Global Warming: Dim Bulbs, Bright Lights

By Joel Bleifuss
In These Times

People who want to save the Earth from the ravages of global warming face a perennial problem: How do they translate their concerns into actions that will create real change?

One barrier standing in the way of meaningful action is fuzzy-headed thinking on the part of those truly concerned about global warming. So worried are these activists, that their solution to the climate change problem is to marshal legions of Americans to change light bulbs, buy a Prius, or do any other number of helpful, but, in the big picture, not too significant feel-good actions.

For a full accounting of such a list go to the Alliance for Climate Protection Web site (www.allianceforclimateprotection.org), the nonprofit organization chaired by Al Gore. There you will learn: “What You Can Do,” or more precisely, how your “own actions can also help reduce this threat.” For example, the Web site advises:

Take Personal Action: You can reduce your personal contribution to global warming and set an example for others by using less gasoline, natural gas, oil, and electricity in your daily life. … Ask each member of your household to take responsibility for a different electricity-saving action. …

Encourage Community Action: … Encourage your local electric utilities to promote energy efficiency and the use of clean, renewable energy sources. …

Influence U.S. Action: The United States needs to play a leadership role in addressing global warming, and you can help make this happen. … Tell government officials that you want them to push industry to protect the future health of the environment by reducing carbon emissions.
These suggestions are all well and good. However, what is needed at this time of the global warming crisis is a movement that vigorously challenges the status quo, one that does more than advise citizens to “ask” members of their families to reduce energy use, or “encourage” electric utility corporations to be more efficient or, “tell” their elected representatives to “push” industry.

People, of course, should do what they can to reduce global warming. But they should never be made to think that their individual actions are the root cause of the problem or the ultimate solution.

Take the Civil Rights movement. Yes, personal reflection and individual change had its place, but can you imagine Martin Luther King telling people to “ask” their school boards to integrate the public schools, or “encourage” corporations not to discriminate, or “tell” their elected leaders to “push” legislatures in the South to do away with Jim Crow laws?

No. Political movements work when they mobilize a huge number of like-minded individuals and then use the ballot box to elect leaders who will change laws.

Somehow, this is something progressives have long failed to understand. In the early ’80s, the Freeze Movement galvanized the nation against the threat posed by the nuclear arms race, which at the time the Reagan administration was busy ratcheting up. However, because the movement was largely funded by 501(c)3 organizations that by law cannot get involved in electoral politics, the Freeze Movement concentrated on educating the public about the dangers of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) rather than mobilizing people to vote the Cold Warriors out of Congress.

Similarly today, the movement against global warming, funded as it is by 501(c)3s like Gore’s outfit, appears reticent to play political hard ball.

The corporations that profit from the industrial processes that create global warming have no such compunction. They will never willingly sacrifice short-term profits for the long-term common good. And they well understand that Congress could force them to alter their behavior through a combination of legislative directives and economic incentives.

For example, Congress could require that all new vehicles sold in the United States meet minimum fuel efficiency and carbon emission standards by a set date, legislate that all new constructions projects be “green,” or heavily invest in mass transit and reconstruct the national rail network. If lawmakers took such initiatives, the United States would drastically reduce the size of its carbon footprint.

Understandably, the industries that benefit from the status quo oppose such measures. To prevent change and the costs associated with it, corporations fund think tanks, hire PR firms and pay lobbyists. They also fund the campaigns of those Representatives and Senators whose support they need to ensure no law passes that would adversely affect their industries.

Agribusiness:
Contributions 2001-2006: $159,711,080
Percentage to Democrats: 28%
Percentage to Republicans: 71%
Lobbying 2001-2006: $448,002,616

Oil & Gas:
Contributions 2001-2006: $72,036,301
Percentage to Democrats: 19%
Percentage to Republicans: 81%
Lobbying 2001-2006: $282.566,199

Mining:
Contributions 2001-2006: $14,991,593
Percentage to Democrats: 17%
Percentage to Republicans: 83%
Lobbying 2001-2006: $56,032,688

Electric Utilities:
Contributions 2001-2006: $58,240,891
Percentage to Democrats: 32%
Percentage to Republicans: 68%
Lobbying 2001-2006: $458,981,375

Auto Manufacturers:
Contributions 2001-2006: $7,633,671
Percentage to Democrats: 33%
Percentage to Republicans: 67%
Lobbying 2001-2006: $177.081,511

Environmental Policy Organizations:
Contributions 2001-2006: $5,530,261
Percentage to Democrats: 87%
Percentage to Republicans: 13%
Lobbying 2001-2006: $43,105,323

As the statistics above indicate, and as legislative history bears out, the GOP is underwritten by the industries culpable for global warming. Yet Democrats, while the favored recipients of support from environmental policy organizations, are not beyond the influence of big money.

In the House, a squabble has over about who will set the Democrats’ climate change agenda. In January, Speaker Pelosi established the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming and named Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), an environmentalist, as chair.

Whoops! This select committee did not sit too well with Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), who chairs the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. Dingell loves the auto industry, earning the moniker “Tailpipe Johnny” in the ’80s for his opposition to legislation dealing with acid rain. Another unhappy camper, Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.), chairs the Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality. He was concerned that the select committee might do something that would make his friends in the coal industry unhappy. According to the Washington Post, Boucher threatened to form an alliance with Republicans to block any legislation that Markey’s committee would put forward.

Dingell, who has been in the House since 1955, and Boucher won a temporary reprieve when Pelosi gave them a deadline of June to come up with legislation to address global warming.

Don’t hold your breath. According to data from the Center for Responsive Politics, since the 2000 election cycle, Dingell and Boucher have been the top Democratic recipients in the House of money from the “energy/natural resources” sector of the economy (the electric utilities, mining, and oil and gas industries), raking in $862,000 and $773,000 respectively.

And what can $1,635,000 buy on Capitol Hill? Inaction.

Last year, Rep. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) introduced the Keep America Competitive Global Warming Policy Act of 2006, which sought to “establish a market-based system to regulate greenhouse gas emissions and to promote advanced energy research and technology development and deployment.” In October, Udall tried to get Dingell to look at his bill, but he would have none of it. As Dingell told the Washington Post, “If I thought it was a good idea, I would have already done it.”

Boucher has a similar commitment to do-nothingism. On Nov. 28, 2005, he spoke at the Western Business Roundtable, Summit of the West. The American Coal Council Web site reported that Boucher and Pat Michaels, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, told conference attendees “that the economic dislocation of policies such as Kyoto would ensure they would not achieve substantial greenhouse gas emissions reductions. Instead, they argued that voluntary actions with targeted incentives would accomplish more reductions and encourage the adoption of more efficient technologies.” In other words, any meaningful action to address global warming was off the table.

On March 7, Boucher chaired a hearing titled, “Climate Change: Are Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Human Activities Contributing to a Warming of the Planet?” Gee, let’s ponder the question—and then refer it to committee.

In the Senate, things look a little brighter with Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) replacing Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) as head of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works—though Inhofe has promised to filibuster any global “big lie” warming legislation that gets to the floor.

In short, while Congress is now in the hands of Democrats, that shift in power does not necessarily mean that vital issues like climate change will be adequately addressed. What’s needed is a movement against global warming willing to play political hardball.

Yes, bless Gore for making the inconvenient truth about climate change part of the public dialogue. But if the new movement against global warming is going to get Congress to act, it will have to do more than pose an inconvenience to the likes of Dingell, Boucher and Inhofe. It will have to work to kick the bums out.

Green energy investment is booming

By Tricia Duryee

The Seattle Times

Here’s a case where green stands for money and the environment.

Venture capitalists pumped millions of dollars into alternative-energy companies during the first quarter, making the category one of the fastest-growing early-stage businesses, according to a quarterly venture-capital report released today by Dow Jones VentureOne and Ernst & Young.

The trend was especially evident in Washington state, where Seattle’s Imperium Renewables raised $113 million in venture capital to complete a biodiesel refinery in Grays Harbor and begin work on three more.

That deal alone contributed to a blockbuster quarter for the state, which raised nearly $400 million in venture capital in the first quarter. At that level, Washington ranked as the third most active state in the country, behind California and Massachusetts.

The amount also is the most raised in a single quarter since before the bubble burst seven years ago and represents more than a third of the overall capital raised last year.

Nationally, alternative energy and environmentally inspired deals — still only a fraction of the overall amount — raised nearly $300 million, up from roughly $60 million a year ago.

Joseph Muscat, a director of the Ernst & Young Venture Capital Advisory Group, said the first quarter was particular strong overall because investors saw a good mix of companies seeking money and later-stage companies were able to go public or be sold.

“We’re also continuing to see strong interest in the venture-capital community for companies focused on alternative energy and environmental technologies throughout the United States,” he said.

In the U.S., 584 privately held companies raised nearly $7 billion. In terms of dollars, that’s a 11 percent increase over the previous quarter and an 8.5 percent increase over the same period in 2006.

In Washington, 27 companies drew $397.1 million in the first quarter.

The dollars invested jumped nearly 80 percent from the previous quarter and more than 20 percent more than a year ago.

Besides Imperium Renewables, some of the companies that raised money locally included:

• Seattle-based Impinj, which is developing semiconductors; $19 million.

• Bothell-based Dexterra, which makes enterprise software for mobile phones; $36 million.

• Seattle-based Entellium, which makes customer-service software; $16 million.

It’s time to get serious about climate change

By Chris Gregoire

Special to The Seattle Times

As we celebrate the 38th annual Earth Day on Sunday, it’s clear that in the United States we have reached a tipping point on the issue of climate change.

In boardrooms and backyards across the country, Americans are discussing what they can do to address global warming. For years, scientists, environmental groups and a certain Oscar-winning filmmaker hidden inside a politician have been calling attention to rising temperatures and the dangers they pose to the planet.

Environmentalists who were once dismissed have continued to point out the perils of global warming until the science was too strong to ignore. The questions are no longer about sound science or fuzzy math, the questions are now about solutions.

Citizens and consumers have started to take their own steps to reduce emissions by recycling, driving hybrid cars, buying “green” homes and purchasing renewable energy, and they continue to look for new ways to reduce their impact on the environment. They expect the businesses they patronize and the political leaders they elect to take action as well.

Despite a lack of leadership from the federal level, businesses as well as state and local governments are stepping up to the challenge:

• In January, CEOs of 10 of the nation’s largest corporations called for legislation that would reduce carbon emissions by 10 percent within10 years, by up to 30 percent within 15 years, and by up to 80 percent by 2050.

• In Washington, corporations including BP, Alcoa and Weyerhaeuser, and utilities such as Avista, the Snohomish County Public Utility District and Puget Sound Energy have all announced efforts to reduce their impact on the climate.

• Seattle and King County are leading cities and counties across the nation by taking steps to lower emissions, such as reducing commute trips, expanding public-transportation options and increasing the use of renewable fuels.

• In February, I joined four other Western governors in signing an agreement to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions from our respective states.

The reality of global warming is clear. In January, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded that our planet’s atmosphere has more greenhouse gases in it now than at any time during the past 650,000 years. Earlier this month, another assessment by the panel warned of alarming consequences, including long-lasting droughts and rising seas.

It is equally clear that humans are causing our climate to change by burning massive amounts of fossil fuels like coal, oil and natural gas. And 11 of the past 12 years have been the warmest years on record.

Here in Washington, we are experiencing the effects of climate change already. Scientists at the University of Washington tell us that temperatures in the state are rising faster than they are globally. Our state’s glaciers have lost one-third of their volume since 1950. The snowpack in the Cascades — which cities, fish and farmers rely on for water — is declining, and our summers are drier as that snowpack melts earlier each year.

We’re seeing the more-extreme weather events — droughts and forest fires, floods and storms — consistent with what scientists tell us a warmer climate brings. Last December’s devastating storms caused 15 deaths and knocked out power to more than 1 million homes.

Earlier this year, I signed an executive order setting aggressive goals for emissions reductions and creating jobs in the field of alternative energy.

To achieve these goals, the directors of the departments of Ecology and Community, Trade and Economic Development have brought together21 community leaders from around the state to develop recommendations building on my office’s earlier efforts to reduce tailpipe emissions from cars; create a market for renewable fuels like biodiesel and fund projects to produce that fuel in Washington; increase energy efficiency in buildings and products; promote the use of renewable energy; make public buildings greener; and invest in alternative-energy research.

Local utilities are also doing their part to provide renewable energy and use energy more efficiently, and with their help we will move more than halfway toward our goal of returning to 1990 emissions levels by 2020.

All of our actions together — citizens, businesses and government — will not only reduce our state’s dependence on foreign oil, but will also grow a green economy for the state of Washington.

We have made a good start, but there is much more we all must to do to preserve our environment and our quality of life. It is time for us to embrace this tipping point and act aggressively to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Citizens, business and community leaders as well as elected officials must seize this moment to tackle the challenge of climate change.

Chris Gregoire is governor of Washington state.

EPA proposing limits on emissions from lawn mowers

By Erica Werner
The Seattle Times/Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Those polluting engine-powered mowers that are a staple of suburban lawn care would become much cleaner under emission limits proposed Tuesday by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The regulators’ proposal follows a long-running dispute between California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Missouri Republican Sen. Kit Bond, who has sought to block the change in order to protect a Missouri small-engine maker, Briggs & Stratton Corp.

Walk-behind and riding mowers and other garden equipment account for up to 10 percent of summertime smog-forming emissions from mobile sources in some parts of the country.

The EPA’s new proposal applies to engines under 25 horsepower, which power nearly all walk-behind and riding lawn mowers as well as small generators and other devices. The rule would cut smog-forming emissions from the engines by 35 percent; the reductions would probably be accomplished by adding catalytic converters that reduce pollution from exhaust.

The rule would take effect in 2011 for riding mowers and 2012 for push mowers and would apply only to new engines.

Adding catalytic converters will make mowers more expensive, and some in the industry resisted the change. The California Air Resources Board has estimated that walk-behind mowers will cost 18 percent more under the new regulation.

The rule also would put new emission controls on powerboat and outboard engines starting with the 2009 model year that would result in a 70 percent reduction in smog-forming emissions from those engines, EPA said. Public comment is being accepted on the proposed rule until Aug. 3.

Overall, EPA said that the pollution sources being regulated by the new rule account for about 25 percent of all mobile-source hydrocarbon emissions.

“The bottom line is these standards are long overdue but they will be absolutely essential in order to help many parts of the country meet public-health standards,” said Frank O’Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch, an environmental advocacy group.

Twist in climate-change fight pits corporations against each other

By Warren Cornwall and Ralph Thomas
Seattle Times staff reporters

In the global-warming debate, the classic battle has featured environmentalists squaring off against big industry, arguing about the potential costs to the economy compared with the potential costs to the planet.

But as legislation meant to curb climate change has moved through Olympia this year, the fight has shifted. This time, the corporations are turning on each other.

Big electricity users, including Boeing and Microsoft, are locked in a showdown with the state’s biggest utilities. The issue: how much power might cost if the measures become law.

The companies say the utilities have been offered too much latitude over prices to quell their opposition to restrictions on coal power and the resulting greenhouse-gas emissions. The utilities say they won’t support the measures otherwise.

And the whole dispute, involving some of Olympia’s most powerful lobbies, has become big enough that backers of the measures worry the whole effort may be in jeopardy.

“Big business hasn’t liked this bill since Day One,” said Sen. Erik Poulsen, D-Seattle, a chief sponsor. “They don’t want to see climate-change goals set in law. I don’t think business is focused on the long-term picture. Their concern is here and now.”

Utilities on board

The legislation at issue aims to get Washington to mount a comprehensive assault on climate change. It would set goals for reducing statewide emissions of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide.

Two bills now in the Legislature would tackle the issue in essentially the same way. While the Senate has voted in favor of the legislation, the House has yet to vote on it.

Generally, the bills would forbid Washington utilities from making new investments or signing long-term contracts to get power from plants that produce a lot of greenhouse gases.

That would have the most immediate impact on utilities by essentially declaring new coal power off-limits.

So to get the state’s biggest utilities not to resist, lawmakers have added several provisions to the bills relating to how highly regulated power rates get set.

“It’s just a recognition that, in order for it to work, you want these utilities to not be fighting the process,” said Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, D-Spokane.

Taken together, the provisions would give for-profit power companies, such as Puget Sound Energy and Spokane-based Avista, permission to raise electricity rates to recover more expenses, and more certainty that they would be able to pay off new investments.

For example, power companies could be guaranteed an extra 2 percent return on some of their investments, while public utilities could get a tax credit. Companies also could get faster approval for new power plants or power investment.

“It’s a Christmas tree, and everybody’s hanging ornaments on it,” Mercer Island-based energy consultant Robert Kahn said of the legislation. “It’s those kind of things that make for peace in Olympia.”

Businesses opposed

That hasn’t won over all utilities. For example, Energy Northwest has warned that the emissions restrictions could kill its plans to build a power plant near the Columbia River west of Portland. That plant would be fueled with coal or waste from petroleum refineries.

But the legislation has forged an unusual alliance between the state’s biggest utilities and environmentalists, who say it would reward investment in cleaner energy production.

And if those provisions don’t survive, it could jeopardize the whole deal. Avista won’t support the legislation without them, said its lobbyist, Collins Sprague.

However, some of the biggest power users in the state contend the provisions would hand too much power to the utilities, potentially translating into higher power bills.

“The common denominator for our members is that electric-energy costs are a very significant portion of their costs,” said Tim Boyd of the Industrial Customers of Northwest Utilities.

He said he is joined by lobbyists for Microsoft and Boeing in fighting the legislation.

Boyd questioned why this legislation must single out the electric utilities.

Instead, he said the issues should be considered by a new state task force expected to make recommendations to next year’s Legislature for a comprehensive approach to regulating greenhouse gases.

Environmentalists say there’s no time to wait. And Avista’s lobbyist, Sprague, says those companies have been exaggerating the potential effects on their power rates.

For instance, a higher rate of return on investments would encourage Avista to spend money on energy efficiency, he said — and that could lead to lower electricity bills overall.

And the early-approval provisions for power investments will help companies get over their concern that environmental regulation of utilities might thwart their projects.

Those changes would have hardly any effect on power rates, Sprague said.

Softened climate report riles some scientists

Seattle Times news services

Compiled from the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post and The Associated Press

A new global-warming report issued Friday by the United Nations paints a near-apocalyptic vision of Earth’s future: more than 1 billion people in need of water, extreme food shortages in Africa, a planetary landscape ravaged by floods and millions of species sentenced to extinction.

Yet that grim future is a toned-down prediction, a compromise brokered in a fierce, around-the-clock debate among scientists and bureaucrats. Officials from some governments, including China, the United States and Saudi Arabia, won some weakened wording.

Even so, the final report by the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) “will send a very, very clear signal” to governments, said Yvo de Boer, the top climate official for the United Nations, which in 1988 created the climate-change panel that issued the document.

Despite the harshness of its vision and the fact that scientists signed off on the changes, the report quickly was criticized by some scientists who said its findings were watered down at the last minute by government bureaucrats seeking to deflect calls for action.

“The science got hijacked by the political bureaucrats at the late stage of the game,” said John Walsh, a climate expert at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, who helped write a chapter on the polar regions.

Other scientists praised the report as the strongest warning ever that nations must reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, even though U.S. negotiators managed to eliminate language in one section that called for cuts in such emissions, said Patricia Romero Lankao, a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., one of the report’s lead authors.

More than 2,500 scientists worldwide contributed to the report, relying on peer-reviewed studies to make their findings and subjecting them to rounds of outside review.

The findings had to be approved unanimously by 120-plus governments, and changes had to pass a panel of scientists. In addition, every change of wording had to be approved by scientists who wrote the affected section.

The impact here

The U.N. report projects that snowpacks in the West will decline, causing more floods in winter and reduced river flows in summer, increasing competition for water for agriculture and municipal use. Closer to home, precipitation will remain the same, but more will fall as rain, and the snowpack will melt earlier. Shrinking snowpacks in the Columbia River basin will cause difficulties for farmers, fish and power generation. More wildfires are possible.

Los Angeles Times and Seattle Times staff
That edict made for a four-day, deadline-busting contentious final editing session. The gathering in Brussels, Belgium, was closed to the public.

This week’s wrangling was just over a 21-page summary for policymakers. The technical report — 20 chapters, supplements, two summaries and 1,572 pages in all — will be released later this spring.

The approved summary outlined a range of devastating effects that will strike all regions and all levels of society. Those without resources to adapt will suffer the greatest impact, according to the report.

“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 Pachauri, chairman of the IPCC.

Earlier drafts were published March 11 and Sunday in The Seattle Times. The report is the second of four coming this year from the IPCC.

The first report, released in February, characterized global warming as a runaway train that is irreversible but that can be moderated by societal changes. That report said, with more than 90 percent confidence, that warming is caused by humans, and its conclusions were widely accepted because of years of accumulated scientific data.

U.N. report findings

By midcentury, temperatures rise and drying soil will replace tropical forests with savannas in Brazil’s eastern Amazonia.

In North America, snowpack in the West will decline, causing more floods in winter and reduced flows in summer, increasing competition for water for agriculture and municipal use.

Water will come more often around the world in its least welcome forms: storms and floods.

Rising temperatures will reconfigure coastlines, as oceans rise and seawater surges over land. Tiny islands of the South Pacific and Asian deltas will be overwhelmed by storm surges as sea levels rise.

In the Andes and Himalayas, melting glaciers will unleash floods and rock avalanches. But within a few decades, as glaciers and snowpack decline, streams will dwindle, cutting off the main water supply to more than one-sixth of the world’s population.

Africa will suffer the most extreme effects, with 250 million people losing most of their water supplies. Food production will fall by half in many countries, and governments will have to spend 10 percent of their budgets or more to adapt to climate changes.

At least 30 percent of the world’s species will disappear if temperatures rise 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit above the average levels of the 1980s and ’90s.

The report notes that the early signs of warming are here:

Spring is arriving earlier, with plants blooming weeks ahead of schedule.

In the mountains, runoff begins earlier, shrinking glaciers in the Alps, Himalayas and Andes.

Habitats for plants and animals, both on land and in the oceans, are shifting toward the poles.

Nineteen of the 20 hottest years on record have occurred since 1980, according to previous studies. The report said more frequent and more intense heat waves are “very likely.”

Source: Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Los Angeles Times

The human factor

In contrast, the second report was more controversial because it tackled more uncertain issues of warming’s precise effects and the ability of humans to adapt.

“When you put people into the equation … it adds another layer of complication,” said Gary Yohe, a Wesleyan University economist and co-author.

Last-minute negotiations led to deleting timelines for future events and scaling back the degree of confidence in some projections. Both actions will ease pressure on industrialized nations to reduce their emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that are warming the planet gradually.

U.S. officials challenged the wording of a section that suggested policymakers need to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions because countries will be unable to respond to climate change simply by using adaptive measures such as levees and dikes.

In that instance, the original draft read: “However, adaptation alone is not expected to cope with all the projected effects of climate change, and especially not over the long run as most impacts increase in magnitude. Mitigation measures will therefore also be required.” That second sentence does not appear in the final version.

Other governments, such as China, Russia and Saudi Arabia, also demanded changes, some seemingly minor.

Panel member Yohe said China and Saudi Arabia, for example, objected to a sentence that stated with “very high confidence” that many natural systems already are being affected by regional climate changes, arguing “very” should be removed.

After a long deadlock, U.S. delegates brokered a compromise that removed the reference to confidence levels.

The U.S. delegation also opposed a section that said parts of North America could suffer “severe” economic damage from climate change.

There were other disputes where scientists lost out:

• Instead of saying “hundreds of millions” would be vulnerable to flooding under certain scenarios, the final document says “many millions.”

• Instead of suggesting up to 120 million people are at risk of hunger because of global warming, the revised report refers to negative effects on subsistence farmers and fishermen.

Several scientists vowed afterward that they never would participate in the process again because of the political interference.

“Once is enough,” said Walsh, who was not present during negotiations but kept abreast of developments with e-mails from colleagues. “I was receiving hourly reports that grew increasingly frustrated.”

Chart altered

British scientist Neil Adger said he and others were disappointed that government officials deleted parts of a chart that highlights the devastating effects of every rise of 1.8 degrees in temperature. Still, Adger and other scientists and even environmental groups hailed the final report as the strongest ever.

“This is a glimpse into an apocalyptic future,” the Greenpeace environmental group said.

Much of the report focuses on how particular regions will fare in a warming world, concluding that less-developed countries will experience more upheaval.

The Bush administration made it clear it would not be stampeded by the report into taking part in the Kyoto Protocol, which seeks to limit emissions of carbon dioxide. The United States withdrew from the protocol in 2001, saying it was too expensive and did not impose enough controls on developing nations.

“Each nation sort of defines their regulatory objectives in different ways to achieve the greenhouse-reduction outcome that they seek,” Jim Connaughton, chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, said during a teleconference from Brussels.

Sharon Hays, associate director of the White House Office of Science and Technology, said during the same teleconference that “not all projected impacts are negative.” Initially, the warming will increase agricultural output in the midlatitudes and in northern regions.

The report also examines how infectious disease might spread in a warmer climate. Jonathan Patz, an associate professor of environmental studies and population-health sciences at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and an author of the North America chapter, said projected warming alone will likely mean that, by 2050, the Northeast will experience 68 percent more “red-ozone alert” days when the air is unhealthful to breathe.

The U.S. strain of the West Nile virus is especially responsive to warmer temperatures, Patz added, and Africa is expected to experience an uptick in malaria, a disease that accounts for 1 million to 2 million deaths a year worldwide.

“Climate change presents one of the most challenging environmental and public-health threats of this millennium,” he said.

Global warming could deal big blow to salmon

By Hal Bernton

The Seattle Times

Global warming is expected to further weaken wild chinook salmon populations by changing the temperatures and flows of major river systems, according to a study published Thursday by the National Academy of Sciences.

Warmer waters in the summer and early fall are expected to cause more disease, stress and die-offs, while rain-swollen rivers in warmer winter months could flush out salmon eggs from spawning gravel.

The study, by federal and University of Washington scientists, offers a sobering perspective on the challenges that climate change creates for the multibillion-dollar regional effort to restore wild salmon runs.

Many of the restoration planners use models that do not account for warmer temperatures that are expected to shrink the size of the annual snowpack and alter run-off patterns.

Thus, they may generate “misleading predictions of the relative benefits of different recovery strategies,” the study states.

The study focused on the effects of global warming on the chinook populations of Washington’s Snohomish River basin. The researchers concluded that by 2050 wild chinook populations would decline by 20 percent to 40 percent in the Snohomish. The range of decline depends on which of two computer models was used in the analysis.

Researchers expect the chinook declines would be similar in other Western Washington and Oregon drainages, though they noted that some salmon could perhaps learn to alter their migration timing to improve survival rates.

The study did not attempt to assess the effects of climate change on other salmon species, or salmon that spawn in the Columbia River basin. But global warming also is expected to make life more difficult for those fish.

“These hydrological changes are not going to be good for any [salmon] species,” said Mary Ruckelshaus, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) fisheries scientist who was one of seven co-authors of the study.

Global warming is expected to cause the biggest problems for salmon that spawn in the more remote, higher-elevation river basins, according to the study. Salmon eggs in those areas would be among the most vulnerable to sudden surges in winter flows triggered by high-elevation rains. As spawning survival rates there decline, salmon may concentrate more in the mid- to lower reaches of the rivers, according to the study.

Though the authors questioned the accuracy of salmon-recovery plans that did not account for global warming, they still found plenty of value in restoration efforts. In the Snohomish basin, a full-scale restoration that would include tree planting, dike removal and other efforts could reduce the climate-induced chinook decline to only 5 percent by 2050, according to one computer forecast model. In the other model, the restoration efforts were forecast to result in a 19 percent gain in spawning populations.

“That was the encouraging and surprising result for us,” Ruckelshaus said. “The restoration plans — if they are carried out — can make a difference.”

Bob Lohn, the regional administrator for NOAA fisheries, said the study underscored the need to focus on restoration efforts.

“Let there be no mistake, we’re in this for the long haul,” Lohn said.

Environmentalists already have been citing climate change as a big threat to salmon, and the study could give them new ammunition in their efforts to boost runs by removing Snake River dams.

“I wish that they would take a look at the snowpack availability out of the Rockies, and see how that affects the probability that we can reverse the salmon’s decline without removing the dams,” said Jim Martin, a former Oregon state fishery official who is conservation director of the Berkeley Conservation Institute.