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Biodiversity Loss Raises Disease Risk in Humans, Study Finds

Protection of human health is an ecosystem service provided by biodiversity, as well as drought resistance and carbon storage

by Shanta Barley,

Dec 2, 2010

Dwindling biodiversity could cause more humans to contract infectious diseases such as Lyme disease and West Nile virus, according to scientists who have reviewed the results of 24 separate studies.

Biodiversity hotspots must be protected to prevent the transmission of dangerous diseases from increasing, they warn.

According to the review of research published since 2005, loss of species from a range of ecosystems, including forests, savannahs and coral reefs, leads to a boost in the transmission of infectious diseases.

"What we're finding out is that the protection of human health is one of many major ecosystem services provided by biodiversity," said lead author Prof Felicia Keesing at Bard College, New York. High levels of biodiversity also help ecosystems to resist drought and store carbon, reducing climate change.

Storms Drown Out Markey Committee's Swan Song

A funereal feeling permeated the hearing room on a stormy day that kept people away from the global warming's committee's final act

By Elizabeth McGowan

Dec 2, 2010

WASHINGTON—It was his global warming committee leadership swan song, and Rep. Ed Markey had counted on going out with a bang.

Through no fault of his own, however, the event he called “Not Going Away: America’s Energy Security, Jobs and Climate Challenges” turned into somewhat of a whimper.

The Massachusetts Democrat was forced to do some last-minute recalibrating Wednesday when stormy weather and a cancellation diluted the planned one-two star-power punch of the final hearing of his Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming.

With so many countries being forced to adjust to the ravages of climate change, perhaps it’s fitting that the chairman of such a committee had to practice his own brand of adaptation.

Japan's Motion to Kill Kyoto Protocol a 'Slap in the Face,' Advocates Say

Other rich states, most notably Russia and Canada, oppose extending the Kyoto treaty beyond 2012

By Stacy Feldman

Dec 2, 2010

Advocates for poor nations angrily assailed Japan at the Cancun climate talks on Wednesday for planning to kill off the Kyoto Protocol, a move they say might dent chances of progress in the two-week talks.

Secrecy of Fracking Chemicals Takes Beltway Spotlight

“It’s not as if it looks like the industry is hiding something. They are hiding something.”

By Elizabeth McGowan

Dec 1, 2010

WASHINGTON—Convincing the natural gas industry that a chemical disclosure protocol should be mandatory has proven to be much more formidable than blasting apart shale rock where the coveted hydrocarbons lurk underground.

And conservationists fear that the disclosure debate is slowing progress on resolving environmental impacts associated with natural gas drilling and its sister act of “fracking”—which is geological slang for hydraulic fracturing.

Those disparities became grist for a polite but enlivened exchange among three topic experts at the conservative Heritage Foundation. It was one of two fracking forums that unfolded in the nation’s capital Tuesday afternoon.

“The industry needs to deal with those issues rather than glibly keep saying they are America’s clean fuel source,” senior policy adviser Scott Anderson of the Environmental Defense Fund told those gathered for “The Promise and Perils of Hydraulic Fracturing: Best Answers to the Hardest Questions.”

“Nothing good is going to happen in the natural gas industry … until this disclosure issue is behind them,” Anderson continued. “It’s not as if it looks like the industry is hiding something. They are hiding something.”

Logging Loophole Under Attack at Cancun Climate Talks

The loophole would allow some 450 megatons of climate-changing emissions each year, or 5% of the global total, a new report says

By Stacy Feldman

Dec 1, 2010

An arcane accounting rule governing emissions from logging forests that is now being negotiated at Cancun climate talks is threatening to put the integrity of a future global-warming deal at risk, environmental groups said in a new analysis.

The groups urged UN negotiators to shut the so-called loophole for good during the Nov 29-Dec. 10 talks.

The incentive would allow rich nations to ramp up logging without accounting for the greenhouse gases that result, in effect hiding emissions increases. It takes the form of a proposed revision of the (LULUCF) rules under the Kyoto Protocol.

"At the moment they're cheating so badly on the LULUCF that it's almost a joke," said Melanie Coath, senior climate change policy officer for the , one of the groups behind the research. "What we need are incentives for developed countries to reduce their current logging emissions, not increase them with impunity."

Tax Pledge Adds Another Political Hurdle to U.S. Climate Action

“They’re continuing to argue against the laws of physics.”

By Elizabeth McGowan

Nov 30, 2010

WASHINGTON—Americans for Prosperity might promote its “No Climate Tax” pledge signed by 530-plus local, state and national elected officials as merely a badge of fiscal responsibility.

But their critics view the carefully worded pledge as a power grab and yet another hurdle for broad action on climate and energy legislation when the 112th Congress convenes in January.

There are already many. 

For one, with the exception of New Hampshire’s representative-to-be Charlie Bass, Republican freshmen legislators joining the House and Senate doubt the scientific veracity of global warming. Two, one survey shows more than half of all of the Republicans in the GOP caucus next year have questioned whether human activities are contributing to climate change.

U.S. Call to Preserve Copenhagen Accord Puts Climate Conference on Edge

Many poor countries want to scrap the three-page Copenhagen agreement that the U.S. wants to preserve

By Stacy Feldman

Nov 29, 2010

CANCUN, MEXICO -- The United States said Monday it would not back down on its plan to turn the unpopular Copenhagen Accord into a final global warming deal, setting the first day of already fragile UN climate talks in Cancun on edge.

"What we're seeking here in Cancun is a balanced package of decisions that would build on this agreement … [and] preserve the balance of the accord," Jonathan Pershing, lead U.S. climate negotiator in Cancun, told reporters at the talks.

Delegates from almost 200 countries are gathering here in the Mexican beach resort from Nov. 29-Dec. 10 for negotiations under the (UNFCCC). They aim to set down the path for replacement of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, whose first commitment period ends in 2012.

Many poor countries want to scrap the three-page Copenhagen agreement, cobbled together by a handful of nations in the final hours of the summit last year, and build a stronger blueprint to follow.

India's Green New Deal Making Progress, but Low-Carbon Path is Steep

India beginning to show that pitting climate and development objectives against each other is a false choice

by Manish Bapna,

Nov 29, 2010

A native of Chicago, I spent my childhood summers with family in Udaipur, Rajasthan, then a verdant oasis in India’s most arid state. With each successive year, I witnessed with dismay the surrounding forests and lakes shrinking and drying up as factories and mines sprouted outside the city.

My family, however, took it in stride as “the price we pay for development.”

I have never forgotten that firsthand lesson in environmental degradation, and in what seemed to me an unnecessary trade-off.

What my family was faithfully expressing was the decades-old belief, held by India’s government and business elites, that development often comes at the expense of the environment. In recent years, that belief has been extended to climate change. India cannot be expected to act to reduce its spiraling greenhouse gas emissions without outside help, its diplomats have argued until recently, because combating poverty is a moral imperative and the national priority.

While this traditional view has some merit—it is hard to argue, for example, for reducing energy use in a nation where large swathes of the countryside are without electrification—it is increasingly one that does not add up. And for one simple, highly encouraging reason.

India is beginning to demonstrate in its policies and actions that pitting climate and development objectives against each other is a false and unnecessary choice.

Scientists Warn of Dire Impacts of 4°C Global Temperature Rise

Impacts associated with 2C now represent the threshold of extremely dangerous climate change

by Damian Carrington,

Nov 29, 2010

A hellish vision of a world warmed by 4C  (7.2 degrees Fahrenheit) within a lifetime has been set out by an international team of scientists, who say the agonizingly slow progress of the global climate change talks that restart in Mexico today makes the so-called safe limit of 2C impossible to keep.

A 4C rise in the planet's temperature would see severe droughts across the world and millions of migrants seeking refuge as their food supplies collapse.

"There is now little to no chance of maintaining the rise in global surface temperature at below 2C, despite repeated high-level statements to the contrary," said Kevin Anderson, from the University of Manchester, who with colleague Alice Bows contributed research to a special collection of published tomorrow. "Moreover, the impacts associated with 2C have been revised upwards so that 2C now represents the threshold [of] extremely dangerous climate change."

Youth Activists Reveal Toned-Down Strategy for Cancun

With few government heads expected in Mexico, influence will come behind the scenes, not in front of a camera

By Stacy Feldman

Nov 24, 2010

What a difference a year makes for climate change activism.

Twelve months ago, thousands of young campaigners worldwide converged on Copenhagen to pitch protests against the global political failure to tackle global warming.

They disrupted summit meetings with non-violent civil disobedience to air demands of climate justice. Scores were arrested. Naomi Klein, the writer and activist, at the time that it felt as though "progressive tectonic plates are shifting."