Last pre-Olympic snapshot

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Opening ceremonies tomorrow, August 8. This is the view as of 10am, August 7 in the Guomao area of Beijing.

Says James Fallows:

I suspect that a lot of this actually is “mist,” very high humidity, etc.

That is, it can’t be that much more polluted than it was 36 hours ago, when things looked much better, as shown below.

Mainly completing the chronicle, for the record.

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[From The Atlantic]

Antarctic glacier melt speeds up

larson.jpgA view of the remaining part of the Larsen B ice shelf that extends into the northwest part of the Weddell Sea is seen in this handout photo taken on March 4, 2008.

A glacier used as a benchmark to measure global warming’s impact on the Antarctic Peninsula melted more than usual in the past year, according to an Argentine glacier researcher.

For more than 20 years, Pedro Skvarca has studied the Devil’s Bay glacier on Vega Island off the Antarctic Peninsula, a part of Antarctica that is warming five times faster than the average in the rest of the world.

The whole of Antarctica holds enough ice and snow to raise world sea levels by 187 feet if it all melted over thousands of years, according to UN data.

Skvarca said the Devil’s Bay glacier has thinned by 3.3 feet (1 metre) per year on average since his research began. But its deterioration has been unusually marked in the past year.

Australia experiences hottest ever January

Australia experienced its hottest January on record this year, with the dry continent heating up as part of the global warming process, according to the bureau of meteorology.

Temperatures rose by between 1.0 and 2.0 degrees in most parts of the country, with the national average hitting 29.2°C (84°F) for the summer month, said the bureau’s head of climate analysis, David Jones.

‘It’s a remarkable number certainly. Averaging, as we did across the whole country 1.3 degrees above average is the highest temperature we’ve seen in our history of records for Australia in January,’ he said.

Whale shark found a long way from home

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Paul Sorensen photographed the five-metre long whale shark as it swam close to his group

A young whale shark has been found off the Queensland coast, as far as 1,000 kilometres off course of its annual migration.

The discovery has puzzled scientists, who have not ruled out a link to climate change.

The lonesome whale shark comes from the world’s biggest fish species, characterised by a wide flat mouth and covered in white stripes and spotted skin.

It is a highly migratory species, but to be seen off Stradbroke Island in Queensland’s south is extraordinary.”

Is this the end of cheap food?

The Guardian reports that food prices are rising dramatically, which is coming as a surprise to “UK shoppers aged under 50 [who] have so far never experienced food-price inflation”.

The article cites four reasons for the price increase:

1. Oil prices: “$100 a barrel means food that is four-times as expensive to plant, irrigate, harvest and transport as it was six years ago. Some commodities brokers are now betting on oil going to $200 a barrel within a decade.”

2. Climate: “drought, hurricanes and floods around the world last year made for terrible harvests – from Australia to the Caribbean and the United Kingdom.”

3. Market speculation and use of crops for fuel: “Since George Bush announced a rush to corn-based ethanol it’s done well for American corn farmers – 20 per cent of whose harvest, subsidised by the government, went into fuel tanks rather than flour mills this year.”

4. Economic boom in China and India: “Around the world, and through history, people have eaten more meat as they have become richer. This is called the nutrition transition and it’s now happening, very quickly, in the two most populous nations on the planet.”

Jacques Diouf, head of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation, spoke recently of a ‘very serious crisis’ brought about by the rise in food prices and the rise in the oil price. Various global economic bodies are forecasting rises of between 10 per cent and 50 per cent over the next decade.

Cheney accused of blocking Californian bid to cut car fumes

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The US vice-president, Dick Cheney, was behind a controversial decision to block California’s attempt to impose tough emission limits on car manufacturers, according to insiders at the government Environmental Protection Agency.

Staff at the agency, which announced last week that California’s proposed limits were redundant, said the agency’s chief went against their expert advice after car executives met Cheney, and a Chrysler executive delivered a letter to the EPA saying why the state should not be allowed to regulate greenhouse gases.

EPA staff members told the Los Angeles Times that the agency’s head, the Bush appointee Stephen Johnson, ignored their conclusions and shut himself off from consultation in the month before the announcement.

He then informed them of his decision and instructed them to provide the legal rationale for it, they said.

‘California met every criteria … on the merits,’ an anonymous member of the EPA staff told the Times. ‘The same criteria we have used for the last 40 years … We told him that. All the briefings we have given him laid out the facts.’

In an editorial, the New York Times described the decision as, ‘an indefensible act of executive arrogance that can only be explained as the product of ideological blindness and as a political payoff to the automobile industry‘.”

(Via Guardian Unlimited)

Wow! US agrees to climate change compromise

The United States has finally dropped opposition to a compromise plan to launch talks on a new UN climate treaty after pleas from other nations.

It was a real last-minute deal. There might now be some hope for our children’s future …

‘We will go forward and join consensus,’ Paula Dobriansky, heading the US delegation, told the 190-nation meeting to cheers from many in the audience, minutes after triggering boos by saying Washington was opposed.

Continue reading “Wow! US agrees to climate change compromise”