Friday, March 26, 2010

Global sea level rise monitoring secured for next decade

Source: EUMETSAT
The transatlantic Jason-3 Programme has now been approved by EUMETSAT Member States thus ensuring a continuation of the series of measurements made by the Jason-2 satellite and its predecessors in support of meteorology, operational oceanography and in particular the monitoring of the sea level trend, a key indicator of climate change.
Nineteen EUMETSAT Member States have agreed to subscribe to the Jason-3 ocean altimetry satellite programme: Belgium, Croatia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey and the United Kingdom. Together, these countries are prepared to contribute €63.6 million (at 2009 economic conditions) to the €252-million programme cost of Jason-3.
Today, Jason-2’s Ocean Surface Topography Mission provides a vital contribution to the monitoring of climate change, ocean circulation and weather. Jason-2 already supplies the much-needed data continuity essential for measuring the sea level trend, one of the key indicators of climate change. Jason-3 will continue the mission, ensuring the measurement of rising sea levels carried out by Jason-2, Jason-1 and TOPEX/Poseidon over the last 18 years. These high accuracy measurements have until now shown an average global annual sea level rise through the last 15 years of 3.3 millimetres.

The EUMETSAT Director-General, Dr. Lars Prahm, welcomed the completion of subscriptions to Jason-3: “The fact that nearly 80 per cent of EUMETSAT members, including all its largest Member States, are participating shows the importance they attach to continuing the mission begun so successfully by Jason-2 and that the solidarity among EUMETSAT Member States continues to prevail.”

The Jason-3 programme is led by EUMETSAT and the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). NOAA already secured funding of the Jason-3 programme in 2009 at the level of €100 million and has given it top priority for securing climate-related measurements. In addition, the Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales (CNES), the French space agency, is making a significant in-kind contribution to the programme and will act at the technical level as the system coordinator. This in-kind contribution includes making available the Jason-3 Proteus satellite platform, its facilities and associated human resources.

The US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), in conjunction with the three other partners, will support science team activities. The US contribution to Jason-3 includes the satellite launch, provision of instruments and support to operations.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

New Moore Island DISAPPEARS Into The Sea

From:Huffington Post by Nirmala George

Bay Of Bengal

NEW DELHI — For nearly 30 years, India and Bangladesh have argued over control of a tiny rock island in the Bay of Bengal. Now rising sea levels have resolved the dispute for them: the island's gone.

New Moore Island in the Sunderbans has been completely submerged, said oceanographer Sugata Hazra, a professor at Jadavpur University in Calcutta. Its disappearance has been confirmed by satellite imagery and sea patrols, he said.

"What these two countries could not achieve from years of talking, has been resolved by global warming," said Hazra.

Scientists at the School of Oceanographic Studies at the university have noted an alarming increase in the rate at which sea levels have risen over the past decade in the Bay of Bengal.

Until 2000, the sea levels rose about 3 millimeters (0.12 inches) a year, but over the last decade they have been rising about 5 millimeters (0.2 inches) annually, he said.

Another nearby island, Lohachara, was submerged in 1996, forcing its inhabitants to move to the mainland, while almost half the land of Ghoramara island was underwater, he said. At least 10 other islands in the area were at risk as well, Hazra said.

"We will have ever larger numbers of people displaced from the Sunderbans as more island areas come under water," he said.

Bangladesh, a low-lying delta nation of 150 million people, is one of the countries worst-affected by global warming. Officials estimate 18 percent of Bangladesh's coastal area will be underwater and 20 million people will be displaced if sea levels rise 1 meter (3.3 feet) by 2050 as projected by some climate models.

India and Bangladesh both claimed the empty New Moore Island, which is about 3.5 kilometers (2 miles) long and 3 kilometers (1.5 miles) wide. Bangladesh referred to the island as South Talpatti.

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There were no permanent structures on New Moore, but India sent some paramilitary soldiers to its rocky shores in 1981 to hoist its national flag.

The demarcation of the maritime boundary – and who controls the remaining islands – remains an open issue between the two South Asian neighbors, despite the disappearance of New Moore, said an official in India's foreign ministry, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on international disputes.

Bangladesh officials were not available for comment Wednesday.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

INSIGHT: Use Earth Hour to act on the greatest threat to mankind

Source: Dispatch Online

LAST month we saw celebrations marking 20 years since the release of Nelson Mandela. That historic day signalled a turning point in the path this country was to take; we embarked on a new journey filled with hope for the future. Indeed, there were many who had to pinch themselves when it happened, so bleak were the preceding months and years during which many South Africans saw their country in crisis.

The global movement urging action on climate change should take heart from that great event. It was, of course, deeply disappointing that at the Copenhagen conference in December world leaders failed to deliver an ambitious and binding climate change agreement limiting carbon emissions. It is a bitter indictment that so many, with so much power and responsibility bowed to brinkmanship on so vital an issue.

The matter of flaws in climate research has not helped. But an objective look at the issue puts it in perspective. Any large body of work is unlikely to be unblemished, but none of the material cited in what has been dubbed Climategate negates the scientifically proven fact of climate change or the reality of it being experienced by the poor around the world.

The lack of political will and the problems with climate data have led some commentators to question where the global leadership on climate change has gone, and how it can be regained.

Writing in the Guardian, Ian Katz says that while Barack Obama and Gordon Brown are so embroiled in their own domestic political difficulties, “... it is hard to see where the political leadership for a global deal will come from. So it may fall to civil society – to individuals, organisations and businesses – to pick up the baton.”

Katz is correct: The answer to the matter of who will act is simple. It must remain a populist movement, informed and guided by science, certainly, but led by countless ordinary people, like those who answered the call of Earth Hour last year and will do so again on March 27 this year. That’s why I’m proud to remain the global patron of that event.

The scale of Earth Hour must remind our leaders of their clear mandate for action. Because climate change is such an important issue, let’s examine for a moment three things that must happen this year: firstly, the scientists must make every effort to explain the science clearly, and their peer-review system must be rigorous and judicious.

In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell writes: “The key to good decision- making is not knowledge, it is understanding. We are swimming in the former. We are desperately lacking in the latter.” In some cases, the lack of understanding is wilful and driven by agendas. But those who genuinely don’t yet grasp climate change and its implications must have those clearly spelled out to them.

Secondly, the movement of action on climate change must retain its grass- roots origins and must hold as central the fact that climate change remains a matter of social justice. It is not a middle-class preoccupation but instead the pivotal, over-arching issue of a better tomorrow for the planet and humans and the other species that live upon it.

Thirdly, leaders who act or fail to act must be recognised for their actions and whether they’re part of the problem or part of the solution on climate change.

But if those seem like nebulous goals, one essential task should be hard-wired into every one of us who grasps the importance of this issue.

On March 27 at 8.30pm, switch off your lights to support action against climate change. Call for a climate deal that keeps global warming below two degrees and pledge to reduce your own carbon footprint at www.wwf.org.za

You can urge your employer, employees, club, church, and your community to do the same – that is the essence of mass action by ordinary people and its cumulative power can not be overstated. We need to keep global warming as far below 2°C degrees as possible to avoid dangerous runaway climate change. Internationally, we need world leaders to deliver a fair, effective and binding new climate deal.

Nationally, we need government to embrace clean renewable energy as a viable and more cost effective alternative to dirty coal power. Further lack of action on climate change will signify a triumph of expediency over humankind’s best efforts at a better world.

Just over 20 years ago, South Africans took an important step in choosing a better future. We lived in a time when social justice was an ideal and not a reality.

Again, we risk facing such dire circumstances. If we don’t act definitively on climate change, and soon, the poor of South Africa and the world will be hit hard by climate change.

Climate change is not a mere environmental issue. It is a social justice issue.

It took individual and collective activism and a sense of urgency and responsibility to change our nation. Twenty years later that’s what it will take to change the world. - Desmond Tutu

# Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu is the global patron of WWF’s Earth Hour, which takes place on Saturday at 8.30pm. See www.wwf.org.za

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Don't let water wealth go down the drain

From: Waterworld


By Rozali Ismail

WATER scarcity and the threat to water sources are issues that must be dealt with urgently to ensure the survival of future generations, writes ROZALI ISMAIL.

TAKING water for granted threatens the very existence of human survival. The "care-less" attitude we have today may some day pose greater harm and danger to our survival as a human race, even greater than wars among nations.

With recent events around the world resulting from climate change, global warming, environmental degradation and rising ecological disasters, water becomes even more priceless.

With climate change causing sea levels to rise, coastal communities could lose up to 50 per cent more of their freshwater supplies than previously thought, according to a study by Ohio State University in the United States.

Hydrologists have simulated how saltwater will intrude into freshwater aquifers, given the sea level rise predicted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The IPCC has concluded that within the next 100 years, sea levels could rise as much as 58cm, flooding coasts worldwide.

Seeing that climate change is already diminishing freshwater resources, with changes in rainfall patterns and the melting of glaciers, scientists are trying to point out ways that climate change can potentially reduce available drinking water. This is because most people are probably aware of the damage that rising sea levels can do above ground, but not underground, which is where the fresh water is.

Depending on the texture of the sand along the coastlines, salt water can penetrate 50 per cent further inland underground than it does above ground. And when salt water and fresh water meet, they mix in complex ways. Between the incoming salt water and the inland fresh water, a pool of brackish water forms. Like salt water, brackish water is not safe to drink because it causes dehydration. Only water that contains less than 250mg of salt per litre is considered fresh water and safe to drink.

Almost 40 per cent of the world population lives in coastal areas, less than 60km from the shoreline. These regions may face more loss of freshwater resources than scientists originally forecast.

It is estimated that 1.5 billion of Asia's total population of four billion live within 100km of the sea and 60 per cent live within 400km of a coast.

Malaysia has a total coastline of 4,675km, with 2,068km in Peninsular Malaysia and 2,607km in Sabah and Sarawak. Currently, rising waters due to the heavy monsoon season cause severe damage every year to the population along the eastern coast of the peninsula, what more if sea levels continue to rise.

It is natural for humans to develop and improve their standard of living. In the economic sense, development has manifested itself in industrial and commercial progress. In developed and developing countries, this has led to the inevitable clash between man and nature.

Globally, every year, roughly 450 cubic kilometres of waste water is discharged into rivers and lakes. To dilute and transport this unclean water, before it can be used again, another 6,000 cubic kilometres of clean water is needed, an amount equal to about two- thirds of the world's total annual useable fresh water runoff.

Population growth and rising demand per capita are creating water shortages in many countries. Internationally, the annual population increase of nearly 80 million per year implies an increased demand for fresh water of about 64 billion cubic metres a year.

Currently, 206 million Africans live in water-stressed or water- scarce countries. By 2025, the population will increase to about 700 million. Of these, 440 million will live in countries with acute water scarcity of less than 1,000 cubic metres per person per year.

The amount of water that people use depends not only on basic needs and how much water is available but also on levels of urbanisation and economic development. Withdrawals of water have grown to meet demand for all types of use, for irrigated agriculture, industry and household purposes. As the world continues to urbanise at rapid rates, the demand for drinkable water for household use is expected to soar, outpacing the capacity of most cities to provide it.

China, for example, has 22 per cent of the world's population but only seven per cent of all freshwater runoff. Currently, China's freshwater supplies have been estimated to be capable of supporting 650 million people only on a sustainable basis, which is half of the country's population.

While projections are not predictions, these figures point to the need for urgent attention to issues of stabilising population growth, using water resources sustainably and preserving freshwater supplies from additional degradation.

Critically, fresh water can be managed for the benefit of current and future generations, but only if concerted efforts can be made by national governments, the international community and individuals, acting together towards a common set of objectives.

Governments can develop national water management policies that help not only to improve supply but also manage demand better. Key strategies include regulation of water depending on its end-use, watershed management and appropriate pricing, for example ending inefficient water subsidies that in effect encourage overuse. There are also huge inequalities in the amount spent on improving services to the better-off sections of urban society compared with the investments in basic services for the urban poor.

Ultimately, governments in water-short regions will have to come to terms with acute fresh water shortages and accommodate human needs without overusing or polluting freshwater resources.

As individuals, fortunately, there are lots of things we can do to save our fresh water. One of them is to use earth-friendly household products. Many companies are getting on board right now and making earth-friendly cleaning products, detergents and dishwasher soap that are safe for our environment.

In an effort to spur action from the governments of the world and the global citizens to meet the impending crisis, the United Nations General Assembly has proclaimed the period from 2005 to 2015 as the International Decade for Action, "Water for Life".

Every year on March 22, World Water Day is celebrated to remind us that the supply of water is finite and that it is badly needed. Without fresh water, the planet would be a barren wasteland. Let us remember this crucial day for our generations to come. Let us reflect and ponder on what we have done and what we can do now. Since water is essential to our survival, let us give water the value and respect it deserves.

* Tan Sri Rozali Ismail is executive chairman of Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor Sdn Bhd

(c) 2010 New Straits Times. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.

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Sunday, March 21, 2010

Environmental groups challenge Va.'s EPA lawsuit

From: BusinessWeek

 

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RICHMOND, Va.

Two environmental groups are challenging Virginia Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli's legal action to block federal regulation of greenhouse gases.

The Southern Environmental Law Center on behalf of Wetlands Watch filed a motion with the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington late Thursday supporting the Environmental Protection Agency's findings that greenhouse gases are dangerous to people.

The groups say Cuccinelli's challenge to the EPA findings is an "unwarranted stall tactic" that is a dangerous distraction from the impacts of climate change.

"What the shoreline communities in Virginia need is insurance. They need some positive action that's going to help them cope with the rates of sea level rise that we've been seeing and the rates that we expect to see," said Skip Stiles, a representative of Wetlands Watch, a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting and conserving Virginia wetlands. "We're going to need federal help to deal with it."

Cuccinelli is asking the EPA to reconsider its conclusion that carbon dioxide and other emissions contribute to dangerous global warming. He's also asking the federal appeals court to review the decision.

"It is important for us to respond to the attorney general's finding; to counter this view that climate change and emits are not a serious problem in Virginia," said Trip Pollard, land and community program director for the SELC.

If the motion is granted, the SELC will represent Wetlands Watch in the appeals court proceedings.

Cuccinelli's office said Friday that a total of 15 states have filed motions to join Virginia's appeal.

Virginia's actions are aimed at a December EPA "endangerment" finding about carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, setting the stage for future rules restricting such emissions.

"The potential regulations resulting from the endangerment finding could severely impact Virginia jobs; energy, agriculture, manufacturing, and other industries; as well as put a tremendous financial burden on Virginia citizens," Cuccinelli said in a news release Friday.

He had previously said internal e-mails and documents from a British climate research center suggest the EPA relied on flawed and, in some cases, falsified data. Cuccinelli has asked the EPA to delay final consideration of that finding so "newly available information" can be reviewed.

An exhaustive review of those 1,073 e-mails conducted by The Associated Press found that those climate scientists stonewalled skeptics and discussed hiding data, but they didn't undercut the vast body of evidence showing the world is warming because of man-made greenhouse gas emissions.

The U.S. Supreme Court declared in 2007 that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are pollutants that the EPA could regulate if found to endanger public health. The Bush administration never acted on the court order.