be ruined by further oil exploration.

10. London's U.S. Diplomats Gradually Going Green
U.S. President George Bush may be unconvinced about the human contribution to global warming but his diplomats in Britain are going green with a vengeance to cut both costs and carbon emissions.

Guest Commentary: 'Say You’re Sorry'
By Peter H. Gleick, the Pacific Institute

My kids deserve an apology from the global warming “skeptics.” For longer than my kids have been alive, these skeptics have intentionally muddied the climate change debate, confusing the public, misleading policymakers, and successfully delaying any meaningful action to develop solutions. Thanks to their actions we are now at the point where my children ”“ not to mention the rest of the world ”“ are committed to a radically changed planet.

Their world is going to be hotter than our world, unbearably so in some places. The weather is going to be more violent and less predictable. Precipitation patterns will be different, leading to increased flooding in some areas and droughts in others. Snowpack in the mountains is going to shrink and glaciers are going to disappear. It will be harder to grow enough food or provide enough fresh water for all. Entire ecosystems will be threatened; with humans, animals, and plants struggling to adjust. Indeed, global climate change is already here and it looks worse than we anticipated.

Climate scientists have sounded the alarm for decades. Mostly a restrained and careful lot ”“ they overemphasize uncertainties and are reluctant or inexperienced when it comes to talking to policymakers. But some have risked careers to stir politicians out of their complacency. Yet for every vocal climate scientist there has been a well-orchestrated response from a small, well-funded band of self-described skeptics. This response hasn’t played out in the scientific literature, a forum of research and data and debate, but on Shout Television and in other forums that substitute quips, showmanship, hyperbole, and conjecture for substantial discussion.

Skeptics have engaged in a deliberate effort to cast doubt on climate models, on actual data from measurements, and even on the integrity of climate scientists themselves. Their efforts have had an effect: a March ABC News/Time/Stanford poll reported that 64% of the American public believes that scientists disagree with one another about global warming. Even more telling, while 46% of Democrats and 45% of independents are certain that climate change is happening, only 26% of Republicans feel that way. It is the worst example of the politicization of science.

My kids deserve an apology from policymakers as well. In the past few years we’ve seen our government let political hacks edit scientific findings, censor government scientists, and redirect research funds away from efforts to understand the impacts of climate change.

No amount of Wite-Out can hide the evidence that continues to pour in demonstrating that humans are dramatically changing the climate. Actual observations are showing that the problem may actually be much worse than we thought it would be. In our effort not to over-exaggerate the problem, we may have greatly understated it. Changes in the Arctic and Antarctica are accelerating. Sea levels appear to be rising faster than anticipated. There isn’t a single oceanographer or coastal zone hydrologist who thinks that a sea-level rise of even a few feet is a good thing, but almost all of them agree that a more extreme rise of 10 to 20 feet ”“ now apparently a serious possibility ”“ would be a global catastrophe. Instead of an aberration, New Orleans may be tragic foreshadowing for other coastal cities and towns.

If there is any good news, it is that the tide of opinion is slowly changing. Despite skeptics’ best efforts a large majority of the American public ”“ 88% ”“ now thinks that global warming threatens future generations. It is not too late for our leaders to follow this sentiment. I’d accept real action in lieu of an apology from our politicians. As for the skeptics, my kids’ apology is overdue.


Based in Oakland, California, the Pacific Institute is an independent, nonpartisan think-tank studying issues at the intersection of development, environment, and security. Information on The Pacific Institute's funders is posted on its website.

Peter Gleick is President, Pacific Institute; MacArthur Fellow; member Water Science and Technology Board of the US National Academy of Sciences; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; 510 251-1600.

ENN welcomes a wide range of perspectives in its Commentary Series. To find out more or to submit a commentary for consideration please contact ENN's editor, Carrie Schluter: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Photo: An elephant walks past euphorbia plants in Queen Elizabeth National Park in Uganda. Credit: K. Stefanova/USAID.

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