Opportunity and optimism ? The Arab Youth Climate Movement should give us hope…

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate...
United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Young people in the Middle East and North Africa have inspired many of us during the past two years, and they will do so again on Saturday (today!). The Guardian reports

If the winds of change sweeping the Arab region collided with the slow-moving front of climate negotiations, anything is possible

They are taking to the streets in more than a dozen countries, only this time it won’t be to topple a dictator – it will be to demand action on climate change.


This weekend we will see the birth of the Arab Youth Climate Movement. Considering the enormous challenges they face on a day-to-day basis, its very existence sends a powerful message to leaders not only in the region, but worldwide: tackling climate change is a priority.


With Qatar about to become the first Middle East country to host a major UN climate conference, the issue of climate change will be on the region’s political agenda unlike any time before, and Arab youth are making their voices heard. In more than a dozen countries across the region they have organized a variety of public events; ranging from street art fairs in Beirut to marches in Gaza, a rally in Cairo and a conference in Tripoli.


These young activists are calling on their governments to pledge emission cuts, and are pressing the government of Qatar, as the host country, to secure a strong outcome from the international talks. Doing so would begin to change the region’s current reputation for obstruction when it comes to dealing with climate change.


The new movement was initiated with support from the Arab organisationIndyACT350.org, and the global TckTckTck campaign which organised a regional workshop in Egypt this year. Five hundred people applied to take part, and 20 inspiring Arab youth leaders were selected as national coordinators to begin the difficult task of getting organised.


Simply attending that first workshop served as a reminder of the many challenges facing activists in the region. A Tunisian applicant was hospitalised after getting caught up in clashes in her city, a Palestinian applicant could not get his visa due to strict security measures, and a Syrian applicant was unable to attend because of fighting in his home city.


When the Doha talks begin on 26 November, governments will be under pressure to dramatically scale up their ambition both in terms of emissions reductions as well as delivering on their promised financial support to developing countries.


It’s worth remembering that the pledges currently on the table only add up to about half of what we need to stave off catastrophic climate change. Don’t get me wrong – there are hopeful signs that the negotiations are beginning to yield positive results. But progress in the talks is being outpaced by the increasingly dramatic impacts from our changing climate. This year alone saw record breaking droughts, crop shortages, extreme flooding, heatwaves, and the second “once-in-a-lifetime” storm to hit New York City and the surrounding region in the past 14 months.


It is easy to despair, but the activism of young people – and these young people in particular – gives me hope. Just think what could happen if the winds of change sweeping the Arab region were to collide with the slow-moving front which is the international climate negotiations.


And what if President Obama, now freed from having to campaign for re-election were to make addressing climate change a legacy issue for his second term? Could a new president of China mean a different approach from that country?


Maybe I’m an eternal optimist, but I’m beginning to think anything is possible.

From the United States : Storm’s Lessons for Florida

BBC London News

Long-Term Sea Level Rise Could Cost Washington...
Long-Term Sea Level Rise Could Cost Washington, D.C. Billions (Photo credit: University of Maryland Press Releases)

From International Herald Tribune reports on the devastation from last week’s superstorm #sandy that is resonating in Florida, which escaped the brunt but faces parallel risks from the combined effects of sea-level rise and intense storms. InsideClimate News – see below

A different kind of water world: flooding in the Coney Island aquarium. – to be covered in a future blog

The government of Laos says it has given the go-ahead for construction of a massive dam on the lower Mekong River that is vigorously opposed by neighboring countries and environmentalists. BBC – covered in next blog 

There appears to be little hope of eradicating a fungal disease that is decimating England and Scotland’s ash trees. BBC News – covered in the next blog


Superstorm Sandy Delivers Wake-Up Call for Low-Lying Florida

Dozens of cities in Florida would be flooded with a 3- to 7-foot rise in sea level—substantially lower than Hurricane Sandy’s 9-foot storm surge in NYC.

Nov 5, 2012
Map of Tampa, Fla. if sea levels rose by 5 feet.Map of Tampa, Fla. under a 5-foot sea level rise (flooded areas in blue). © 2007 2030, Inc. and © 2007 Google. Image courtesy of Architecture 2030, http://www.architecture2030.org

For much of the Northeast, Hurricane Sandy was a harsh wake-up call to the extreme weather destruction that can be amplified by climate change. But Sandy’s warning is also resonating in states further south along the Atlantic, which escaped the brunt of the storm but face equal, if not greater, risks from the combined effects of sea level rise and intense storms.

Florida is particularly vulnerable. A 2007 climate change study that mapped how a 9.8-foot sea level rise would affect New York City—maps eerily similar to the flooding from Sandy’s 9-foot storm surge—also offered a look at how Florida would be affected. If anything, the images are even more chilling.

The scenarios for Florida are based on a sea level rise of roughly 3 to 7 feet. The coastal fringe of downtown Miami, where many of the city’s luxury hotels are located, is covered in blue—the map’s symbol for inundated land. Nearly all of Key West would be underwater, except for a few pockets of high ground including the area near Key West Cemetery. Fort Lauderdale would be flooded along most of its coast, as would downtown Tampa.

The study was published by Architecture 2030, a nonprofit that seeks to reduce the carbon footprint of the building sector. Founder Edward Mazria said the key difference between storm surge and sea level rise is that the former is temporary while the latter is permanent.

After a severe storm, cities like New York can rebuild, Mazria said, because the surge of water will drain off and leave the land dry again. But sea level rise is permanent and will force people to “either abandon the area or, if it’s extremely valuable territory, then you [can] expend up to tens of billions of dollars” to protect it with sea walls and other measures.

Some communities could also adapt by constructing buildings on stilts, he said, or by lifting smaller structures off their foundations and moving them to higher ground.

According to recent projections by the U.S. Geological Survey, the world’s ocean levels will rise about 2 to 6 feet by 2100. That would be devastating for Florida, where the average elevation of the entire state is only a few feet above sea level. In July, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)ranked Miami as the city in the world with the most to lose from sea level rise.

Although climate change has become divisive in the national political debate, it’s much less controversial in southern Florida, where it already affects everyday life, said climate expert Leonard Berry.

Berry is a professor at Florida Atlantic University in Jupiter, about 60 miles north of Fort Lauderdale. On October 11, two weeks before Hurricane Sandy made landfall, he was among the 121 Florida scientists and public officials who signed a letter urging President Obama and Mitt Romney to discuss climate change at the Boca Raton debate.

“Florida is already feeling the effects of sea level rise and, increasingly, it jeopardizes the health, safety, and economic well-being of our communities,” they wrote.

According to a recent analysis of the U.S. coastal population by Climate Central, a nonprofit dedicated to climate change research and reporting, nearly 5 million people live less than four feet above sea level. About half of them are in Florida.

Berry said southeast Florida is particularly vulnerable due to its low elevation, susceptibility to powerful storms and a porous geology that allows saltwater to seep in underground.


US Elections : A vote for a president to lead on climate change

Official photographic portrait of US President...
Official photographic portrait of US President Barack Obama (born 4 August 1961; assumed office 20 January 2009) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


The devastation that hurricane Sandy brought to New York city brought the stakes of the presidential election into sharp relief. Michael Bloomberg, New York mayor gives his views

Our climate is changing. And while the increase in extreme weather we have experienced in New York City and around the world may or may not be the result of it, the risk that it might be – given this week’s devastation – should compel all elected leaders to take immediate action.

Here in New York, our comprehensive sustainability plan – PlaNYC – has helped allow us to cut our carbon footprint by 16 percent in just five years, which is the equivalent of eliminating the carbon footprint of a city twice the size of Seattle. Through the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group – a partnership among many of the world’s largest cities – local governments are taking action where national governments are not.

Leadership needed

But we can’t do it alone. We need leadership from the White House – and over the past four years, President Barack Obama has taken major steps to reduce our carbon consumption, including setting higher fuel-efficiency standards for cars and trucks. His administration also has adopted tighter controls on mercury emissions, which will help to close the dirtiest coal power plants (an effort I have supported through my philanthropy), which are estimated to kill 13,000 Americans a year.

Mitt Romney, too, has a history of tackling climate change. As governor of Massachusetts, he signed on to a regional cap- and-trade plan designed to reduce carbon emissions 10 percent below 1990 levels. “The benefits (of that plan) will be long-lasting and enormous – benefits to our health, our economy, our quality of life, our very landscape. These are actions we can and must take now, if we are to have ‘no regrets’ when we transfer our temporary stewardship of this Earth to the next generation,” he wrote at the time.

He couldn’t have been more right. But since then, he has reversed course, abandoning the very cap-and-trade program he once supported. This issue is too important. We need determined leadership at the national level to move the nation and the world forward.

I believe Mitt Romney is a good and decent man, and he would bring valuable business experience to the Oval Office. He understands that America was built on the promise of equal opportunity, not equal results. In the past he has also taken sensible positions on immigration, illegal guns, abortion rights and health care. But he has reversed course on all of them, and is even running against the health-care model he signed into law in Massachusetts.

If the 1994 or 2003 version of Mitt Romney were running for president, I may well have voted for him because, like so many other independents, I have found the past four years to be, in a word, disappointing.

In 2008, Obama ran as a pragmatic problem-solver and consensus-builder. But as president, he devoted little time and effort to developing and sustaining a coalition of centrists, which doomed hope for any real progress on illegal guns, immigration, tax reform, job creation and deficit reduction. And rather than uniting the country around a message of shared sacrifice, he engaged in partisan attacks and has embraced a divisive populist agenda focused more on redistributing income than creating it.

Important victories

Nevertheless, the president has achieved some important victories on issues that will help define our future. His Race to the Top education program – much of which was opposed by the teachers’ unions, a traditional Democratic Party constituency – has helped drive badly needed reform across the country, giving local districts leverage to strengthen accountability in the classroom and expand charter schools. His health-care law — for all its flaws — will provide insurance coverage to people who need it most and save lives.

When I step into the voting booth, I think about the world I want to leave my two daughters, and the values that are required to guide us there. The two parties’ nominees for president offer different visions of where they want to lead America.

One believes a woman’s right to choose should be protected for future generations; one does not. That difference, given the likelihood of Supreme Court vacancies, weighs heavily on my decision.

One recognizes marriage equality as consistent with America’s march of freedom; one does not. I want our president to be on the right side of history.

One sees climate change as an urgent problem that threatens our planet; one does not. I want our president to place scientific evidence and risk management above electoral politics.

Of course, neither candidate has specified what hard decisions he will make to get our economy back on track while also balancing the budget. But in the end, what matters most isn’t the shape of any particular proposal; it’s the work that must be done to bring members of Congress together to achieve bipartisan solutions.

Presidents Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan both found success while their parties were out of power in Congress – and President Obama can, too. If he listens to people on both sides of the aisle, and builds the trust of moderates, he can fulfill the hope he inspired four years ago and lead our country toward a better future for my children and yours. And that’s why I will be voting for him.

• Michael R Bloomberg is mayor of New York and founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP.

• This article first appeared on Bloomberg View 2012. It is reproduced here with permission

Was Hurricane Sandy supersized by climate change?

Development of a hurricane by SLOSH model run
Development of a hurricane by SLOSH model run (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Storm surge of a tropical cyclone (hurricane).
Storm surge of a tropical cyclone (hurricane). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Is there a connection between hurricanes and climate change, wherein one pushed the other? I think – definitely ‘yes’  The Guardian reports.

As this is written, Hurricane Sandy’s minimum central pressure has dropped to a stunning 940 millibars, meaning that air is rising in this storm in a way similar to a Category 4 hurricane. Sandy is strengthening as it approaches an East Coast landfall tonight—even as the storm also undergoes a much-discussed “extratropical” transition from a hurricane into a winter cyclone.

In the next 48 hours, we are going to find out the difference between just bad and the worst-case scenario. One thing, though, seems likely: This will be perceived as a climate-change-related event by much of the public. Weird, extreme weather makes people worry, makes them think the world is changing.

They aren’t wrong about that.

But how, precisely, can we say that Hurricane Sandy, and the extensive damage it will soon cause, are related to climate change? You have to be careful, given that a Category 1 hurricane in October is not itself unusual—and what’s really unique about Sandy is its collision with another, extratropical or winter storm system. Still, there is much that can be said here, even though scientists are careful to emphasize the remaining uncertainties:

1. Precipitation: Scientists agree that global warming has added more moisture to the atmosphere, such that for any storm event, including Sandy, there will be more precipitation as a consequence. And excess rainfall is one of the top three sources of hurricane damage (the others being wind and storm surge). Explains meteorologist Greg Holland of the National Center for Atmospheric Research: “I have no equivocation in saying that all heavy rainfall events, including this one, have an element of climate change in them, and the level of that contribution will increase in the future.”

2. Storm surge: Something similar can be said for Sandy’s storm surge, which will cause damage across a large area of the northeastern US coast and threatens to flood the New York City subway system. There’s no doubt that global warming has raised the sea level, meaning that every hurricane—including Sandy—surfs atop a higher ocean and can penetrate further inland. Indeed, this is true virtually by definition.

3. Ocean temperatures: As meteorologist Angela Fritz observes, sea surface temperatures off the Mid-Atlantic coast were near a record high in September, and 2.3 degrees Fahrenheit above the long term average. In fact, averaged across the globe, ocean temperatures in September were the second highest on record, surpassed only by 2003—and with much of the excess heat occurring in the Atlantic region.

Warm oceans are jet fuel for hurricanes, so it’s fair to say that these warmer temperatures are revving Sandy’s engine. And while many factors shape sea surface temperatures in a given place, the overall trend—directly linked to climate change—is toward hotter oceans. Thus, while Sandy’s particular path could be considered a matter of chance, the warm temperatures beneath it allows the storm to be stronger, for longer, than it might otherwise have been. And global warming is creating a world where, on average, those warm temperatures will be there more often than they were in the past.

4. Massive size: The most striking and destructive aspect of Sandy is its breadth—tropical-storm-force winds reached a radius of 520 nautical miles at one point yesterday.* Apparently only one storm in the Atlantic region has had a larger wind field, and of course, bigger storms drive bigger storm surges and damage larger areas when they make landfall. So is global warming involved in making storms bigger, overall? According to MIT hurricane expert Kerry Emanuel, it might be—but probably only a little. “For ordinary hurricanes, we actually expect a little increase in the size, based upon recent work we’ve done,” Emanuel explains. “Not spectacular, but a little increase in size.”

5. Hybrid storms and climate change: Sandy, continues Emanuel, is a “hybrid storm”—in other words, it has characteristics of tropical cyclones (hurricanes) that get their energy from the warm ocean surface, but also of winter cyclones that get their energy from temperature contrasts in the atmosphere. Such hybrids do occur around the world with some regularity, but how is global warming changing them? That’s less clear, Emanuel remarks. Unlike for hurricanes, “nobody has bothered to compile a comprehensive climatology of hybrid storms,” he says. “So there’s nowhere to go to see the characteristics of these storms changing.”

Hurricane Sandy cannot be attributed to climate change, but warming does mean there is more moisture in the atmosphere

Caveats notwithstanding, then, when people worry about climate change in relation to Sandy—and wonder why their presidential candidates aren’t bringing the matter up—it’s hard to say they’re misguided in doing so. In a campaign season that has studiously avoided the “C” word, Sandy reminds us that eventually, the weather always forces the issue.

• This article first appeared on Climate Desk, one of the Guardian’s partners

World Oceans Day 2012

World Oceans Day is being celebrated by millions of people all over the globe. Be a part of the movement to protect our oceans!
Visit http://oneworldoneocean.org and http://worldoceansday.org to see more amazing videos about the ocean and learn what you can do to help protect it.

19world-oceans-day-cleanup-recce_pasir_ris_6-8_27may2012[nks] (Photo credit: habitatnews)