Tuesday, April 10, 2007




The Chamela-Cuixmala Biosphere Reserve is one of the most important protected areas and well studied tropical dry forests of the neotropics that include more than 1200 species of plants (of which 314 are endemic to Mexico), 427 species of vertebrate (of which about 23 are endemic to Mexico), and more than 2000 species of insects. Because of this outstanding biodiversity, the Reserve is part of the World Network of Biosphere Reserves of the UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere Program (MAB), and part of RAMSAR network of Wetlands of International Importance. Furthermore, several turtle nesting beaches are protected under the Inter-American Convention for the Protection and Conservation of Sea Turtles, and the islands of the Bahía de Chamela were recently established as a wildlife refuge.On November 22, 2006, the Mexican government’s Environmental and Natural Resources Secretariat (Secretaria de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales, SEMARNAT) through the General Directorate of Environmental Impact and Risk (Dirección General de Impacto y Riesgo Ambiental, DGIRA) authorized two tourist developments: “IEL La Huerta” (registration number 14JA2006T0018) and “Tambora” (registration number 14JA20-06T0011). Both located on lands adjacent to the Chamela-Cuixmala Biosphere Reserve along the coast in the state of Jalisco. A Technical Panel of scientific researchers from the Instituto de Biología, Instituto de Ecología and Centro de Investigaciones en Ecosistemas, of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), conducted a detailed analysis of the Environmental Impact Assessment Reports of these tourist developments. The resulting document, “Analysis of Tourism Projects in Chamela” (“Análisis de los proyectos turísticos Chamela”), was presented to the public on March 22, 2007, and it is now available in the following website:
The UNAM Technical Panel concluded that the Environmental Impact Reports lack scientific and technical rigor because the information on the biodiversity and conservation status of the flora and fauna is incomplete, and therefore the biological importance of the region is inadequately diagnosed. Both project reports fail to identify the type and extent of all potential environmental and social impacts and therefore, they do not establish real mechanisms for the mitigations of any environmental impacts. In sum, the UNAM Technical Panel concludes that both projects, as proposed and approved, will have serious negative impacts on the integrity and ecological functioning of the Chamela-Cuixmala Biosphere Reserve as well as other nearby protected areas and the ecosystem of the region as a whole. These developments also threaten the stability and equitable social development of the human populations in the region.For these reasons, we urge the Secretaria de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales to (1) verify that the authorizations given to these projects were done according current official norms and environmental laws, and international treaties, (2) re-evaluate the Environmental Impact Reports for each of these projects taking into consideration the analysis done by the UNAM Technical Panel, and (3) proceed with the suspension of these project authorizations. If you agree to with the “Analysis of Tourist Projects in Chamela” conducted by the UNAM Technical Panel, as well as this request to SEMARNAT, we invite you to register your support below.
SincerelyThe Technical Analytical Panel

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Sunday, April 8, 2007

Apocalypse Now

This headline appeared in the London Independent in early February of 2005, following a conference at the Hadley Centre in Exeter, England, where 200 of the world’s leading scientists issued the most urgent warning to date: that dangerous climate change is taking place today, and not the day after tomorrow.
Floods, storms, and droughts. Melting polar ice, shrinking glaciers, oceans turning to acid. Scientists from the fields of glaciology, biology, meteorology, oceanography, and ecology reported seeing a dramatic rise over the last 50 years of all the indicators of climate change: increase in average world temperatures, extreme weather events, in the levels of CO2 and other greenhouse gases, and in the level of the oceans.
The award winning environmental writer Geoffrey Lean wrote:
“Future historians, looking back from a much hotter and less hospitable world . . . will puzzle over how a whole generation could have sleepwalked into disaster -- destroying the climate that has allowed human civilization to flourish over the past 11,000 years.”
The overwhelming majority of scientists and international climate monitoring bodies now agree that climate change is taking place, that humans are responsible, and that time is running out. In fact, we could reach “the point of no return” in a decade, reported Lean.
Melting glaciers all across the world include: the Broggi in the Peruvian Andes, Glacier Ururashraju in the Cordillera Blanca of Peru, the Pasterze in Austria, Portage Glacier near Anchorage, Alaska, Mount Hood in Oregon, Mount Kilimanjaro in northeastern Tanzania, the Grinnell Glacier in Glacier National Park, and the Rhone Glacier in Switzerland. The earth is getting warmer. While average warming is just under 1 degree Celsius worldwide, the Polar Regions show warming of 2 to 3 degrees Celsius, due to feedback effects.
With the melt of white snow, that previously reflected some of the heat back into the atmosphere (albedo effect), newly exposed darker surfaces absorb heat, and accelerate melting of more ice and snow. A world average warming of under 1 degree Celsius may seem small. However, historically, the difference between warm periods and an ice age has been only 5 to 6 degrees Celsius.
The transformation from the last ice age to the present climate resulted from a slow rise in temperature, which took 5,000 years to fully complete, allowing life on Earth to adapt to the changes. We could bring about a 5- to 6- degree change in only 150 years if we don’t start constraining the use of fossil fuels. It is not only the fundamental change in the composition of air, water, and soil that we need to consider. The speed at which these changes are forced upon the planet already leads to high extinction rates. Scientists at the Exeter meeting agreed that warming over 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial temperatures would be dangerous -- and we are almost half way there. To burn up the world’s remaining coal reserves, they estimated, would raise the average temperature by 3 to 8 degrees C in less than 150 years. Quite a few climate “skeptics”, fossil fuel executives, and members of the Bush administration are still denying that there is such a thing as human-caused global warming. Many of them claim that the sun has just grown hotter. However, a warmer sun would have heated the stratosphere as well. In contrast, the stratosphere is cooling -- suggesting a blanket of greenhouse gases that prevents the earth’s heat from radiating back into space. We know how the greenhouse effect works. Venus, with a thick greenhouse cover is hot; Mars, with a thin greenhouse is cold. Earth’s blanket of greenhouse gases is made up of the byproducts of the industrial age and an outdated Victorian technology. Even though methane is a more powerful greenhouse gas, it is CO2 that makes up over 80% of the greenhouse gas mix. Ice core studies show that CO2 concentrations on this planet had been stable for the last millennium, never rising or falling more than 10 ppm, and fluctuating between 275 and 285 ppm. Now CO2 concentrations are beginning to exceed 370 ppm, and are rising from year to year. Other greenhouse gases show the same dramatic increase -- mainly in the past 40 to 50 years. We are already living under a dome of air that no one has breathed in a million years. Ocean Warming and AcidificationThe average temperature of the surface waters of the oceans, extending to a depth of several hundred meters, has risen by a 1/2 degree Celsius. This has occurred in just the past 40 years. The oceans have also become more acidic, due to the uptake of anthropogenic CO2. The Plymouth Marine Laboratory in England estimates that 48% of fossil-fuel CO2, or 400 billion tons, have been absorbed by the oceans, making them the largest reservoir of carbon, a load greater than that borne by the atmosphere or the earth. CO2, while more inert in the atmosphere, becomes highly reactive in oceans, leading to physical, biological, and geological changes. Carol Turley, head of science at the Plymouth Marine Laboratory, warns that no such ph changes in oceans have occurred in the past 20 million years, and that the capacity of oceans to take up CO2 is limited. What might the consequences of such changes in the oceans be? An August 2005 article in the Globe and Mail, on starving sea birds washing up on Pacific coast beaches from California to British Columbia, reports that scientists believe that, at least for this year, the “bottom has fallen out of the coastal food chain.” Off the Oregon coast, the waters near the shore are 5 to 7 degrees warmer than normal. A layer of warm water along the whole Pacific coastline prevents the usual upwelling of cool water rich in phytoplankton, the base of the food web for all marine life. Zooplankton, such as krill, depend on phytoplankton. The disappearance of zooplankton in turn affects seabirds and fish from sardines to whales. NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, found a 20 to 30 per cent drop in juvenile salmon off the coasts of Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia; and monitoring in Central and Northern California shows the lowest number of juvenile rockfish in more than 20 years.The world has not yet felt the real impact of global warming since the oceans have absorbed so much heat and CO2. The US National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) put out two studies in March 2005. They suggest that due to the thermal inertia of the oceans global temperatures and sea levels will continue to rise for the next 100 years - even if greenhouse gas emissions come under control. First Signs of a Gulf Stream CollapseThe opening presentations at the Exeter, UK conference gave the most comprehensive assessment of so-called “wild cards”, climate change events that risk feedback loops no longer responsive to human intervention. The run-away events, or ecological landslides include accelerated melting of the enormous ice sheets of Antarctica and Greenland, as well as the decline and possible reversal of the Gulf Stream that conveys heat from the tropics to Europe. In the Hollywood movie “The Day After Tomorrow,” the Gulf Stream stops flowing in a matter of days, creating an instant ice age on the Atlantic coast and Western Europe. Scientists at Exeter said it would take at least ten years for such an event to unfold and a few hundred years to set up the conditions. But they warned that the Thermohaline Circulation, as they call the Gulf Stream, has stopped flowing before -- and that we have already a greater than 50% likelihood of a shutdown if we do not enact strict climate policies. The amount of heat transported North by the Gulf Stream, which keeps Western Europe 5 to 10 degrees Celsius warmer than it would normally be at its latitude, equals one million billion watts -- sufficient to satisfy the energy needs of 100 Earths. Even a partial failure of the Gulf Stream would have huge consequences. The Gulf Stream picks up heat from the equatorial sun. Driven by warmth, the stream flows northeast towards Europe and the Greenland ice sheets, where the water cools and sinks. The cooler and saltier the water, the stronger the sinking motion. Dense cool and salty water from the Gulf Stream then flows back to the tropics at a deeper ocean level. As the Polar Regions and the oceans are warming, melt-water from ice sheets and glaciers is changing the salinity of the ocean. A combination of the rising ocean surface temperature, and the decreasing salinity, already visibly changes the movement of sea currents that depend on differences in warmth and coolness, and the weight that higher salinity adds to the water as the driving force. Large-scale salinity changes in the Arctic and sub-Arctic Seas were reported in June 2005, in the journal Science. Ruth Curry from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution on Cape Cod, in Massachusetts, analyzed temperature, salinity, and density data, collected in the North Atlantic Ocean over the last 55 years. Curry warned that excessive amounts of freshwater dumped into the North Atlantic could affect the flow of the Gulf Stream. We know, from ice-core data, when the Gulf Stream has stopped flowing before. The most recent collapse, 15,000 years ago during the Younger Dryas, was caused by the sweetening of the North Atlantic Ocean, when glaciers covering North America melted and began flowing through the St. Lawrence waterway into the Atlantic, instead of into the Gulf of Mexico via the Mississippi. Today’s accelerated melting of the Arctic and Antarctic ice sheets may recreate these conditions, not just for the Gulf Stream but also for other parts of the global ocean circulation. In May of this year, the London Times reported that first signs of a slow down of the Gulf Stream had been detected by a Cambridge University researcher, who hitches rides on a Royal Navy submarine to one of the three areas where the Gulf Stream reverses its course. Peter Wadhams said that “until recently we could find giant ‘chimneys’ in the sea where columns of cold, dense water were sinking from the surface to the seabed 3,000 meters below, but now they have almost disappeared.” Off the coast of Greenland, the Odden Ice Shelf once grew out into the Greenland Sea every winter, and receded in the summer. The Odden triggered the annual formation of sinking water columns in that area. However, since 1997, the shelf has ceased to form. Where Wadhams had once observed 12 giant columns of sinking water under the ice, he now found only two -- and they were so weak that they were unable to reach the seabed. Wadhams also predicts complete summer melting of the Arctic ice cap by as early as 2020. On his submarine journeys, using sonar to survey the ice cap from underneath, he has observed a 46% thinning over the past 20 years. The Greenland Ice Sheet is MeltingThe biggest danger to the Gulf Stream comes from melt-water off the Greenland ice sheet, the second largest store of fresh water on this planet. If all of it were to melt, sea levels around the world would rise by 7 meters -- over 20 feet. However even a partial meltdown would affect the Gulf Stream, by diluting the salt water right at the crucial point where the Gulf Stream sinks and returns to the tropics. Prof. Michael Schlesinger from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, whose climate model already predicts a 50% chance of Gulf Stream shutdown if we do not enact climate policies, and a 25% shutdown even if we limit greenhouse gases, based his estimate only on increased rainfall, due to global warming. He now says he will have to include additional melt-water from the Greenland ice sheet into his next set of data, because it appears that the melt has begun. Observations on the Greenland ice sheet are done by G.P.S. (global positioning systems) and radar and laser via satellites and airplanes. G.P.S. data of the past 5 years show accelerated melting, and even the beginning of a possible feedback effect: the more the ice sheet melts the faster it starts to move. The reason for this acceleration, it is believed, is that melt-water from the surface of the ice sheet makes its way down to the bedrock below, where it acts as a lubricant, further speeding up the slippage and disintegration. The question now is, when does this feedback process reach the point of no return? James Hansen, head of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies, says that if greenhouse-gas emissions are not controlled now, the total disintegration of the Greenland ice sheet could be set in motion in a matter of decades. Although it could take hundreds, perhaps thousands, of years to fully play out, once begun the process would become self-reinforcing and cannot be halted. The Gulf Stream is just one part of a complex global system of ocean currents that affect temperatures, winds, and rain across the whole planet. We now have charts of these powerful currents driven by heat and coolness, traversing all oceans, - Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian. And they are all interconnected via the huge circumpolar current flowing around the Antarctic. Changes at the South Pole therefore would have an even larger effect than those in the Arctic. Ice Shelf Collapses and the Melting of AntarcticaThe Antarctic is the 5th largest continent. It holds 90% of the world’s fresh water. A comparison in scale to the Greenland ice sheet shows that if all Antarctic ice were to melt, sea levels would rise by over 169 feet. The Antarctic has had a permanent ice sheet for the last 30 million years. The British Antarctic Survey (BAS) in Cambridge now reports rapid warming on the West Antarctic Peninsula and the WAIS, the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. Of the 224 glaciers on the Antarctic Peninsula, over 87% are in retreat. Major ice shelves have collapsed. BAS scientists believe disappearing ice shelves are now contributing to more rapid melting of glaciers formerly protected by the floating ice shelf at their base. Antarctica’s huge Larsen B ice shelf collapsed in just 35 days after a NASA satellite detected the first ruptures at the end of January 2002; it was roughly the size of Luxembourg. Soil sediments from that ice shelf reveal that Larsen B had been intact for 20,000 years - since the peak of the last ice age. No collapse of this size has happened since the end of the last Ice Age.Larsen B's smaller neighbor, Larsen A, broke off in 1995. According to studies by the BAS, other much bigger ice shelves nearby, such as the Ross and Ronne, each larger than France, are also considered at risk of disintegrating. Another troubling development in the Antarctic, according to the director of the BAS, Chris Rapley, is the accelerated flow of melt streams underneath the Antarctic ice sheet. Until recently, scientists were unable to explain the 20th century’s world-wide sea-level rises of between 1 and 2 mm per year, by the amount of ice that has melted from glaciers and ice sheets. Even after taking into account thermal expansion, they wondered where the extra water was coming from. Recent discoveries show a major hidden source of water comes from polar ice sheets. In the Antarctic, ice streams, and a newly discovered network of tributaries underneath the ice sheets, drain 33 major basins. Flow rates are much faster than previously assumed. Ice streams, from the feed glaciers behind the collapsed Larsen A and B ice shelves, also show accelerated flows. The BAS calls this a “cork out of the bottle” effect. These “wild cards,” the melting of the polar ice caps and the acidification of the oceans, were only the most dramatic events on the agenda of the Exeter, UK, meeting on the dangers of climate-change. The number of scientific papers, recording changes in ecosystems due to global warming, escalated in five years, from 14 to more than a thousand. In one presentation after another, scientists described a crisis they had dedicated their lives to avoid. Geoffrey Lean, who attended the conference, wrote that there were few in the room that did not sense their children or grandchildren standing invisibly at their shoulders. The formal conclusion of the meeting, that climate change was “already occurring” and that “in many cases the risks are more serious than previously thought,” appeared in the press all over the world -- except in the United States. However even in the European press, very few writers took on the scientific details of this story, without which political action and organizing are impossible. Geoffrey Lean wrote: “Mankind is Sleepwalking to the End of the Earth.” Bush-Wars on Climate Science After the Exeter meeting, in an interview for TUC Radio, the director of BAS, Chris Rapley, spoke about how, in public appearances, he bridges the gap between science, and popular understanding of these dramatic changes. He said he always refers to the picture of Earth in space taken by Apollo 17: the small blue planet, tilted back to show the Antarctic, surrounded by inky blackness. The image, he says, shows that this is all there is, no other life-support system trails behind; and, that on the planet all is interconnected. Earth is the most complex and complicated object in the universe that we know of, says Rapley, a radio astronomer by training. Only Earth has an ocean and clouds. Only Earth has physics, biology, geology, chemistry, and anthropology. Humans have transformed the earth in a dramatic way, especially in the last 50 years. Not only have we drastically changed the carbon cycle by the burning of fossil fuel and coal, and by increasing forest fires; we have also changed the nitrogen cycle worldwide by the amount of nitrogen being fixed by industrial agriculture and fertilizer use. We have transformed more than half the land surface through agriculture, deforestation, mining, industry, paving, and ever-growing cities. These changes have altered the climate systems by the way moisture is exchanged between Earth and the atmosphere. We have destroyed biodiversity by shifting plants and animals into places and conditions where they cannot survive. Our own survival, as humans, is only slightly more secure. We are seeing the most basic of our needs -- air, water, housing, and energy -- disappear before our eyes. Rapley concluded that there is no way to imagine that humans could do all these things without an effect. The demise of our common life-support system is accelerated by even more energy-intensive activities, by which a privileged group of people attempts to secure its survival. The meeting in Exeter was held explicitly to convince the Bush administration to join the rest of the industrialized world, and to use the July 2005 G8 meeting to set limits on greenhouse gas emissions. The United States and Australia, the world’s two largest polluters, are -- to this day -- refusing to be part of any global agreement to limit CO2 and other greenhouse gases. The G8 meeting came and went. The US, with 42% of global fossil fuel CO2, and 34% of combined greenhouse gas emissions, not only remained outside the climate- stabilization effort but also fought vigorously to prevent any progress in setting limits. Given the extraordinary amount of greenhouse gases emitted by the US, this country alone can dramatically slow climate change, or bring the planet to the boiling point. Three weeks before the G8 summit, The Observer (UK) printed a set of leaked documents revealing how the Bush White House derailed attempts to address global warming. These submissions to the G8 action plan show that Washington officials deleted even the suggestion that global warming has already started. Among the key sentences removed were: “Our world is warming. Climate change is a serious threat that has the potential to affect every part of the globe. And we know that ... mankind's activities are contributing to this warming. This is an issue we must address urgently.” At the Exeter conference the International Climate Change Task Force, UK, said that if we do nothing the climate system will collapse. Stephen Byers, the co-chair of that task force and an advisor to Tony Blair, said the point of no return could be reached in a decade. The Bush delegation to the July 2005 G8 summit in Scotland, probably even George Bush himself, is aware of that deadline. However the warning disappeared under the same blanket of denial and outright lies produced by industry, their paid scientists, and the Bush administration. Among all official documents that deny climate change, only one sends a different message: the report on “Climate Change as a National Security Concern,” commissioned for Donald Rumsfeld by Pentagon defense adviser Andrew Marshall, and made public in February 2004. The Global Business Network wrote for the Pentagon: “the focus in climate research has slowly been shifting from gradual to rapid change. In 2002, the National Academy of Sciences issued a report concluding that human activities could trigger abrupt change. A year later, the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, included a session at which Robert Gagosian, director of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, urged policymakers to consider the implications of possible abrupt climate change within two decades.” Whether in a decade as the UK scientists say, or two as the Pentagon study says, a consensus is developing that we are reaching a phase of dangerous, abrupt, and irreversible climate shifts. However, for the Bush administration, this is not an ecological or humanitarian, but only a military issue. They question only how to protect US borders from environmental refugees, how to overpower nations collapsing under the environmental pressures, how to keep access to food, water, and energy as other parts of the world go hungry and thirsty; how to keep nuclear pre-eminence, while those weapons in other countries fall into the hands of insurgents. The eerie similarity of these goals and methods, with those of the so-called war on terrorism, raises the question of whether that war on terrorism is not really already a war on the Earth. And, as in the war on terrorism, the already occurring ecological disasters -- like the Osama bin Ladens -- are needed and promoted. And the religious fundamentalists are driving this forward because God has given them dominion over the planet to do as they wish. And, as irrecoverable time passes, more bad news of ecological landslides emerges: In early August 2005, the New Scientist reported that, in Western Siberia, a permafrost area, the size of France and Germany combined, is thawing for the first time since the ice age, 11,000 years ago. What was until recently an expanse of frozen peat is turning into a broken landscape of mud and lakes, some more than a kilometer across. The area’s peat bog contains an estimated 70 billion tons of methane, a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than CO2, which, if released, could dramatically increase the rate of global warming.Even in a best-case scenario, were the methane to be released slowly over a period of 100 years, it would effectively double atmospheric levels of the gas, leading to a 10% to 25% increase in global warming, said scientists at the Hadley Centre in Exeter, UK. The scientists from Tomsk State University and Oxford, who discovered the melt, said that this was yet another feedback effect, an “ecological landslide that is probably irreversible and is undoubtedly connected to climatic warming.” There may be some, cynical enough to think that climate change is an interesting science fiction experiment, or greedy enough to want to extract the last drop of oil from the dying Earth for a profit. But what about the rest of us: not cynical, not greedy and arrogant? It is pretty clear that there need to be BIG changes in the way we live -- and that is frightening for many, since we have become so dependent on this technological civilization. However scientists tell us that the extreme weather events to come, such as floods, hurricanes, sea-level rise, and unprecedented heat waves, are more frightening than any change in the way we choose to live now. There is a set of figures that is both deeply depressing and hopeful. The last published World Bank data for CO2 emissions per capita indicate that, while every man, woman, and child in the US puts out 20 metric tons of CO2 per annum, those in the European Union put out 8 per person per year; China 2; and the output of Nigerians, who supply us with much of the oil that we burn into CO2, is zero -- below scale. In 2002, US-Americans used over 12,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity per person; Europeans used less than half the amount, while the use in China is 987 kilowatt-hours per person. The US per-capita use of oil is twice that of the European Union, and more than 8 times that of China. What if China aspires to our standard of living? And why not, if we are not willing to cut back? Europe gets by with so much less CO2-output and energy-input, while already planning for further cuts. Where is the measure of global justice, between those who cause no harm and those whose extravagant use of fossil fuels harms everybody else?Regardless of who is driving this: industry, the military, religious fundamentalists, or any permutation of government, be it red or blue, responsibility for the approaching climate collapse will fall overwhelmingly on the United States. Since the US government and corporations not only refuse to cut back but are driving eco-collapse forward, it is up to ordinary people to refuse collaboration and to control the perpetrators. For us living in the US, the opportunity and time to make a difference that will affect the entire planet is now. Maria Gilardin produces TUC Radio, a weekly half-hour radio program that is distributed for free to all radio stations via Pacifica Radio's KU Band, and as an mp3 file on TUC Radio's web site: www.tucradio.org. She may be reached at: tuc@tucradio.org
Related Links and Resources:* Hadley Centre* Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change * British Antarctic Survey* Plymouth Marine Laboratory* "As the World Burns," by Bill McKibben, Chris Mooney, & Ross Gelbspan, Mother Jones, May/June 2005.* The Pentagon's Weather Nightmare* Arctic Sea Ice Changes * Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution: Abrupt Climate Change* Ice Core drilling on the Greenland Ice Sheet * Siberian permafrost melting * Carol Turley on Marine Snow * Photos of Global Warming, Glacier Melting * Douglas Quin recorded the sounds of breaking ice in the Antarctic

Scientists Detail Climate Changes, Poles to Tropics

Martin Parry, the co-chairman of a scientific panel on climate change, presented a new report on global warming Friday in Brussels.

BRUSSELS, April 6 — From the poles to the tropics, the earth’s climate and ecosystems are already being shaped by the atmospheric buildup of greenhouse gases and face inevitable, possibly profound, alteration, the world’s leading scientific panel on climate change said Friday.

In its most detailed portrait of the effects of climate change driven by human activities, the panel predicted widening droughts in southern Europe and the Middle East, sub-Saharan Africa, the American Southwest and Mexico, and flooding that could imperil low-lying islands and the crowded river deltas of southern Asia. It stressed that many of the regions facing the greatest risks were among the world’s poorest.
And it said that while limits on smokestack and tailpipe emissions could lower the long-term risks, vulnerable regions must adjust promptly to shifting weather patterns, climatic and coastal hazards, and rising seas.
Without such adaptations, it said, a rise of 3 to 5 degrees Fahrenheit over the next century could lead to the inundation of coasts and islands inhabited by hundreds of millions of people. But if steady investments are made in seawalls and other coastal protections, vulnerability could be sharply reduced.
The group, the United NationsIntergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, also noted that the climate shifts would benefit some regions — leading to more rainfall and longer growing seasons in high latitudes, open Arctic seaways and fewer deaths from the cold.
The 1,572-page report, finished here on Friday, was prepared by more than 200 scientists, and a 21-page summary was endorsed by officials from more than 120 countries, including the United States.
The conclusions came after four days of revisions by scientists and then an often rancorous all-night debate with government officials. In a sign of shifting geopolitics on global warming, scientists who worked on the report criticized China for weakening some language in the summary, while they credited the United States, which had for years stressed uncertainty in the science, with playing a mostly constructive role.
The panel, which has tracked research on global warming since it was created under United Nations auspices in 1988, has sometimes been criticized for allowing governments to shape the summaries of its periodic reviews of climate science.
But by many accounts, it remains the closest thing to a barometer for tracking the level of scientific understanding of the causes and consequences of global warming. In February, the panel released its fourth summary of basic climate science, concluding with 90 percent certainty that humans were the main cause of warming since 1950.
The new report, focusing on the effects of warming, for the first time describes how species, water supplies, ice sheets and regional climate conditions are already responding to the global buildup of heat. While the report said that assessing the causes of regional climate and biological changes was particularly difficult, the authors concluded with “high confidence” — about an 8 in 10 chance — that human-caused warming “over the last three decades has had a discernible influence on many physical and biological systems.”
At a news conference here, Martin Parry, the co-chairman of the team that wrote the new report, said widespread effects were already measurable, with much more to come.
“We’re no longer arm-waving with models,” he said. “This is empirical information on the ground.”
Reports from the panel are released only every half-decade or so, and this year’s suite of three studies — on basic science, the effects of warming, and options for cutting emissions — are likely to guide policymakers for years to come.
The panel’s reports are particularly influential in international talks over climate treaties, especially the Kyoto Protocol, whose binding limits on emissions expire in 2012. Those limits have been rejected by the United States and China.
The report also is expected to be discussed at a summit meeting of the Group of 8 industrial powers in Germany in June, when the European Union has said it plans to renew efforts to get the United States to do more to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
The report said that given the current buildup of carbon dioxide and other long-lived greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, temperatures and seas would inevitably rise for decades. The worst effects would be felt in regions that are mainly poor and already facing dangers from existing climate and coastal hazards.

"It’s the poorest of the poor in the world, and this includes poor people even in prosperous societies, who are going to be the worst hit,” said Rajendra K. Pachauri, the chairman of the panel. “People who are poor are least-equipped to be able to adapt to the impacts of climate change, and therefore in some sense this does become a global responsibility in my view.”

Some authors said the report removed any doubt about the urgency of acting to curb emissions of greenhouse gases.
“The warnings are clear about the scale of the projected changes to the planet,” said Bill Hare, an author of the report and a visiting scientist at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany. “Essentially there’s going to be a mass extinction within the next 100 years unless climate change is limited,” added Dr. Hare, who previously worked for Greenpeace.
“These impacts have been known for many years, and are now seen with greater clarity in this report,” he said. “That clarity is perhaps the last warning we’re going to get before we actually have to report in the next I.P.C.C. review that we’re seeing the disaster unfolding.”
James L. Connaughton, the chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, said some of the findings in the report, particularly the prospect of intensifying coastal damage from rising seas, were “of high concern,” but noted the panel also foresaw benefits to agriculture in temperate regions as well.
Over all, he said, the analysis reinforced the need of industrialized countries to foster economic growth in developing countries and thus help them to reduce their vulnerability to climate shocks. He said billions of dollars were already flowing in development assistance.
Michael Oppenheimer, a climate scientist at Princeton and an author of the report, said it underlined the need to deal with climatic changes already under way.
“The actual outcome in terms of damages and ruined lives and costs depends heavily on the response — the response of individuals to deal with the changes and governments to organize and anticipate and deal with this in advance,” he said.
The meeting here dragged on in a marathon session Thursday night before Dr. Pachauri emerged midmorning on Friday and stood on a blue armchair in front of reporters to announce that agreement had been reached between scientists and government officials over the final details of a 21-page summary.
Under pressure from nations including Russia, China and Saudi Arabia, the authors said, sections on coral damage and tropical storms were softened in the summary. They also got the authors to drop parts of an illustration showing how different emissions policies might limit damage. Officials from those countries argued that data in the report did not support the level of certainty expressed in the final draft.
But some authors were not assuaged. The final document was “much less quantified and much vaguer and much less striking than it could have been,” said Stéphane Hallegatte, a participant from France’s International Center for Research on the Environment and Development.
Negotiations were also prolonged by European delegates’ demand that the final report reflect the need to cut back on greenhouse gases — and not just adapting to new conditions.
“Adaptation will only work if climate change is not too large and not too fast,” Mr. Hallegatte said.
Next month, the panel will release a report on options for limiting emissions of the greenhouse gases, and late in the year it will publish a final synthesis of its findings..

James Kanter reported from Brussels, and Andrew C. Revkin from New York.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Talk to the plant: Prince Charles's organic revolution

By Kim Severson
Published: April , 2007

TETBURY, England: When Prince Charles gazes from the upstairs windows at Highgrove, his home near this tiny town in the English countryside, he can see a tree planted by the Dalai Lama. It grows near a field of rare British wildflowers, which fade into a row of box hedges trimmed to frame four small busts of the prince's head. Tigga, his late, beloved Jack Russell terrier, is immortalized in a relief sculpture on a nearby garden wall, behind which a longtime gardener prepares the ground for the prince's favorite vegetables, potatoes and Brussels sprouts.
Prince Charles, whose hobbies have included both polo and the peculiarly English rural craft called hedge laying, cherishes tradition. In his world, it seems, not much good can come of change.

He has waged war against modernity, both in faceless urban architecture and in the erosion of the rural British way of life.
At home, the royal perspective has been criticized as conservative, stodgy and elitist. But to some of the generals of the American food revolution, the prince qualifies as downright progressive.
Alice Waters, who drove the organic movement in the United States, is smitten. "He is, in private, really one of the most forward-thinking, radical humanitarians I have ever talked to," she said.
The left-leaning food elite of the United States has prince fever, and it has nothing to do with an underlying fascination with the monarchy, Diana and Helen Mirren notwithstanding. To Ms. Waters and her troops, no one else of the prince's stature has spoken out on the issues they hold dear: responsible stewardship of the land, preservation of rural life and the need for good food grown without chemicals or worker exploitation.

"Can you think of any American political figure who has spoken eloquently or bravely about these issues?" asked Eric Schlosser, the author of "Fast Food Nation," who has become a friend of the prince.
Ms. Waters agreed. "Al Gore doesn't even talk about food," she said.
(That's not to say Mr. Gore doesn't have prince fever, too. He has visited Highgrove to discuss the environment with the prince, and the two happily trade shout-outs to each other in speeches.)
Eleanor Bertino, Ms. Waters's former college roommate at Berkeley in the 1960s and a food and restaurant publicist, is so impressed that she recently took on the job of promoting Duchy Originals, the prince's line of organic food and beauty products, as it makes a new push this spring into the United States.
Like the prince, Nell Newman, the actor Paul Newman's daughter, runs an organic food company whose profits go to charity. She said she is aching to visit his farm. The prince was even a hit among the farmers in Marin County, the hub of the nation's organic movement, when he visited two years ago.
"The prince was treated like a hero when he showed up in Marin," Mr. Schlosser said. "Think about how unlikely that is."
Prince Charles sets forth a practical example of his agenda in the gardens of Highgrove and the neighboring fields of Duchy Home Farm, about 1,100 acres of farmland in Gloucestershire, about a two-hour drive west of London.
When Prince Charles bought the Highgrove house and farm property in the early 1980s, he wrote, he was appalled by the loss of his country's wildflower meadows, hedgerows and chalk grasslands to "agri-industry." So he began to turn the farm and gardens into organic showplaces that might help inspire others to preserve England's rural landscape.
"I can only say that for some reason I felt in my bones that if you abuse nature unnecessarily and fail to maintain a balance, then she will probably abuse you in return," he wrote in his new book, "The Elements of Organic Gardening," written with Stephanie Donaldson (Weidenfeld & Nicolson).
The prince watches over every detail in the 15-acre garden at Highgrove. It thrives on compost and natural fertilizers brewed from comfrey or seaweed and uses only rain, natural groundwater or wastewater purified through a system of reed beds.
At the entrance to Home Farm, a short drive from his house, rustic signs proclaim the land free of genetically modified organisms. Rare breeds of British cattle eat red clover. Heirloom ginger Tamworth pigs roll in royal mud. The prince (actually, the prince's people) grow vegetables from heirloom seeds, and raise organic oats that are baked into the thin, crisp crackers that are the flagship of the Duchy Originals line.
"Given another life, I think he'd have been a farmer," said David Wilson, the manager of Home Farm.

When all of this started in the 1980s, the British press ground His Royal Highness down to a nub, branding him the prince who talked to plants. (Granted, he did say things like, "To get the best results, you must talk to your vegetables.")
He's still a little sensitive about it. "One of the great difficulties" of converting to organic farming, he wrote in his book, "turned out to be convincing others that you had not taken complete leave of your senses."
The fact that he rode out that early criticism has made him a visionary to some in the United States. "It took some real courage and backbone to keep championing the organic movement in the face of all that abuse," Mr. Schlosser said.
It was Mr. Schlosser who played matchmaker between the American food elite and the prince. The prince is the royal patron of the Soil Association, the English organic certification and advocacy group that rose up with the advent of the organic movement in the 1940s.
Mr. Schlosser had met Patrick Holden, a carrot farmer who is the director of the group and is considered a good friend of the prince. One thing led to another, and soon Mr. Schlosser was having tea with the prince and acting as Soil Association ambassador in the United States. Ms. Waters, meanwhile, was hearing more and more about the prince's devotion to the issues she holds dear. In 2004, she was casting about for a marquee speaker to address the 5,000 vegetable farmers, cheesemakers and goat ranchers from around the world who would gather that year in Turin for the Slow Food conference called Terra Madre. Naturally, she wanted the prince.
"I just immediately try to figure out what the biggest doors are we can open, and that seemed like a door to me," she said.
The Slow Food rank and file thought she was out of her mind. What would the future king of England have to say to an Ethiopian wheat grower?
Plenty, it turned out. The prince had them from the moment he said: "We no more want to live in anonymous concrete blocks that are just like anywhere else in the world than we want to eat anonymous junk food that can be bought anywhere."
By the end, if the honey gatherers and yak cheese makers had been carrying disposable lighters, they would have been lit and aloft.
A year later came the trip to Marin County, a stop at Ms. Waters's Edible Schoolyard at a middle school in Berkeley to eat goat cheese pizza baked by the students, and a stroll through the Ferry Plaza farmer's market in San Francisco, where he worked the stalls like President Bill Clinton on the stump.
The prince has recently embarked on a project to bring more of his organic products to the United States. His Duchy Originals products, made from classic ingredients like damson plums as well as crops from his own farm to help preserve British ways of farming and eating, first appeared in this country in the early 1990s.
In Britain, some 250 Duchy products are available, including bacon; hand-crimped Yorkshire pies; and humbugs, old-fashioned boiled sugar mint candies made by a family in Yorkshire. The products are almost uniformly delicious, and their prices reflect the quality of their ingredients. Last year, Duchy Originals had almost $80 million in sales; profits, about $2.4 million, went to the prince's charities.
"It's odd that the prince has such a big brand because the royal family historically never muddied themselves with such commercial things," said Simon Darling, a marketing executive in London. "However, it is an act of brilliance because the execution of the proposition has been flawless. Given Prince Charles can be accused of being a privileged rich man, it's surprising that he's managed to produce something so good."
The company is frequently scrutinized by the British press. For example, its Scottish smoked salmon is imported from wild stocks in Alaska, which, aside from annoying Scottish fishermen, leaves the prince open to complaints about the size of his carbon footprint.
Americans who want to sample the products can find a small selection of biscuits, jams, teas, body lotions and Highgrove-brand gardening tools online at duchyusa.com or at stores like Zabar's and Whole Foods. The savory oaten biscuit, which in the United States would be called a cracker, is a good place to start. Often, these staples of the British cheese plate can be stale and leaden. The Duchy Originals versions have a light crunch and just a hint of sweetness.

But the prince does not need biscuits and lemon curd to work his way into American hearts. Just being a prince who talks about the value of sustainable farming is enough, as Dan Barber of the Blue Hill restaurants in Manhattan and Pocantico Hills, N.Y., can tell you.
Mr. Barber was one of five chefs selected to cook for Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla, when they came to New York in January to receive the Global Environmental Citizen Award from the Harvard Medical School's Center for Health and the Global Environment. Mr. Gore and the actress Meryl Streep were presenters.
Mr. Barber is usually a composed, focused guy. But cooking for the prince made him weak in the knees. He created tiny, perfect vegetarian hamburgers from his best Stone Barns beets and goat cheese, and personally arranged almost every pickled baby turnip that was passed to the crowd at the Harvard Club in Manhattan. When it came his turn to explain his offerings to the prince, Mr. Barber was so nervous he couldn't even get the honorific right.
"Your sirness," he began, before launching into a stammering story about organic food being something like leather to a shoemaker, which he now regrets.
"I honestly don't know what happened," he said.
It was prince fever.