Asia/Pacific

Mon, 2012-07-16 06:58Chris Mooney
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After All That, The Himalayan Glaciers are Indeed Shrinking

Remember the Himalayan glaciers?

They were at the root of the most deserved black-eye to the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change during the intensely politicized period of 2009-2010. In so-called “GlacierGate,” it was revealed that the IPCC had published, in one of its reports, a truly bogus assertion that the Himalayan glaciers would be gone by the year 2035. As I reported at the time:

Not only is this business about 2035 an exceedingly dubious assertion, but part of the error seems traceable to a simple typo—an original source made predictions for the year 2350, not 2035.  When doubts were raised about the passage, however, the IPCC failed to respond either quickly or well. IPCC chair Rajendra Pachauri even reportedly referred to a November Indian government report that questioned the IPCC’s findings about the glaciers’ vulnerability as “voodoo science.” Actually, the voodoo was all the IPCC’s, but the U.N. body only acknowledged its error several months after questions were first raised in the Indian report. “In drafting the paragraph in question, the clear and well-established standards of evidence, required by the IPCC procedures, were not applied properly,” the IPCC coughed out on January 20.

Climate skeptics and deniers of course seized on “GlacierGate” to try to discredit the IPCC. In reality, while the group did indeed make an error, a little perspective is required–this is one mistake in a vast 938 page report! What would be truly amazing would be for the IPCC not to make any mistakes when dealing with such a vast volume of scientific material.

And anyways, while the IPCC did itself no credit with how it handled “GlacierGate,” the fact remains that the error was acknowledged, period. The story is over.

In fact—and most important—most Himalayan glaciers are indeed retreating in a manner consistent with climate change (although certainly not at a rate suggesting they’ll be gone by 2035).

Mon, 2011-03-14 05:48Chris Mooney
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Are Liberals Science Deniers? Now’s A Good Time to Find Out

It seems inevitable. Although we don’t know yet just how bad the situation is at Japan’s damaged nuclear plants in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami, the events across the Pacific are already triggering a new and differently tinged debate over nuclear power back here at home.

Nuclear defenders are calling for keeping things in perspective—fossil fuels, they point out, have many more costs and risks associated with them than nuclear power; and newer generation reactor designs are far safer than those built in Japan many decades ago (a number of US plants from the same era have the same or similar designs).

Yet figures as influential as Senator Joseph Lieberman are already saying we should “put the brakes” on developing new nuclear plants in the U.S.—despite plans for a so-called “Nuclear Renaissance” that have won strong support from President Obama.

As someone who specializes in reporting on the politics of science, I find all of this fascinating—for the following reason.

Tue, 2011-03-08 09:59TJ Scolnick
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Liquefied Natural Gas Exports From Shale Drilling in British Columbia, Nearly A Reality

Last week, the proposed Kitimat liquefied natural gas (LNG) development project on British Columbia’s west coast, run by KM LNG Operating General Partnership, awarded the global engineering and construction firm KBR, a former Halliburton subsidiary, an engineering and design contract for an LNG export facility at Bish Cove, some 15 km’s southeast of Kitimat on land owned by the Haisla First Nation.

Although KM LNG is waiting for final approval from Canada’s National Energy Board (NEB) for a 20-year export license to transport of up to 13,300,000 103m3/year or 468 billion cubic feet/year of LNG, KM LNG is now a step closer to becoming Canada’s first exporter of liquid natural gas.

The majority of the gas will be sourced from shale deposits located in the northeast of the province, where hydraulic fracturing (or fracking) is widely used. From Bish, the LNG will transit on large tankers destined for markets in Asia beginning in 2015.

Fri, 2010-03-12 14:03Mitchell Anderson
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The Mythical Tuvalu Pineapple

First there were sunspots. Then cosmic rays. Now comes the latest “proof” being trotted out by the climate denial crowd… pineapples.

Swedish Scientist Nils-Axel Morner is claiming that sea levels in the island nation of Tuvalu are not rising there, or anywhere else. Why?

According to memo submitted by Morner to the Britsh House of Lords, “the truth seems to be that a Japanese pineapple industry had subtracted too much freshwater by that forcing saltwater to invade the subsurface.”

To recap, sea is not rising- the land in Tuvalu is instead sinking due to inept irrigation by Japanese pineapple companies and local farmers who want to cover up their blunder. This is apparently proof that the largest peer-reviewed exercise in scientific history is in the measured words of Morner, the “greatest lie ever told”.

There’s one small problem with this line of thought. There have never been pineapple plantations on Tuvalu. This tasty tropical fruit cannot wipe away decades of peer-reviewed scientific research since it was never grown on the tiny South Pacific islands.

Mon, 2009-04-13 13:05Jeanne Roberts
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Congress and Renewables, Going Whichever Way the Wind Blows

A recent Forbes’ article on Vestas Wind’s CEO, Ditlev Engel, and his determination to make wind energy succeed in America, brings to mind the real problem behind renewable energy in the U.S; Congress tends to swing whichever way the wind blows (pun intended).

Vestas came to the U.S. in the wake of the OPEC oil crisis/embargo in 1973. Then, when oil prices dropped in the 1980s, Vestas – like many other renewable energy startups – went bust because the government let renewable energy tax incentives lapse for lack of interest. This effectively dried up venture capital.

Tue, 2009-04-07 13:22Mitchell Anderson
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More Australian Weather Records Tumble

The Big Dry Down Under just got a whole lot drier. The first three months of 2009 in the already parched Murray Darling basin had the least amount of rainfall since Australian weather records began 117 years ago.

This massive drainage supports $9 billion in agriculture but has been hammered by what some are calling the worst drought in 1000 years. Authorities in Australia make no bones about the cause of this freaky weather.

“We’ve had big droughts before and big floods before, but what we didn’t have was climate change,” said Rob Freeman, the chief executive of the Murray-Darling Basin Authority.

The Murray Darling is home to 2 million people who may not even have enough water to survive in the future. “I’d be loath to say that critical human needs will always be secure”, warned Freeman.

The recent rainfall record was not the only smashed. Water inputs for three-year period ending March 2009 were less than half of the previous record from the great drought of 1943-1946.

The drainage is so dry that Lake Alexandrina at the mouth of the Murray River is now two feet below sea level. The parched lakebed high in natural sulfides is now exposed to air and oxidizing into sulfuric acid – devastating local ecosystems.

Tue, 2009-03-24 00:29Jeremy Jacquot
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The Tipping Points

As the world dithers, climate scientists are peering into their crystal balls to predict when the next shoe will drop. In a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a team of international researchers led by Elmar Kriegler of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research surveyed 43 leading scientists to estimate the likelihood of a tipping point occurring in the near future.

The four tipping points the researchers studied include the restructuring of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (also known as the ocean conveyor belt or thermohaline circulation), the complete melting of the Greenland ice sheet, the disintegration of the West Antarctic ice sheet, and the increased frequency of the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) phenomenon.

Based on the scientists’ feedback, they concluded that there is a one in six chance that at least one tipping point will be triggered under conditions of medium warming (2 – 4ºC) and a more than one in two chance (56%) under conditions of high warming (4 – 8ºC) by 2200.

Sun, 2009-01-18 22:15Kevin Grandia
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The dramatic melting of glaciers on Mount Everest

Courtesy of SolveClimate.com comes a dramatic video showing the rapid melting of glaciers on Mount Everest.

Watch it:

Mon, 2008-11-10 16:21Ross Gelbspan
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Island Nation Gives the Housing Bubble a Whole New Meaning

The Maldives will begin to divert a portion of the country's billion-dollar annual tourist revenue into buying a new homeland - as an insurance policy against climate change that threatens to turn the 300,000 islanders into environmental refugees.
Mon, 2008-06-23 10:21Bill Miller
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New Honda is powered by hydrogen, not fossil fuels

Honda Motor of Japan has launched the world’s first hydrogen-powered fuel-cell vehicle intended for mass production.

Although it will make just 200 of its FCX Clarity vehicles over the next three years, Honda plans eventually to increase production, especially as hydrogen filling stations become more common.

And even the small initial run represents progress toward a clean-burning technology many have rejected as too exotic and too expensive to gain wide acceptance.

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