Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Some interesting podcasts on climate change


Climate Wars - Podcasts from CBC radio

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Have a listen to Gwynne Dyer talk about climate change. He starts by discussing the United States military and its growing interest in climate change. He suggests it is because climate change acts as a 'threat multiplier' for many of the world's existing problems and it could lead to political and social instability and increased conflict (or climate wars). During the rest of podcasts he examines several radical short and medium-term measures now being considered (all of them fairly controversial) to deal with climate change. Thanks to Allen for the heads-up on these great podcasts!

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"We should regard this as a great piece of good fortune that we discovered fossil fuels were really bad for us – having used them to bootstrap ourselves out of poverty – at a time when alternative technologies are actually available." said Dyer.

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Well worth a listen !!

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Gambling with climate change: MIT updates its climate gamble wheels
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COMMENTS ALWAYS WELCOME !!
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So please, tell us what you think.

Quote of the Week

said Achim Steiner (UNEP Executive Director) in Nairobi.
"We face the unprecedented reality that climate change may very well be the more important economic development than what happened on Wall Street or the financial markets, or in industries. The question truly is, can the environment afford to be put on the waiting line, or is it indeed part of the solution?"
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** If you enjoyed this post please also check out:.
A comparison of The Limits to Growth with 30 years of reality
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Splitting: 'jobs' versus 'the environment
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Australia's bush fires: 'natural' disaster or 'arson'? How about climate change?
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Gambling with climate change: MIT updates its climate gamble wheels
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COMMENTS ALWAYS WELCOME !!
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So please, tell us what you think.

Latest decisions from the UNEP (made in Nairobi, Kenya)

Here is some of the press release (released 23 February 2009) from the UNEP meetings held in Nairobi:

Delegates to the 25th Session of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environment Forum (GC25/GMEF), which met from 16-20 February 2009, in Nairobi, Kenya, took 17 decisions including on international environmental governance, a significantly increased UNEP budget, support to Africa on climate change, and mercury . . .

Another key outcome of the meeting was a decision to elaborate a legally binding instrument on mercury, which may have significant co-benefits with the climate regime. It is projected that mercury pollution will rise in part as a result of increased coal-burning in Asia, which also causes increased greenhouse gas emissions. Out of the 6,000 tons of mercury entering the environment annually, some 2,000 tons come from power stations and coal fires in homes. There are also growing concerns that, as climate change melts the Arctic sea-ice, mercury trapped in the ice and sediments is being re-released back into the oceans and into the food chain.

It is very pleasing to see the UNEP receive a 'significant increase' in funding, given the importance of researching, designing and implementing an effective and fair global emissions reduction policy.

For a brief history of UNEP GC/GMEF and a good summary of the latest meetings and their outcomes, please check out Earth Negotiations Bulletin Vol. 16 No. 78.
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State of the World 2009
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Gambling with climate change: MIT updates its climate gamble wheels
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COMMENTS ALWAYS WELCOME !!
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So please, tell us what you think.

UNEP Year Book 2009


The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) has recently released "UNEP Year Book 2009: New science and developments in our changing environment". Achim Steiner, who is the UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director, describes it as follows:
The Year Book, compiled at the request of the UNEP Governing Council, presents the hard facts and worrying trends while also underlining some of the transformational and innovative ideas already being piloted in both the developed and developing world.

"The Year Book serves as a reminder to the international community as to why a Green Economy is so urgently needed from the bubbling up of methane gas in the Arctic to the shrinking availability of croplands".

Some of the highlights include information on topics such as:

Waste

Over two billion tones of waste are being generated throughout the world annually.

Constuction and building

The built environment is currently responsible for 30-40% of the world's GHG emissions. It examines various efforts to improve their energy efficiency of the built environment such as:
  • 'dematerialism'
  • 'material substitution' and
  • 'industrial symbiosis' - the idea is to co-locate businesses and facilities in such a way that their wastes are raw materials for other nearby ones
Transport

Accounts for over 20 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Water

Currently close to 880 million people lack adequate access to clean water and 2.5 billion are without improved sanitation in their homes. By 2030, close to four billion people could be living in areas suffering severe water stress.

Climate Change


In 2007, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimated that sea levels might rise by between 18cm and 59cm in the coming century. But many researchers now believe the rise will be even higher in part as a result of new assessments of ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica. One study estimates a sea level rise of between 0.8 and 1.5 metres, while another suggests a sea level rise of two metres in the coming century from outflows of ice from Greenland alone. A one metre rise in sea levels world-wide would displace millions of people. Around 100 million people in Asia, mostly Bangladesh, eastern China and Vietnam; 14 million in Europe and eight million each in Africa and South America.


Anyway, you get the idea.

Worth a look !!

The UNEP Year Book 2009 can be found at:
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http://www.unep.org/geo/yearbook/yb2009
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It can be purchased at Earthprint at:
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http://www.earthprint.com
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To read previous UNEP and GEO Year Books, visit:
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http://www.unep.org/geo/yearbook/
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For more information on UNEP's Green Economy Initiative, visit:
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http://www.unep.org/greeneconomy/
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State of the World 2009
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Gambling with climate change: MIT updates its climate gamble wheels
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COMMENTS ALWAYS WELCOME
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So please, tell us what you think.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Gambling with climate change: MIT updates its climate gamble wheels

Back in 2001, MIT released its climate gamble wheels to indicate the risks and probabilities of climate change. It is based on the idea of a roulette wheel - we may know the odds, but we do not know where the 'ball' will stop. The odds are based on estimates from the latest research (see: Sokolov 2009) and therefore the wheels need to updated to indicate the latest information on the predicted odds and the chance of avoiding the possible effects of a greater than 2 degrees C increase in temperature. Figure 1 shows the updated wheel odds (with-policy designed to limit GHG emissions in place). The latest wheel suggests a change of temperature less than 2 degees C has odds of 1 in 5 (or 20% chance).


Figure 1: Updated with-policy climate wheel.

Compare this with the 2001 with-policy wheel (figure 2) below. Note that more than 3/4 of the wheel was considered 'safe' area to land on (with-policy) back in 2001.

Figure 2: 2001 with-policy climate wheel.

Now have a look at the updated no-policy wheel (figure 3). This is where we see a real decrease in the chances of temperatures staying below 3 degrees C. Hitting the blue area has odds of 100 to 1 (or 1% chance) of staying below 3 degrees rather than even 2 degees. I am sure that I don't want to play that game, with the 'future' at stake.

Figure 3: Updated no-policy climate wheel.

Finally, have a look at the 2001 no-policy climate wheel (figure 4) and notice how our chances of avoiding temperature increases of less than 2 degrees was seen as much higher compared to the updated wheel. In the new wheel the likelihood of exceeding 5°C is 57%, whereas in the 2001 wheel it was only about 4%. (That does not sound good!) The researchers explained the reason for this large increase in risk as follows (note: I have bolded the good bits):

"There is no single revision that is responsible for this change. In our more recent global model simulatations, the ocean heat-uptake is slower than previously estimated, the ocean uptake of carbon is weaker, feedbacks from the land system as temperature rises are stronger, cumulative emissions of greenhouse gases over the century are higher, and offsetting cooling from aerosol emissions is lower. No one of these effects is very strong on its own, and even adding each separately together would not fully explain the higher temperatures. Rather than interacting additively, these different affects appear to interact multiplicatively, with feedbacks among the contributing factors, leading to the surprisingly large increase in the chance of much higher temperatures."


Figure 4: 2001 no-policy climate wheel

So, for all those gamblers out there - can you now see why it is so important to have effective GHG emission policy in place? If we are to increase our odds of avoiding the worst of climate change we need effective policy. Plenty of people are willing "to take a punt" and "hope for the best", but should we even be happy trying to win a game with odds of says 1 in 2 ? Would you put your life savings on a coin flip? What if it was everyone's money and futures at stake? We certainly don't want to risk it all on a sweepstakes ticket with 100 entries because there is a much lower chances of sucessfully avoiding the worst of climate change.
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Friday, February 20, 2009

Environmental Food Crisis


According to a new UNEP report - unless action is taken, 25 percent of the world’s food production may be lost by 2050 due to environmental breakdown. The report is worth a read. With the world population predicted by the UN to be above 9.1 billion in 2050, if the world's food production falls by 25 percent, the demand on food resources will be far greater than it is today and the prices for basic food items will rise out of the reach of many of the world's poor.

Here is the blurb from the press release from the UNEP:

The report, titled “The Environmental Food Crisis: The Environment’s Role in Averting Future Food Crises,” provides an overview of how environmental stresses such as climate change, water stress, invasive pests and land degradation may impact food prices and world food security, and proposes a seven-point plan to reduce the risk of hunger and rising food insecurity in the 21st century.

The report’s main findings include:

"food prices may increase 30-50 percent within decades with severe impacts for the rural poor; many factors blamed for the current food crisis, including drought, biofuels, high oil prices, low grain stocks and speculation, may worsen substantially in the coming decades; and climate change emerges as a key factor undermining food security."

The report presents seven options for improving food security for the short-, mid- and long-term.

Short-term effect options include: decreasing the risk of volatile food prices through measures, such as price regulation, buffer cereal stocks and food safety nets; and removing subsidies and blending mandates for first generation biofuels.

Options with mid-term effects include: reducing the use of cereals and food fish as animal feed and increasing food energy efficiency; supporting diversified and resilient eco-agriculture systems; and increasing trade and improving market access.

Options with long-term effects include: limiting global warming, including through the promotion of climate-friendly agricultural production systems; and raising awareness of pressures from increasing population and consumption patterns on ecosystem functioning.

Link to report here.

Other major findings:

The one hundred year trend of falling food prices may be at an end, and food prices may increase by 30-50 per cent within decades with critical impacts for those living in extreme poverty spending up to 90 per cent of their income on food. These findings are supported by a recent report from the World Bank stating that if agricultural production is depressed further, food prices may rise.

Up to 25 per cent of the worlds food production may become lost due to 'environmental breakdowns' by 2050 unless action is taken. Already, cereal yields have stagnated worldwide and fish landings are declining.

Today, over one third of the world's cereals are being used as animal feed, rising to 50 per cent by 2050. Continuing to feed cereals to growing numbers of livestock will aggravate poverty and environmental degradation.
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Friday, February 13, 2009

Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg

I have just finished watching Australian Story (on the ABC) called "The Heat of the Moment" which focussed on Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg who is a marine biologist that predicted the Great Barrier Reef would die because of climate change due to coral bleaching.
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Well worth watching here
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Also available full transcript and extra footage of the debate over climate change between Andrew Bolt (argues against climate change) and Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg (argues for climate change). It is interesting to examine the types of arguments and language used by both 'sides'. For more on this I suggest a post on Overcoming Bias called Informers and Persuaders.
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Interestingly, he has just been put in charge of a new climate change institute. I will have a look and see what I can find and report back with an update soon. Update: I can't see anything on it, so I decided to write to Professor Hoegh-Guldberg asn ask the man himself. I will let you know if he writes back (fingers crossed he does).

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

A Roadmap for U.S.-China Cooperation on Energy and Climate Change


Here is a new report from the Pew Centre on Global Climate Change called "Common Challenge, Collaborative Response: A Roadmap for U.S.-China Cooperation on Energy and Climate Change".
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I will have a read of this report tonight (the executive summary was interesting - although they cut off the last page- but as usual, the devil is in the details of the 'roadmap') and add to this post soon.
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Here is the introduction on the paper from the Pew Centre's wesite:


This report presents a vision and a concrete roadmap for U.S.-China collaboration focused on reducing greenhouse gas emissions to mitigate the effects of climate change. The report was produced in partnership between the Pew Center on Global Climate Change and the Asia Society’s Center on U.S.-China Relations, in collaboration with The Brookings Institution, Council on Foreign Relations, National Committee on U.S.-China Relations, and Environmental Defense Fund. Experts and key stakeholders from the worlds of science, business, civil society, policy, and politics in both China and the United States contributed to the report, or “Roadmap,” that explores the climate and energy challenges facing both nations and recommends a concrete program for sustained, high-level, bilateral engagement and on-the-ground action.



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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Some more lectures from MIT: Making cities sustainable


Sustaining Cities: Environment, Economic Development, and Empowerment

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I have just finished listening to the first video. It has five different presenters (each speaks for about 10 mins) and they are all worth a listen.

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The first presenter is Judith Layzer who argues for “strong sustainability” rather than the current weaker approach. Strong sustainability “entails living within the productive capacity of nature…meeting the needs of the current generation as opposed to their demands.”

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The second presenter is Jason Corburn who describes an environmental justice framework that connects ecological, economic and social justice issues, especially in urban settings. Corburn discusses the links between environmental justice and the need for health equity across all of society. He uses health impact assessment measures to examine the inequity between poor and wealthy areas and suggests there is a need to build a new evidence based multidisciplinary environmental justice set of policies to foster equality in health and the environment people live in (e.g. the poor seem be exposed to more industrial pollutants and have shorter lifespans and more illness and disease than those living in wealthier areas).

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The third presenter is Phillip Thompson (starts 23 minutes - ends 38 minutes). This is definitely the highlight of the video. He is a great speaker and makes some very good points about the environmental movement and environmental justice. He starts by explaining why he used to hate environmentalists and goes from there. Well worth a listen !!!

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The fourth presenter is Chris Zegras who believes the answer to sustainability is access to opportunities that enable sustainable development.

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Zegras says it’s hard to argue the importance of climate change to someone “who travels 3 ½ hours a day on a bus to get to a job, and half the salary is eaten up by the bus ride.” First, we must alleviate fundamental issues of accessibility for the poor: their lack of affordable transportation and proximity to schools and jobs.

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The last presenter is Adil Najam who asks us to imagine that the Earth as if it were one country - what would we see? He suggests "you’d have to conclude it is poor, extremely divided, degraded, poorly governed and unsafe – a Third-world country". He goes from the global scale to the local and vice versa to tie all these issues (e.g. environmental, equity, access, poverty, development, justice) together. He suggest we need to mitigate adapt or suffer and he suggests it is the world's poor that will suffer the most and be most unable to respond. Najam is a great speaker too, however the best part of his talk is when he discusses Al Gore's movie (An Inconvienient Truth). He says "go watch it again and count how many times he uses the word poor. Nada. Not a single time. And Count how many pandas you see and people. That is the only problem I see. To me it is a people problem".

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Building Responsive Cities: Technology, Design, and Development

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**If you enjoyed this post please also check out:

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Some lectures from MIT: on climate change and science policy

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Some more lectures from MIT: Nicholas Stern and Ronald Prinn

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Combating Climate Change and Boosting Growth Are Natural Allies

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National Teach-In on Global Warming

A comparison of The Limits to Growth with 30 years of reality

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There has been much debate over the Limits to Growth predictions made back in 1972. Well, here is a great new paper from Graham Turner (from the CSIRO) comparing the forecasts from the Limits to Growth book with what has actually happened in the past 30 years.
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He finds "the analysis shows that 30 years of historical data compare favorably with key features of a business-as-usual scenario called the “standard run” scenario, which results in collapse of the global system midway through the 21st century". Hmmm, that doesn't sound too good. Anyway, here is the abstract.

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Abstract:
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In 1972, the Club of Rome's infamous report “The Limits to Growth” presented some challenging scenarios for global sustainability, based on a system dynamics computer model to simulate the interactions of five global economic subsystems, namely: population, food production, industrial production, pollution, and consumption of non-renewable natural resources.

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Contrary to popular belief, The Limits to Growth scenarios by the team of analysts from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology did not predict world collapse by the end of the 20th century. This paper focuses on a comparison of recently collated historical data for 1970–2000 with scenarios presented in the Limits to Growth.
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The analysis shows that 30 years of historical data compare favorably with key features of a business-as-usual scenario called the “standard run” scenario, which results in collapse of the global system midway through the 21st century. The data do not compare well with other scenarios involving comprehensive use of technology or stabilizing behaviour and policies. The results indicate the particular importance of understanding and controlling global pollution.

More here (including mp3 audio interview with Graham Turner)
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Reference:
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Graham M. Turner. A Comparison of The Limits to Growth with 30 years of reality. Global Environmental Change 18 (2008) 397-411. Accepted 13 May 2008, CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems.

**If you enjoyed this post please also check out:
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Limits to growth ???
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Splitting: 'jobs' versus 'the environment'
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Climate Extremes Conference

Monday, February 09, 2009

Australia's bush fires: 'natural' disaster or 'arson'? How about climate change?

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The Victorian Police Minister was asked about the cause of the devastating bush fires that claimed over 170 human lives (and still rising) and destroyed many homes this week. She replied that "it was too soon to say if it was a natural disaster or as a result of arson". But what about climate change as the cause? Hotter, drier and more extreme weather for longer means more severe bush fires more often. So, if humans are driving climate change, then it is us humans that are to blame for increasing the intensity and duration of 'natural' disasters. Kevin Rudd says that those responsible are "mass murderers". Hmmm. It is not just the death and destruction caused from bush fires - consider the decreasing levels of biodiversity due to human influence (e.g. habitat loss due to human development).
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Australia has always been the land of 'extremes' but when are Australian's going to realise that these extreme events are going to become more common and more intense because of climate change? The scientists have been warning us (for example, see Climate Extremes Conference) but have we been listening or do we want to change?
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While, it is very pleasing to see Australian's have already donated over $17 million in 48 hours (more than was collected for the tsunami). Will people start to realise the very real dangers of climate change are starting to be increasingly experienced here and now (rather than somewhere else in the far future). If we do not start to make real changes towards sustainability, I believe climate change will continue to cause increasing pain and heartache for many many more.
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**If you enjoyed this post please also check out:
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Climate Extremes Conference

Climate Extremes Conference


The Extremes: Climate and Water in the Southern Hemisphereconference will be held at the Melbourne Exhibition Centre from February 9 through to February 13. This conference seems extremely timely - given the horrific events of the past week caused by extreme weather - scientists have warned us that climate change will increase the frequency and intensity of these extreme weather events. These included:

  • Record flooding and cyclones in Queensland (e.g. with 60% of the State flooded)
  • Record heatwave temperatures across much of Western Australia, South Australia, New South Wales and Victoria (e.g. Melbourne reached 46.4 degrees on Saturday, the highest in 154 years of record-keeping, overshooting the previous high set on Black Friday - January 13, 1939 - by 0.8 degrees). This weather event was described as "like beating Bradman's batting average by 50 runs" said David Jones (who is from the Victorian bureau's National Climate Centre).
  • The 2009 heatwave was extreme because of its duration (e.g. Adelaide and Melbourne set records for the most consecutive days above 43 degrees).
  • The worst 'natural' disaster in Australia's history - bushfires that have already claimed almost 200 human lives, countless property, habitat and wildlife too.

The 9th International Conference on Southern Hemisphere Meteorology and Oceanography will bring together a number of the world’s leading climate scientists to tackle some of the biggest environmental challenges facing the planet, including:.

• Better understanding of droughts and their causes
• Developing improved monthly and seasonal predictions
• Determining the role of atmosphere-ocean interaction in rainfall variability
• Understanding changes in climate extremes in Australia and across the Southern Hemisphere
• Understanding observed changes in Southern Hemisphere storms and rainfall
• Improving techniques for observing the oceans around Australia
• Detecting patterns of change during 450 years of El NiƱo
• Improving the database of tropical cyclones
• Helping Pacific nations to manage the effects of climate change

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The conference is coordinated by the American Meteorological Society and the Australian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society and will be opened by His Excellency, the Governor of Victoria, Professor David de Kretser AC.

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More than 400 science presentations will be made by scientists from 15 countries during the five-day conference. Information about the individual papers and posters to be presented is available. More details are available from the conference web site at:

www.bom.gov.au/events/9icshmo/

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Source: Bureau of Meteorology

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**If you enjoyed this post please also check out:
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New Green Jobs ??
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Combating Climate Change and Boosting Growth Are Natural Allies
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Can Sydney adapt to climate change?

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Splitting: 'jobs' versus 'the environment'
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Climate Extremes Conference


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Monday, February 02, 2009

National Teach-In on Global Warming


Here is some information on the National Teach-in on global warming (to be held on the 5th Feb 2009 across the United States). Check out their website as it contains HEAPS of great resources and solutions to help fight climate change.
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From their website:

The National Teach-In on Global Warming will engage over a million Americans in solutions-driven dialogue. As educators, students and citizens, we owe our nation a focused conversation about the critical decisions that will determine if our descendants will inherit a prosperous or an impoverished planet. We need your help enlisting thousands of colleges, universities, high-schools, middle schools, faith groups, civic organizations and businesses.

A good idea is to begin by watching Solutions for the First 100 Days webcast
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Interestingly, they have a faith-based version of the video available for download too.
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The Presidential Climate Action Program (PCAP) suggested four policy recommendations for the United States to fight climate change:

  • Cut carbon 40% below today's levels by 2020.
  • Create millions of green jobs: Weatherize, solarize and rewire the nation.
  • Revitalize America's economy: Lead the world in renewable technology.
  • Promote carbon neutral power.


Climate Action by Topic

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Economic Policy Climate Policy Energy Policy National Security Agriculture Equity Zero Carbon Buildings Transportation & Mobility Managing Federal Emissions State & Local Action Natural Resources Management Fresh Water Oceans Adaptation Public Health International Policy Leadership Paying for Change

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CLIMATE DIALOGUE

The heart of your teach-in should be a round-table dialogue between students and key decision-makers: US Senators and congresspeople, governors, city councilors, mayors and state representatives. This kind of intergenerational dialogue has the power to break through the partisan framing of global warming, and resultant political gridlock, because for young people, this is not about left and right. It is your future at stake, and only you have the moral authority to speak for that future.

100 DAYS OF ACTION
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Learn what you can do today… and tomorrow… and tomorrow… and tomorrow. Give the new President the support needed to put the planet on the path to a stable climate.

Advisory Board for The National Teach-In
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Note: I have put in some links for further informationon on each member of the advisory board.
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Dr. David Orr, Professor of Environmental Studies at Oberlin College.
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Dr. Stephen Schneider, Professor of Biological Sciences at Stanford University.
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Dr. Mohan Munasinghe, Vice Chair, U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and winner of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize.
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Dr. James "Gus" Speth, Dean of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.
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Hunter Lovins, President, Natural Capitalism Solutions.
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Ross Gelbspan, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and author of The Heat Is On (1997) and Boiling Point (2004).
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Van Jones, founder of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights and author of The Green Collar Economy (2008).
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Elysa Hammond, Clif Bar Staff Ecologist.
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Dr. Debora Rowe, Prof. of Renewable Energies and Energy Mgmt. at Oakland Community College.
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Anthony D. Cortese, Presidents of Second Nature, Co-founder of the AASHE.
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Penelope Canan, Professor of Sociology at the University of Central Florida and author of SLAPPs: Getting Sued for Speaking Out.
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Gillian Caldwell, 1Sky Campaign Director.
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Dan Worth, Executive Director of the National Association of Environmental Law Societies (NAELS)
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Jessy Tolkan, Executive Director of Programs for the Energy Action Coalition.
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Dr. Bunyan Bryant, School of Natural Resources, University of Michigan.
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Dr. William Moomaw, Prof. of Int. Env. Policy at the Fletcher Sch., Tufts University.
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Dr. Jon Isham, Luce Professor of International Environmental Economics at Middlebury College.
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Nino Amato, Business man
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Also check out:
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New Green Jobs ??
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Combating Climate Change and Boosting Growth Are Natural Allies
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Splitting: 'jobs' versus 'the environment'
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Boost the economy and tackle poverty at the same time