Climate change is a scientific challenge, says expert

Udhagamandalam: Students and residents of this hill station got some valuable insight into various aspects of climate change thanks to a lecture, organised by the British Council, the Nilgiris Documentation Centre and the Rotary Clubs in the Nilgiris district here on Friday.

The Emeritus Professor of Climate Modelling Lord Julian Hunt delivered the lecture.

Understanding how the climate is changing in different ways around the world and how these variations will evolve is a great scientific challenge of our time, including the possibilities of changes to the Indian monsoon and El Nino climatic effects, he said.

Problems relating to climate change surfaced in the 1980s but nobody took them seriously then. Only about ten years ago did the world start understanding the importance of the issue.

Though human beings destroy the environment they also possess the capacity to think ahead. Variations have to be monitored in detail and considered carefully in investigating appropriate future policies especially for adaptation.

These policies have to be integrated with other policies, technologies and political considerations needed to ensure overall sustainable development, including reduction of air pollution, economic growth and mitigation of green house gas emission.

Down memory lane

Lord Julian also recalled his association with the Nilgiris and took a walk down memory lane.

The Chairman, Atomic Energy Commission, M.R. Srinivasan, referred to the unusually heavy downpour experienced in Ketti area near here recently and the questions that it raised.

The vice-president, Nilgiris Wildlife and Environment Association, Geetha Srinivasan, who presided, said while climate change is a process of nature which has been going on for billions of years, the speed at which humanity is driving the process may result in mankind becoming the last of the endangered species on Earth.

According to her, a change can be brought about only with the efforts of individuals. Changes in individual lifestyles of people can change the situation.

The Nilgiris being a unique area needs a special district planning authority.

The Director, Nilgiris Documentation Centre, Dharmalingam Venugopal, said that climate change and survival are now inextricably intertwined.

From THE HINDU

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Call to protect the sensitive ecology of the Nilgiris district

‘Everything possible should be done to reverse climate change’

Udhagamandalam: All must join hands to protect the sensitive ecology of the Nilgiris district, said the Conservator of Forests, Coimbatore circle, R. Kannan here on Saturday.

He was inaugurating a competition to enhance environmental awareness among school students jointly organised by the Department of Environment, Forest Department and the Nilgiris Wildlife and Environment Association (NWLEA).

Underscoring the need to safeguard the ecological balance of the Blue Mountains, he said that the government alone cannot do it. He cautioned that if the eco-balance here was upset there will be a chain reaction and many places would be affected.

Stating that this area always attracted global attention, he said that nearly 25 years ago it had been declared as a biosphere reserve.

Adverting to the growing concern over the increasing emission of carbon, he said by protecting the forests the trend can be checked.

Describing the shola-grassland eco-system of the Nilgiris as the best in the World, Mr. Kannan said, “if nature is protected it will take care of the people.”

Referring to the practice of carrying water bottles, he said that if warnings are not heeded now a time will come when the people will be forced to go around with oxygen facilities.

Growing trees is tantamount to serving the society.

Green activist J. Lakshminarayanan said that everything possible should be done to reverse climate change. Concerted efforts should be made to protect the ecology of the Nilgiris.

The Headmaster, Government Higher Secondary School, H.S.Moorthy also spoke.

Among those who participated in the inaugural function were the Secretary, NWLEA S. Jayachandran and the District Forest Officer, the Nilgiris North K. Soundarapandian.

From THE HINDU

India forms new climate change body

The Indian government has established its own body to monitor the effects of global warming because it “cannot rely” on the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the group headed by its own leading scientist Dr R.K Pachauri.

Scientists believe it could take more than 300 years for the Himalayan glaciers to disappear Photo: ALAMY

The move is a significant snub to both the IPCC and Dr Pachauri as he battles to defend his reputation following the revelation that his most recent climate change report included false claims that most of the Himalayan glaciers would melt away by 2035. Scientists believe it could take more than 300 years for the glaciers to disappear.

The body and its chairman have faced growing criticism ever since as questions have been raised on the credibility of their work and the rigour with which climate change claims are assessed.

In India the false claims have heightened tensions between Dr Pachauri and the government, which had earlier questioned his glacial melting claims. In Autumn, its environment minister Mr Jairam Ramesh said while glacial melting in the Himalayas was a real concern, there was evidence that some were actually advancing despite global warming.

Dr Pachauri had dismissed challenges like these as based on “voodoo science”, but last night Mr Ramesh effectively marginalized the IPC chairman even further.

He announced the Indian government will established a separate National Institute of Himalayan Glaciology to monitor the effects of climate change on the world’s ‘third ice cap’, and an ‘Indian IPCC’ to use ‘climate science’ to assess the impact of global warming throughout the country.

“There is a fine line between climate science and climate evangelism. I am for climate science. I think people misused [the] IPCC report, [the] IPCC doesn’t do the original research which is one of the weaknesses… they just take published literature and then they derive assessments, so we had goof-ups on Amazon forest, glaciers, snow peaks.

“I respect the IPCC but India is a very large country and cannot depend only on [the] IPCC and so we have launched the Indian Network on Comprehensive Climate Change Assessment (INCCA),” he said.

It will bring together 125 research institutions throughout India, work with international bodies and operate as a “sort of Indian IPCC,” he added.

The body, which he said will not rival the UN’s panel, will publish its own climate assessment in November this year, with reports on the Himalayas, India’s long coastline, the Western Ghat highlands and the north-eastern region close to the borders with Bangladesh, Burma, China and Nepal. “Through these we will demonstrate our commitment to climate science,” he said.

The UN panel’s claims of glacial meltdown by 2035 “was clearly out of place and didn’t have any scientific basis,” he said, while stressing the government remained concerned about the health of the Himalayan ice flows. “Most glaciers are melting, they are retreating, some glaciers, like the Siachen glacier, are advancing. But overall one can say incontrovertibly that the debris on our glaciers is very high the snow balance is very low. We have to be very cautious because of the water security particularly in north India which depends on the health of the Himalayan glaciers,” he added.

The new National Institute of Himalayan Glaciology will be based in Dehradun, in Uttarakhand, and will monitor glacial changes and compare results with those from glaciers in Pakistan, Nepal and Bhutan.

From TELEGRAPH

India: Emerging economies commit on serious climate negotiations

New Dehli, India: WWF welcomes the early lead on continuing climate negotiations and the level of commitment shown by the BASIC group of countries to a fair and effective UN-based outcome to climate change this year.

WWF welcomes the early lead on continuing climate negotiations and the level of commitment shown by the BASIC group of countries. © Andrew Kerr/WWF-Canon

 “It is highly encouraging that these key emerging economies intend to further outline their voluntary mitigation actions by January 31, and that they now declare an intention of taking climate action together in areas like technology, adaptation and research”, says Shirish Sinha of WWF India.

“This presents a good challenge to developed countries, who must also meet the end of January deadline with their own announcement of carbon emission reduction targets, and who must also live up to their promises of providing financial support to the vulnerable countries,” said Kim Carstensen, Leader of the WWF Global Climate Initiative.

“WWF will watch them closely to see whether their commitments actually match their assertions in Copenhagen that they are committed to keep the world below the level where the risk of climate catastrophe becomes unacceptabl

From WWF

NGOs welcome BASIC stance on climate change

New Delhi, Jan 24 (IANS) International NGOs Sunday welcomed the decision of Brazil, South Africa, India and China (BASIC countries) to support the Copenhagen Accord but to have the agreement as part of a legally binding global treaty to combat climate change that would be negotiated by all countries.
“Greenpeace welcomes the position taken by the ministers of the BASIC group that met today (Sunday) in New Delhi to continue negotiations on a fair and ambitious climate agreement within the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change,” said Siddharth Pathak, Greenpeace India’s climate and energy policy officer.

“However, Greenpeace wants to insist to the BASIC countries that such an agreement also needs to be legally binding in order to ensure its implementation,” he added.

“Greenpeace is encouraged by the willingness of the BASIC group to support vulnerable countries, both by ensuring their participation in open and transparent negotiations and by providing technological and or financial support,” Pathak said.

Greenpeace, he added, “calls upon the BASIC countries to make this support more tangible by its next meeting in April.”

The NGO called upon BASIC countries “to ensure they take the responsibility that comes along with the renewed power from their alliance. Greenpeace expects these countries to demonstrate leadership, both in furthering negotiations on a fair, ambitious and legally binding agreement, and in terms of both pushing industrialized counties to urgently reduce greenhouse gas emissions and making their own appropriate contributions in emission reductions, in order to avoid dangerous climate change.”

The India chapter of World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) also welcomed the move by BASIC countries. The head of its climate unit Shirish Sinha said: “WWF welcomes the early lead on continuing climate negotiations and the level of commitment shown by the BASIC group of countries to a fair and effective UN-based outcome to climate change this year.”

“It is highly encouraging that these key emerging economies intend to further outline their voluntary mitigation actions by January 31, and that they now declare an intention of taking climate action together in areas like technology, adaptation and research.”

Kim Carstensen, leader of WWF global climate initiative, said: “This presents a good challenge to developed countries, who must also announce of carbon emission reduction targets, and who must also live up to their promises of providing financial support to the vulnerable countries.”

“WWF will watch them closely to see whether their commitments actually match their assertions in Copenhagen that they are committed to keep the world below the level where the risk of climate catastrophe becomes unacceptable,” Carstensen said.

From THAINDIAN

Wildlife: Climate change could drown out Sundarbans tigers

January 2010. One of the world’s largest tiger populations could disappear by the end of this century as rising sea levels caused by climate change destroy their habitat along the coast of Bangladesh in an area known as the Sundarbans, according to a new WWF-led study published in the journal Climatic Change.

A small rise in sea levels would drown the Sundarbans. Credit © Martin Harvey / WWF-Canon

Tigers are among the world’s most threatened species, with only an estimated 3,200 remaining in the wild. WWF officials said the threats facing these Royal Bengal tigers and other iconic species around the world highlight the need for urgent international action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Tigers are highly adaptable – They just need some space

“If we don’t take steps to address the impacts of climate change on the Sundarbans, the only way its tigers will survive this century is with scuba gear,” said Colby Loucks, WWF-US deputy director of conservation science and the lead author of the study Sea Level Rise and Tigers: Predicted Impacts to Bangladesh’s Sundarbans Mangroves. “Tigers are a highly adaptable species, thriving from the snowy forests of Russia to the tropical forests of Indonesia.
“The projected sea level rise in the Sundarbans will likely outpace the tiger’s ability to adapt.”

Just 28cm sea level rise will destroy 96% of the Sundarbans

An expected sea level rise of 28 cm above 2000 levels may cause the remaining tiger habitat in the Sundarbans to decline by 96 percent, pushing the total population to fewer than 20 breeding tigers, according to the study.

Mangrove trees in the Sundarbans National Park, Bangladesh. © David Woodfall / WWF-UK

Unless immediate action is taken, the Sundarbans, its wildlife and the natural resources that sustain millions of people may disappear within 50 to 90 years, the study states.

One of the world’s most threatened habitats

“The mangrove forest of the Bengal tiger now joins the sea-ice of the polar bear as one of the habitats most immediately threatened as global temperatures rise during the course of this century,” said Keya Chatterjee, acting director of the WWF-US climate change program. “To avert an ecological catastrophe on a much larger scale, we must sharply reduce greenhouse gas emissions and prepare for the impacts of climate change we failed to avoid.”

Ganges Estuary

The Sundarbans, a UNESCO World Heritage Site shared by India and Bangladesh at the mouth of the Ganges River, is the world’s largest single block of mangrove forest. Mangroves are found at the inter-tidal region between land and sea, and not only serve as breeding grounds for fish but help protect coastal regions from natural disasters such as cyclones, storm surges and wind damage.

Up to 400 tigers live here

Providing the habitat for between 250 and 400 tigers, the Sundarbans is also home to more than 50 reptile species, 120 commercial fish species, 300 bird species and 45 mammal species. While their exact numbers are unclear, the tigers living in the Sundarbans of India and Bangladesh may represent as many as 10 percent of all the remaining wild tigers worldwide.

Using the rates of sea level rise projected by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in its Fourth Assessment Report (2007), the study’s authors wrote that a 28 cm sea level rise may be realized around 2070, at which point tigers will be unlikely to survive in the Sundarbans. However, recent research suggests that the seas may rise even more swiftly than what was predicted in the 2007 IPCC assessment.

Already under pressure from population growth

In addition to climate change, the Sundarbans tigers, like other tiger populations around the world already face tremendous threats from poaching and habitat loss. Tiger ranges have decreased by 40 percent over the past decade, and tigers today occupy less than seven percent of their original range. Scientists fear that accelerating deforestation and rampant poaching could push some tiger populations to the same fate as their now-extinct Javan and Balinese relatives in other parts of Asia.

Tigers are poached for their highly prized skins and body parts, which are used in traditional Chinese medicine. The 2010 Year of the Tiger will mark an important year for conservation efforts to save wild tigers, with WWF continuing to play a vital role in implementing bold new strategies to save this magnificent Asian big cat.

Recommendations in the study include:

Locally, governments and natural resource managers should take immediate steps to conserve and expand mangroves while preventing poaching and retaliatory killing of tigers.
Regionally, neighbouring countries should increase sediment delivery and freshwater flows to the coastal region to support agriculture and replenishment of the land;
Globally, governments should take stronger action to limit greenhouse gas emissions;
“It’s disheartening to imagine that the Sundarbans – which means ‘beautiful forest’ in Bengali – could be gone this century, along with its tigers,” Loucks said. “We very much hope that in this, the Year of the Tiger, the world will focus on curtailing the immediate threats to these magnificent creatures and preparing for the long-term impacts of climate change.”

From Wildlife Extra

Half of Kiwis not convinced global warming is real

WELLINGTON: A new survey has revealed that almost half of the population of New Zealand is not convinced global warming is real. According to a report in NZ Herald News, almost one in five of 2296 respondents said the concept was a giant con, and a further 28 per cent said global warming had not been conclusively proved.

The online survey of the Herald Readers’ Panel was conducted by the Nielsen Company between December 10 and December 17, as world leaders prepared to meet at the UN climate conference in Copenhagen.

Thirty-eight per cent said global warming was a serious problem that needed action now, 13 per cent said it was the world’s biggest challenge, and 2 per cent did not know.

Nineteen per cent – including almost 30 per cent of men aged 45 or older – thought it was a giant con and a waste of money.

Sir Peter Gluckman, the Prime Minister’s science adviser, said that the 28 per cent figure of people believing global warming had not been conclusively proved was not surprising as scientists were not claiming conclusive proof.

But, Gluckman and Glenn McGregor, the director of Auckland University’s School of Environment, said there was a problem communicating climate science to the public – and scientists and the media were equally to blame.

McGregor, whose department at Auckland University includes climate sceptic Chris de Freitas, said that scientists were increasingly certain climate was changing and the change was being driven by humans, but news reports tended to focus on alternative views.

He said that if climatologists explained their research processes better, they might be able to avoid popular criticisms, such as recent accusations of scientists “fiddling” with climate records.

From TOI