Climate talks mean life or death for island states

So while climate change delegates haggle over deadlines, binding targets and finance, some of the world's poorest states are warning that rising sea levels and storms will sweep them away unless the world agrees to tackle global warning. "We will be one of the first countries to go under water," said Foua Toloa, a senior politician on Tokelau, an island half-way between Hawaii and New Zealand that is no more than five meters above sea-level. "We are a small and fragile nation very susceptible to environment and climate developments." Grenada's Foreign Minister Karl Hood, chairman of the 43-nation Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), whose members are in the frontline of climate change, was even more blunt: "If we don't act now, some of us will die." Many low lying nations can already calculate the cost of rising greenhouse gas emissions in lives lost, economies shattered and landscapes transformed. "By 2025, rising sea levels could lead to the displacement of at least 10 percent of the population", Comores Vice President Fouad Mohadji told delegates at climate change talks in the South African port city of Durban.

One Quarter of World’s Agricultural Land “Highly Degraded”, UN Report Concludes

On Monday, the UN released the results of the first ever global study on the state of Earth’s land. The main finding: 25 percent of all land is highly degraded making it unsuitable for agriculture. The implications of this finding are enormous; the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that farm output must increase by 70 percent by 2050 to accommodate the food needs of an estimated 9 billion humans.

Wind turbines are supposed to like the wind!

Huge wind turbine erupts in flames as 165mph winds strike Scotland These amazing pictures show the moment a huge wind turbine erupted in flames after it was struck by hurricane-force winds in Scotland. Local photographer Stuart McMahon from Ardossan, North Ayrshire, snapped the fireball as it wrecked the turbine earlier this afternoon. Stuart told ClickGreen tonight the blades on the 30mw turbine had been braked and were not turning as the ferocious winds swept across Scotland. "It was clear that the turbine caught fire first and the flames spread to the covering of blades," he said. "There was debris still on fire being swept off in the wind and across the fields." "These are huge structures and to see one on fire was a spectacular sight." "The fire must have lasted for about 15 or 20 minutes until the fire brigade turned up to put out the fire." The Ardrossan wind farm was sold by Scottish and Southern Energy to Infinis last year for £54 million. It comprises of 15 turbines with the capacity to power about 29,500 homes.

New Large Boiler Rules

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing changes to Clean Air Act standards for boilers and certain incinerators based on extensive analysis, review and consideration of data and input from states, environmental groups, industry, lawmakers and the public. The proposed reconsideration would achieve extensive public health protections through significant reductions in toxic air pollutants, including mercury and soot, while increasing the rule’s flexibility and addressing compliance concerns raised by industry and labor groups. The changes also cut the cost of implementation by nearly 50 percent from the original 2010 proposed rule while maintaining health benefits. Soot and other harmful pollutants released by boilers and incinerators can lead to adverse health effects including cancer, heart disease, aggravated asthma and premature death. In addition, toxic pollutants such as mercury and lead that will be reduced by this proposal.

Deforestation and forest degradation down in the Brazilian Amazon since August

Deforestation and forest degradation are down moderately from August through October 2011 relative to the same period a year ago, reports a satellite-based assessment released today by Imazon, a Brazilian group. Imazon's near-real time system, which tracks change in forest plots 25 hectares (62 acres) or larger, found that 512 square kilometers of rainforest were cleared between August 2011 and October 2011, the first three months of the deforestation calendar year, which runs from August 1 through July 31 to coincide with the dry season when it is easiest to measure forest cover. The figure represents a 4 percent decline from the 533 square kilometers cleared in 2010.

Walnut Industry May Crack Under Climate Pressure

Eat all the walnut treats you can this holiday season. They might not be so plentiful in coming years. Commercially grown walnut trees (Juglans nigra and Juglans regia) are very particular about their growing conditions and drought or untimely frosts can crack the walnut tree's defenses.

NASA data confirms pollution has nearly halved from US coal power plants

A team of scientists have used the Ozone Monitoring Instrument (OMI) on NASA's Aura satellite to confirm major reductions in the levels of a key air pollutant generated by coal power plants in the eastern United States. The pollutant, sulphur dioxide, contributes to the formation of acid rain and can cause serious health problems.

Whales win, walruses lose in warmer Arctic

The Arctic zone has moved into a warmer, greener "new normal" phase, which means less habitat for polar bears and more access for development, an international scientific team reported on Thursday. Arctic air temperatures were higher - about 2.5 degrees F (1.5 degrees C) higher in 2011 than the baseline number for the previous 30 years - and there was a dramatic loss of sea ice and glacier mass, the scientists said in a telephone briefing. With less bright ice to reflect sunlight, and more dark open water to absorb it, the Arctic's changed characteristics are likely to feed on each other and accelerate, specialists from 14 countries said in an annual assessment called the Arctic Report Card. (here) "We've got a new normal," said Don Perovich, an expert on sea ice at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Cold Regions Research & Engineering Laboratory in New Hampshire.

Green policies can halve CO2 emissions from energy sector, says OECD and IEA

Rising global energy demand and the need to drastically cut carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions require a transformation in the way nations produce, deliver and consume energy, according to a new joint report from the OECD and IEA. The Green Growth Studies: Energy report says governments need to increase energy efficiency and lower the carbon-intensity of the sector. As developed countries renew their energy infrastructure and developing countries build new power plants to meet growing energy demand, the time is right to make crucial choices for the future of the energy sector, the report says. With the energy sector responsible for the majority of CO2 emissions, green growth policies could halve worldwide energy-related emissions of CO2 by 2050 using a combination of existing and new technologies.

Electric Car Battery Safety

Electric cars may present different hazards than conventional design. Recent crash tests as well as one report of a battery fire suggest that the present car design may have to be improved. Crash tests have been carried out in the well known Euro NCAP testing center on the Volt and the Renault Fluence EV that gives tested cars crash resistance ratings scores ranging from 1 to 5 points. Overall crash test results of both of cars resulted in the Fluence EZ having an over crash test rating of 4 points, as compared to the Volt receiving a higher score of 5 points, highest in the auto safety rating program. One Chevy Volt battery pack that was being closely monitored following a government crash test caught fire. Another recently crash-tested battery emitted smoke and sparks.