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water pressure in the western usa, and shrinking glaciers is now incorporated into shifting global weather patterns - briefing document

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yet another day in the filthy fossil fuel industry - and an ouch from saudi as pips begin to squeak

“About 25,000 barrels of oil spilled into the Norwegian sector of the North Sea at the Statfjord oilfield on Wednesday, field operator StatoilHydro and oil officials said.”

“A meteorologist at the Storm forecasting centre said the spill may be drifting east to southeast. That could put it on a collision course with the southwest coast of Norway.

“This could be the second largest spill in Norwegian oil history," the Petroleum Safety Authority's (PSA) spokeswoman, Inger Anda, said. The biggest was a 75,000-barrel spill from the Bravo blowout in 1977.” [Quoted from planetark.org]

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“Top oil exporter Saudi Arabia said on Wednesday the world does not need to shift away from fossil fuels to combat global warming, suggesting pilot technology and greater efficiency as better options.” [Quoted from planetark.org]

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fossil fuel disasters

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cartogram of carbon emission per capita

A method of visualising data on a global scale.

Starting from a normal Cartesian projection map of the world, this animation offers two modified projections - carbon emissions per person and carbon emissions by country.

Below is the result of the animation that makes the projection for emissions per person. Note how the smallest Middle East oil-rich countries are producing proportionally much greater quantities of carbon than larger Middle East countries, while all Gulf countries are emitting proportionally more carbon per person than countries such as the USA, Russia or India.

Carbon emissions by person - modified world map. Credit: bbc.co.uk

And here is a paper on how these maps are formed - not for the faint-hearted! [12-page .pdf]

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global warming

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damn the red sea, and rising oceans

From the optimists:

“Geochemical engineer Schuiling suggests that a dam Bab-al-Mandab could be used to stem the inflow of seawater into the highly evaporative Red Sea with the potential of generating 50 gigawatts of power. By comparison, the Palo Verde nuclear power plant, the largest nuclear station in the US has an output of just 3.2 gigawatts.

“Such a project will dramatically affect the region's economy, political situation and ecology, and their effects may be felt well beyond the physical and political limits of the project," says Schuiling.

“Schuiling and his colleagues point out that the cost and timescales involved in creating such a hydroelectric facility are way beyond normal economical considerations. It is inevitable that such a macro-engineering project will cause massive devastation of existing ecologies. However, it will also provide enormous reductions in greenhouse gas emissions as well as offering a viable, sustainable alternative to fossil fuels for future generations. The ethical and environmental dilemmas are on an international scale, while the impact on ecology, tourism, fisheries, transport and other areas could have effects globally." [Quoted from energy-daily.com]

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“The authors also note that because ocean water will no longer flow into the Red Sea, world sea levels would rise by about 12 cm (4.7 inches) over 50 years, reaching a maximum of 30 cm (11.8 inches) after 310 years. But if serious measures were taken to curtail greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, the dam would actually help to slow sea level rise by also reducing emissions, the authors said.” [Quoted from livescience.com]

And what will be the cost of solar in 50 years?

The Red Sea. Credit: usgs.gov
The Red Sea. Credit: usgs.gov [with enhancements by abelard.org]

From the realists

“Energy production wouldn’t start for 50 years, after the closed off sea dropped by 100 metres, at which time the project would yield 18 or 19 GW of energy. To reach peak power production, engineers would have to wait 291 years, until the sea’s water level had dropped by 611 metres, before reintroducing ocean water.

“Allowing water back into the Red Sea for power generation would not be enough to refill the sea and ships would no longer be able to ply its waters as a shortcut between Europe and Asia.”

And bang goes the Suez Canal!

“The engineering is possible, but the political and ecological issues would be too difficult for people to swallow. [The authors] say themselves that the effects could be global and irreversible, politically I think this would be too difficult to achieve,” he says.

By the time such a giant project could be completed, Bosshard says that the efficiency of other renewables would increase to the point that “we wouldn’t have to consider such irresponsible schemes to fight global warming”. [Quoted from environment.newscientist.com]

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two things are driving up grain prices - biofuel and increasing meat consumption

Worth a good scan.

IMF food prices since 1960. Credit: economist.com
IMF food prices since 1960. Credit: economist.com

“If prices do not fall back, this will mark a break with the past. For decades, prices of cereals and other foods have been in decline, both in the shops and on world markets. The IMF's index of food prices in 2005 was slightly lower than it had been in 1974, which means that in real terms food prices fell during those 30 years by three-quarters (see chart 2). In the 1960s food (including meals out) accounted for one-quarter of the average American's spending; by 2005 the share was less than one-seventh.

“In other words, were food prices to stay more or less where they are today, it would be a radical departure from a past in which shoppers and farmers got used to a gentle decline in food prices year in, year out. It would put an end to the era of cheap food. And its effects would be felt everywhere, but especially in countries where food matters most: poor ones.”

“[...] if food prices rise by one-third, they will reduce living standards in rich countries by about 3%, but in very poor ones by over 20%.”

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land conservation and food production


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shutting down the atlantic conveyor

“Just over 8000 years ago, a huge glacial lake in Canada burst, and an estimated 100,000 cubic kilometres of fresh water rushed into the North Atlantic. Researchers now say they know for sure that this catastrophic event shut down the Gulf Stream and cooled parts of the northern hemisphere by several degrees for more than a hundred years.

“They say the findings show modelling studies are right to suggest that something similar could happen with equal abruptness as the planet warms under human influence. The film The Day After Tomorrow [2004], which portrays such a scenario, may have exaggerated - but not by much.”

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anthropogenic global warming, and ocean acidity

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family break-up raised as an environmental pressure

Of course, there are many other forms of shared household from student sharing, renting rooms and intentional communities

“Divorce leaves more than a trail of legal documents, stinging egos and uprooted kids. The split-ups wreak havoc on the environment.

“A global trend of soaring divorce rates has led to a surge in the number of households with fewer people. The result: We collectively devour more space and gobble up more energy and water, say the authors of a new study published online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“ "Not only the United States, but also other countries, including developing countries such as China and places with strict religious policies regarding divorce, are having more divorced households," said co-author Jianguo Liu of Michigan State University. "The consequent increases in consumption of water and energy and using more space are being seen everywhere." ” [Quoted from livescience.com]

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  • “In 12 countries studied between 1998 and 2002, there were 1.1 to 1.8 fewer people living in an average divorced household, compared to an average married household. Another way to say it: The average divorced household was 27 percent to 41 percent smaller than the average married household.
  • “ If divorced households in these 12 countries (which included the United States, Brazil, Greece, Mexico and South Africa) had combined to become the same size as a married household, there would have been 7.4 million fewer households overall.
  • “ In the 12 countries, divorced households occupied 33 percent to 95 percent more rooms per person than married households. Expanding divorced households to the size of married households would have resulted in 8.4 million to 37.5 million fewer rooms in less developed and westernized countries, respectively.
  • “In the United States alone in 2005, 38.5 million rooms would have been unnecessary (along with heating and lighting costs) if divorced households combined to become the same size as married households.
  • “Also in the United States in 2005, divorced households used 73 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity and 627 billion gallons of water that could have been saved if the divorced households had remained the same size as married households.” [Quoted from health.msn.com]

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“u.s. could cut 28% of greenhouse gases ... the country was brimming with “negative cost opportunities” - mckinsey”

“The United States could shave as much as 28 percent off the amount of greenhouse gases it emits at fairly modest cost and with only small technology innovations, according to a new report.”

“A large share of the reductions could come from steps that would more than pay for themselves in lower energy bills for industries and individual consumers, the report said, adding that people should take those steps out of good sense regardless of how worried they might be about climate change. But that is unlikely to happen under present circumstances, said the authors, who are energy experts at McKinsey & Company, the consulting firm.

“The report said the country was brimming with "negative cost opportunities" - potential changes in the lighting, heating and cooling of buildings, for example, that would reduce carbon dioxide emissions from the burning of fossil fuels even as they save money. "These types of savings have been around for 20 years," said Jack Stephenson, a director of the study. But he said they still face tremendous barriers.”

McKinsey Report on Reducing Greenhouse Gases [10-page .pdf]

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