Why McCain must win the Republican nomination

No, I'm not suggesting any US reader goes out and registers as republican, not that I could find myself recommending any of the two main parties. I believe it to be very important though that John McCain wins the republican nomination.

In recent years in all countries the greatest effects have been shifting the centre pole of the debate. Often this has been to the right economically, Germany's centre-left SPD adopting privatising agendas, and in the UK Labour selling off sections of the National Health Service, although the Tories adopting more liberal social stances is an example that it can work both ways too.

In the US the Republican Party have done this incredibly well (from their perspective), and now many Democrat candidates follow a more right-wing line on many issues than in the past.

Climate change has not really raised its head so far in the US election, a survey of of talk shows counted 2,275 questions asked of presidential candidates over the past year and found that just three mentioned global warming. Iraq, immigration and health care seem to be taking a much more central role. However, later in the year this may well change, and if it does, that centre pole is really going to matter.

In the past climate change has been an issue to avoid; it didn't have a huge number of people who knew much or supported the issue strongly, and a candidate supported action was a huge target for attack. Now it's much further up the agenda and can only go up. Who the republican candidate is will determine the manner of the discussion.

If it's any candidate but McCain it will follow the typical "hurting US jobs", "disputed", "EU conspiracy theory" (take your pick) route it always has. If McCain gets the nomination, suddenly it's no longer about all the questions that were actually answered 10 to 20 years ago, now it's about the best way to tackle it. That we should have real significant emission reductions will not feature in the debate; it will be an accepted viewpoint to start from (unlike even at Bali). This would be a great leap forward as all the media will have to follow along with this. It could start the re-definition of climate change as an issue in the US mainstream.

As none of the main Democrat candidates have a fantastic record on the subject (cap and trade is good, but 15% by 2020 is crap, even if they don't sell out), I believe that the result of the Republican nomination is far more important.

So, fingers crossed for McCain right now.

(UPDATE: I did actually post this yesterday before the result but ended up posting it to the wrong place. Glad to hear the New Hampshire result though.)

On Bali

When I write this, I'm trying to be frank. Mainly this is because so little of what you may have read over the last days would have been: the journalists need to play it out as if there could possibly be another outcome, the diplomats need to present it as if progress has been made, and those of us in the NGO circles need to keep hope alive. However, the result was cemented before COP13 began.

The "roadmap" is garbage. To understand this you need to understand only one point: the US at this present time will never be a part of any agreement that sets binding targets. In other words, an agreement that actually means anyone has to do anything.

The EU and other nations present the situation as "dragging them to the negotiating table", as if this is somehow an achievement. The only thing worse than being at the negotiating table for the US is not being at it. If it wasn't part of the process then the process might actually form an agreement; the US will do anything to stop that happening.

This was demonstrated clearly at the previous talks. The US actually did walk out. The EU nations freaked and were happy when the US accepted a minor change of wording and rejoined. The problem is that the EU conceded everything but. This was presented to the world's media as a “humiliation”, but it was a victory for the US. They were still at the table, and no real progress had been made.

So here we stand today, the US are at the table and no real progress has been made. All talk of legally binding targets has been dropped. Again.

The US is indeed the world's greatest bully, but in some ways the rest of the nations could learn from their actions. Their delegation walks in with an agenda, and will not budge, will not concede, will do anything it can to destroy the agreement. Because the EU is also ultimately governed by corporate interests too, it is far easier to concede than fight, and some nations may well be happy to use the US as a bogeyman for targets they themselves don't wish to implement.

If we, meaning the rest of the world's nations, wish to make any progress we must do exactly the same. We must propose binding targets based on current science and stick to this demand.

The result will be that the US will, after realising it cannot pull the agreement off the table any longer, walk. This is inevitable. However, the rest of the world will be able to come to a strong agreement addressing climate change. Tariffs would need to be used to offset any economic advantage nations outside the agreement may have, eventually making more sense to be inside than outside even ignoring the realities of climate change.

Then the EU and Asia will have the technologies needed to address the technological aspect of climate change, and social models of the social aspect will be in place which can be used as models for those outside the agreement.

It would be easy just to say "well, with an administration change this won't be a problem". It may be that there isn't much of one after the next election, and you cannot play on a gamble with this issue. Even presuming that a Democrat or “pro-climate” Republican like McCain were elected, it is unlikely there will be a sea change in policy. Gore may be shining his new Nobel Prize, but when he and Clinton were in office they were tearing Kyoto to shreds, which is why it's only 5-6% reductions on 1990 levels and with the great big loophole where savings can be generated from thin air known as emissions trading and the Clean Development Mechanism. At COP6 at the Hague in 2000, after nearly eight years of a Clinton-Gore administration, I remember the same situation and arguments, and the same statement quoted and being painfully true: "a strong agreement without the US is much better than a weak agreement without"

Therefore the world must develop mechanisms that make hostile parties adhere to the agreement and get them to comply grudgingly. If it isn't the US then it may well be another nation in the future; there are enough with potential future growth to become a problem. We do this already to enforce the unregulated free market on nations, when what we need to be doing is enforcing CO2e reductions.

It has been noted that with the infrequency that I use this blog an idea would be to open it up. I'm certainly open to the idea, I do think it would benefit from more authors who perhaps have more time to dedicate. If you can write from a specific perspective with original or at least well collected ideas, please let me know. An idea could be, for example, covering climate change movements in California. I'm trying to avoid just re-pasted articles from other sources; there are enough blogs doing that already. Please send me an email to discuss.

The folly of being "politically reasonable"

One of the issues that runs through politics as a whole, with every single issue, is an attempt only to ask for what is "politically reasonable" or acceptable. In UK student politics, one of the main reasons for scrapping the demand to maintain a student grant system in 1997 was that it wasn't politically reasonable to ask for or believe the students' union was going to get it. This had a ring of truth to it because in traditional negotiation tactics, for example, with an employer you would generally take off the table immediately any request which was obviously not going to happen (eg. a 100% pay rise). However, in politics this is often a false mantra as the short term and long term boundaries can shift radically with public opinion and other forces, and so following this route often results in a sell-out of the group's objectives. In climate politics, it's vastly more serious; it's positively dangerous.

When working in or with environmental NGOs I have often come up against the argument that we must be politically reasonable. The logic goes is that if we campaign for something that requires such radical change, politicians will never entertain the idea and we will never be heard. That if we ask for something more "reasonable", something that the politicians may be able to implement without such outcry.

Being politically reasonable was what got us the Kyoto Protocol, an international treaty that is vastly insufficient. Being negotiated in 1997 however means that some of its flaws can be overlooked - we know vastly more about what targets must be met today than we did 10 years ago, and the science behind those targets is a lot harder. However, the Clean Development Mechanisms that weaken the legislation were obvious even then, but allowing companies and governments to buy their way out of making any greenhouse gas reductions in unproven projects was a "politically reasonable" hole in the legislation.

The controversy over Kyoto has proven one other thing however - any reduction in greenhouse gas emissions will be politically or ideologically difficult for some, the economic adjustments and costs that need to be made, no matter if it's 5.2%, 60% or 90%. What is important is that what is put on the table must solve the climate crisis, there is no half-way or even most-way measure, we either implement sufficient cuts to give us a good chance to stop the positive feedback loops that will result in runaway climate change that will make life on Earth intolerable, or we do not.

I write this because it has just been revealed that Friends of the Earth has fallen into this very trap and is in the process of promoting a climate bill that will not be sufficient, and has even curtailed it's own scientific report to these limitations - something that we would more expect of a piece of industry sponsored research.

You'll notice in my entry last Sunday, for the first time I gave two different targets. One was based on a report released on the Climate Crisis website which correlated various pieces of latest research from the Hadley Centre and other institutions to provide a very accurate target of what we needed to achieve - 90% greenhouse gas cuts by 2030. The second was a report very recently released by the Tyndall Centre, a respectable climate research centre, that appeared to be in conflict - 90% by 2050. I was confused but didn't have time to investigate further.

The answer however was published on the Guardian newspaper's website by George Monbiot. I'm going to use a rudely large quote because it holds the point together:

"Concentrations of 450 parts per million CO2 equivalent or lower", it says, provide a "reasonable to high probability of not exceeding 2C". This is true, but the report is not calling for a limit of 450 parts of "CO2 equivalent". It is calling for a limit of 450 parts of CO2, which means at least 500 parts of CO2 equivalent. At this level there is a low to very low probability of keeping the temperature rise below two degrees. So why on earth has this reputable scientific institution muddled the figures?

You can find the answer on page 16 of the report. "As with all client-consultant relationships, boundary conditions were established within which to conduct the analysis ... Friends of the Earth, in conjunction with a consortium of NGOs and with increasing cross-party support from MPs, have been lobbying hard for the introduction of a 'climate change bill' ... [The bill] is founded essentially on a correlation of 2C with 450 parts per million of CO2."

In other words, Friends of the Earth had already set the target before it ask edits researchers to find out what the target should be. I suspect that it chose the wrong number because it believed a 90% cut by 2030 would not be politically acceptable.

This echoes the refusal of Sir David King, the government's chief scientist, to call for a target of less than 550 parts per million of CO2 in the atmosphere, on the grounds that it would be "politically unrealistic". The message seems to be that the science can go to hell - we will tell people what we think they can bear.

A two degrees rise is the currently accepted danger point by which runaway climate change becomes unstoppable.

There is a lot of pressure for NGOs and environmentally inclined politicians to try to ignore the science, or water it down in their minds by blindly hoping that anything but the cut required will be enough. The organiser, lobbyist or author for the NGO wants to be able to win their campaign, and the higher the restriction, the more difficult it becomes to convince a politician. The politician wants to be able to get a bill through and convince the corporations and institutions that it effects, and the people who put him or her in a job, that it's worthwhile. Each extra percent and each year less makes that more difficult.

It is difficult. We need to convince politicians who need to convince the country and the world that we need to change the way we live in many ways - to abandon cars, aeroplanes, over consumption of our resources. Our whole economy is based on an endless supply of energy and resources which just does not exist and is not possible. It might seem like an impossible task, but it's certainly not. Difficult, but not impossible.

The first step however begins with ourselves. All NGOs must make a commitment to campaign and accept only what will work, what the most up-to-date science demands. Today that science demands it must be 90% of greenhouse gas reductions by 2030, and we must make much of those gains within the next decade. If we start with something that won't work we might as well go home now.

The Californian move

The most significant move on the international stage in the past month has been Schwarzenegger's move to introduce CO2 reductions for major industries such as utility plants, refineries and cement kilns to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 25% by 2020. [Guardian] (I would have preferred to use an LA Times link but sadly it's a registration site)

How "real" is this move?

The move is real, up to a point. 25% on industry is much more significant than any other US state has implemented, and in the US political scene is certainly an act of bravery. Kyoto Mk.1 only requires 4-6% on 1990 levels (lower emissions then) of cuts by 2012 (but of a whole country's emissions excluding international air travel), so it's greater than even its international obligations if the US did ratify Kyoto. It's in line with the outdated 2001 IPCC report requirements of 60% reductions by 2050, and this is still the benchmark for international agreements.

The main problem is that it's not enough to stop runaway climate change, not by a long shot. We need to have made significant reductions within the next decade. We know far more today than we did in 2001, and it's now clear today that we need much deeper targets, 90% reductions by either 2030 (Climate Crisis) or 2050 (Tyndall Centre) to balance the climate and prevent runaway climate change, and a large proportion of that made within the next ten years or it's too late. The public version of the next IPCC report is due out next year, and will have a revised target.

In addition, other limitations are that it only covers industry, not California's other sectors, and whatever carbon trading scheme they set up could severely reduce its effectiveness.

However, how much more can one state be expected to do without federal support, even one that by itself produces a massive 12% of the world's greenhouse gases?

So yes, a move to be welcomed certainly, but as a lever for further deeper cuts.

The Bush "u-turn"

Some press are reporting on a potential upcoming "Bush u-turn" in response to growing overwhelming pressure on climate change. Bush is working so hard on every level to de-rail even the recognition of climate change by most agencies, and already has known the science for years but as far as I can tell he just doesn't care. Therefore it is almost certainly limited to a change of PR to combat the likes of Gore's An Inconvenient Truth and the Californian move above. So, greenwash filters on extra strength for the next week or two.

George Monbiot's new book "Heat"...

...detailing exactly what the world needs to do to hit 90% by 2030 is due out next month. It's always interesting to see the difference between US and UK publicity. Here's the serene UK cover and the slightly more..errr..apocalypic US cover. I'm really looking forward to getting my hands on this.

The Matrix Solution to climate change

An interesting article appeared in the UK quality daily The Independent today, pointing to an "emergency plan" of geo-engineering devised by Professor Paul Crutzen who won the Nobel Prize for his work on the Ozone Layer in 1995. Devised as a last ditch attempt in future decades against runaway climate change should politicians of today continue their "grossly disappointing" response:

"Crutzen proposed a method of artificially cooling the global climate by releasing particles of sulphur in the upper atmosphere, which would reflect sunlight and heat back into space. The controversial proposal is being taken seriously by scientists because Professor Crutzen has a proven track record in atmospheric research.

"A fleet of high-altitude balloons could be used to scatter the sulphur high overhead, or it could even be fired into the atmosphere using heavy artillery shells

"In his forthcoming scientific paper, Professor Crutzen emphasises that the best way of averting global climate disaster is for countries to cut back significantly on their emissions of greenhouse gases, notably carbon dioxide produced by burning oil, gas and coal. But in the absence of such measures, and with the average global temperature expected to rise more than 3C this century, there may soon come a time when more extreme measures have to be considered, he said."

Skypecast on Monday

There will be an experimental "Skypecast" in talk radio format encouraging discussion and debate on Monday, 22:00 British time (BST). This is 23:00 Central European time, or 17:00 (5pm) to those on the east coast of the US.

Up for debate especially are the two big issues in the last week surrounding climate change:
* The endorsement by Tony Blair of new nuclear power stations
* The collapse of the European carbon trading market following the revelations that far too many permits had been allocation to most countries' industries

You need a working version of the latest Skype to take part, which is available for Windows and Apple Mac.

To listen or take part, simply go to the Skypecast site shortly before the start and join.

When a leak really is legit

About this time last week, the draft G8 climate change text appeared on a minor climate mailing list. I read this with interest, and not entirely sure it was legit (after all, why wasn't it in the national press too?) put it to one side rather than reproduce bad data.

Then a few days later, it did indeed appear in the national press. Here's Saturday's Guardian article, and I've uploaded the full orginal leak for you to read.

Basically, it's a load of spin, without actually saying anybody is committed to anything. It'll work well for sound-bites, but it's a failed conference before it starts if this is the text they're working from.

CAT gives Bellamy the middle finger

Something that I definitely do have the exclusive on: The Centre for Alternative Technology, Europe's largest eco-centre, has finally just kicked David Bellamy off its patrons list for climate change denial and fervent anti-wind activity.

An interested article by George Monbiot analysing some of Bellamy's recent statements can be found here. It seems his latest stats come straight from the previously documented Cooler Heads Coalition (Exxon lobby group) and..err..a typo:

"So it wasn't looking too good for Bellamy, or Singer, or any of the deniers who have cited these figures. But there was still one mystery to clear up. While Bellamy's source claimed that 55% of 625 glaciers are advancing, Bellamy claimed that 555 of them - or 89% - are advancing.

"This figure appears to exist nowhere else. But on the standard English keyboard, 5 and % occupy the same key. If you try to hit %, but fail to press shift, you get 555, instead of 55%. This is the only explanation I can produce for his figure. When I challenged him, he admitted that there had been "a glitch of the electronics"."

360 degree view of climate change

UK broadsheet the Guardian has published some breathtakingly beautiful satellite pictures of Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa's highest peak.

"Kilimanjaro's trademark snowy cap, at 5,895 metres (1,934ft), is now all but gone - 15 years before scientists predicted it would melt through global warming. In Swahili Kilima Njaro means shining mountain, but the glaciers and snow cap that kept the summit white, probably for 11,000 years - despite the location, in Tanzania, 200 miles south of the equator - have almost disappeared."

The photographs can be viewed from this link.

I now have time to dedicate again to the regular maintaining of this blog, so expect a few "catch up" posts at the end of the week. A lot has happened, the UK government's conference of scientists on climate change now fades into the distance but still will be covered, as does the publishing of report on water salinity which made the global press coverage a couple of weeks ago.

Review of last week: It's happening faster than we think

Climate change is happening faster than we think and the deadline before serious irreversible damage is only around the corner is the resounding message from last week's press. This is a big post, but do take the time to read it, it covers many different and important stories.

The major event was the release of a new report last Tuesday. "Meeting the Climate Challenge" is a high-level report published by the International Climate Change Taskforce - Centre for American Progress, the Institute for Public Policy Research in Britain, and The Australia Institute. It's different from many other reports in that it was put together by all sectors - senior politicians, academics and businessmen. This needs to be emphasised - the former transport secretary Stephen Byers (staunch Blairite, hardly a left-winger) co-chaired the task force that produced the report along with US Republican Senator Olympia Snowe (complemented by other Republicans and Democrats). "There is an ecological timebomb ticking away," said Stephen Byers.

The report indicates that in as as little as 10 years, the point of no return with global warming may have been reached. It breaks new ground by putting a figure on the point at which the world will be irreversibly exposed to disastrous climatic changes such as widespread agricultural failure, water shortages and major droughts, increased disease, and dangerous sea-level rise. It also assesses the possibility of abrupt catastrophic events such as "runaway" global warming, the melting of the Greenland ice sheet, or the switching-off of the Gulf Stream.

This is a class of document that normally is the precursor to a policy making stage. The has been covered conclusively in most of the press, but the Independent broke the story and was the first to get a look in their front page article entitled "Countdown to Catastrophe":

"The global warming danger threshold for the world is clearly marked for the first time in an international report to be published tomorrow - and the bad news is, the world has nearly reached it already. The countdown to climate-change catastrophe is spelt out by a task force of senior politicians, business leaders and academics from around the world - and it is remarkably brief. In as little as 10 years, or even less, their report indicates, the point of no return with global warming may have been reached."

"The report, Meeting The Climate Challenge, is aimed at policymakers in every country, from national leaders down. It has been timed to coincide with Tony Blair's promised efforts to advance climate change policy in 2005 as chairman of both the G8 group of rich countries and the European Union. "

The full report can be downloaded here.

climateprediction.net: First results state 2C-11C net for this century

The other major report was published in Nature and is from the climateprediction.net distributed model project - the largest ever climate change experiment, producing the first hard data that climate change is happening at a much faster rate than we thought was likely before. The project is a collaboration of experts at Oxford and Reading universities, The Open University, London School of Economics, Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research, and Rutherford Appleton Laboratory.

It widened the net considerably on the levels of possible temperature within this century, levelling it as between 2 and 11C. This is twice the maximum set by the IPCC in 2001 - and remember that the EU believe that 2C is the level that dangerous and catastrophic change will begin to occur.

"When we started out we didn't expect anything like this," said Oxford University's David Stainforth, chief scientist for climateprediction.net. "An 11C-warmed world would be a dramatically different world... There would be large areas at higher latitudes that could be up to 20C warmer than today. The UK would be at the high end of these changes. It is possible that even present levels of greenhouse gases maintained for long periods may lead to dangerous climate change... When you start to look at these temperatures, I get very worried indeed."

Professor Bob Spicer, of the Open University, said average global temperature rises of 11C are unprecedented in the long geological record of the Earth. "If we go back to the Cretaceous, which is 100 million years ago, the best estimates of the global mean temperature was about 6C higher than present," Professor Spicer said. "So 11C is quite substantial and if this is right we would be going into a realm that we really don't have much evidence for even in the rock [geological] record."

95,000 people from 150 countries currently donate their time to the climateprediction.net project - you can too by downloading the screen saver.

The amount of press coverage this received was tremendous, and a few outside the regular loop: [BBC] [Belfast Telegraph] [The Australian] as well as having a noticeable page filling "11 degrees" headline across the UK national free daily "Metro".

Scientists feeling agitated by future

The mood amongst scientists is becoming increasingly depressive in general - or "terrified" may be a better description. John Lawton, head of the Natural Environment Research Council stated in the Observer* last Sunday:
"My youngest grandson, Jonah, was born two years ago," he said the week before, "He is a real delight but his future, in a world heading towards massive climatic change, I have become extremely worried about. In fact, I am terrified."

Polar bears possibly extinct from 2026

..according to a new WWF report. It also ties the 2 degree point being hit anywhere between 2026 and 2060. As stated in December, the Hadley Centre (one of the most respected groups for climate prediction) states that by 2060 a 3.5C rise in temperature is the most likely scenario.

First day of UK-based International Conference on Climate Change

The British government today (Tuesday) opened a three-day international conference on climate change - "insisting that countries can cut carbon emissions without affecting economic growth." [Associated Press] [Guardian] More on this in forthcoming days.

Last week the climate change-deniers held a counter-conference, because of course climate change is "an anti-capitalist agenda, a Machiavellian political plot and a convenient rumour started by bungling Japanese pineapple farmers" apparently. It took place at the Royal Institution in London, and was organised by a British group, the Scientific Alliance, which has links to US oil company ExxonMobil through a collaboration with a US institute. It was probably attended by lots of...

Oil firms fund climate change deniers

...these people.

Bob May, president of the Royal Society, says that "a lobby of professional sceptics who opposed action to tackle climate change" is turning its attention to Britain because of its high profile in the debate.

Last month the Scientific Alliance published a joint report with the George C Marshall Institute in Washington that claimed to "undermine" climate change claims. The Marshall institute received £51,000 from ExxonMobil for its "global climate change programme" in 2003 and an undisclosed sum this month.

Prescott builds poor housing and risks wrecking climate change targets

The mid-century CO2 targets may well be unreachable due to inefficient poor housing developments being actioned by Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott. Which is in addition to...

Developers to build on flood plains in UK

We know, the Environmental Protection Agency knows, the insurance companies know (and are saying it's likely they'll refuse to insure them), but they just won't be told...

UK to tax 4x4s (SUVs) and use the money to provide grants to cleaner cars

From the Independent...

"The plan is being floated at a senior level in the Government as part of discussions over introducing tougher measures to cut carbon dioxide emissions and pollution from the UK's growing number of cars, vans and lorries.

It would involve setting a dividing line for the payment of duties and rebates, perhaps at about 185 grams per kilometre. Cars with emissions above 185g per km would be charged a levy based on a sliding scale. The higher the CO2 emissions, the higher the charge.

Cars under 185g per km would attract grants, again based on a sliding scale, which would give higher subsidies for the lowest emissions."

A shame the US isn't making a similar move where's SUVs are an epidemic, however...

Ford u-turn on recall of electric pick-up truck in US

But is still however the worst polluter of "US big six" car companies.

"Ford Motors has announced this week it is to make a dramatic u-turn on its widely unpopular decision to repossess and destroy all the last of its zero emissions Ranger electric vehicles (EVs)." [more]

US: Head of NASA's Goddard Institute speaks out

James E. Hansen who heads NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York has hit out in the Washington Post at the control the current Bush administration has over science which has been used to silence climatologists who try to speak out about the threats posed by climate change.

"In my more than three decades in government, I have never seen anything approaching the degree to which information flow from scientists to the public has been screened and controlled as it has now," Hansen said.

"As the evidence gathers, you would hope they would be flexible," Hansen said in the slow, measured tones he has retained from his years growing up on an Iowa farm. "We have to deal with this. You can't ignore it."

The reporter adds: "After the barrage of criticism, John H. Marburger III, Bush's top science adviser, told Science magazine that if the researchers continue their protests, they might alienate influential lawmakers who set federal science budgets."

RealClimate, by Real Scientists

A blog-like web site has been set up by several climatologists who were rather miffed by the mis-understandings in the media around several issues. It has received acclaim from Nature amongst other sources, and from reading is an absolutely a must-read for anybody who likes to get into the real nitty gritty of the science. It adopts the traditional science mantra of ignoring the politics around climate change (which is, for example, what I focus upon) and concentrates on simply providing the facts and clearing the myths.



* (note that the Observer article has a mistake, when it states that a 3-4C rise by 2010 is more likely, it obviously means by 2060, by 2010 is impossible)

It was climate change that wiped out most life 251m years ago

A report in last weeks "Science" online journal ties the "Great Dying", the worlds largest single mass extinction 251m years ago which almost made the Earth a dead and lifeless planet, to volcano-induced climate change.

The large amount of carbon and sulphur ejected into the air, and sulphur running into the sea killing ocean floor based life, seemed to have warmed the earth fatally and suffocated life through lack of oxygen.

"They suspect that as this continuing volcanism warmed the planet, large stores of methane gas locked in the ocean floor, triggering runaway greenhouse warming.

Scientists estimate that by the end of the 15 million-year period, 90 percent of all marine life and 75 percent of terrestrial species were extinct."

There has been debate over the cause, the previous main suspect being an asteroid collision similar to which probably wiped out the dinosaurs 65-million years ago, however Peter Ward who headed one of the two studies which had scientists from four continents participating, states categorically that climate change was most likely responsible:

"The geologic data are consistent with a more protracted catastrophic ecosystem collapse than a sudden impact would produce," he says. "If an impact occurred at all, it had a minor role."

'Ward's conclusions are supported by another team of scientists, who have been studying ocean sediments off the coasts of Australia and China, where they found evidence of extremely low oxygen levels in the upper ocean.'

"I think temperatures rose to a critical point. It got hotter and hotter until it reached a critical point and everything died," Ward said. "It was a double-whammy of warmer temperatures and low oxygen, and most life couldn't deal with it."

This has made a lot of the world's press: [Associated Press (AP)] [French Press Agency (AFP)] [The Australian] [Seattle PI] [Independent]

If you want to read something truly spine chilling however, here is a comment piece (quoted below) from 18-months ago by George Monbiot in the Guardian about this era. Although there are some differences between the sudden climate change we're initiating and that initiated by volcanic activity, the similarities significantly outweigh them:

"So how much warming took place? A sharp change in the ratio of the isotopes of oxygen permits us to reply with some precision: 6C. Benton does not make the obvious point, but another author, the climate change specialist Mark Lynas, does. Six degrees is the upper estimate produced by the UN's scientific body, the intergovernmental panel on climate change (IPCC), for global warming by 2100. A conference of some of the world's leading atmospheric scientists in Berlin last month concluded that the IPCC's model may have underestimated the problem: the upper limit, they now suggest, should range between 7 and 10 degrees. Neither model takes into account the possibility of a partial melting of the methane hydrate still present in vast quantities around the fringes of the polar seas."

"Suddenly, the events of a quarter of a billion years ago begin to look very topical indeed. One of the possible endings of the human story has already been told. Our principal political effort must now be to ensure that it does not become set in stone."

Kyoto Protocol March and "Climate Crisis" meetings in the UK

On Saturday 12th February there will be a march through London commencing the start of the Kyoto Protocol, and also in protest at the US's refusal to sign up. In the run up there will be "Climate Crisis" meetings organised by several different political groups across the country to "assess the scale & nature of the Climate threat, politics of Climate change, how to fight the Bush administration on climate, building a movement to press for urgent action". The dates of these are as follows:

Cardiff - Tuesday, 25th January, 7.00 pm
Oxford - Wednesday, 26th January, 7.30 pm
Brighton - Thursday, 27th January, 6.00 pm
Manchester - Thursday, 27th January, 7.00 pm

Bristol - Monday, 31st January, 7.30 pm
Norwich - Tuesday 1st February, 7.30 pm
Southampton - Wednesday 2nd February, 7.00 pm
London - Thursday, 3rd February, 7.00 pm
Birmingham - Thursday, 3rd February, 7.30 pm
Liverpool - Friday, February 4th, Time TBA

For further details and exact location details of these meetings, see here. See the main pages of the following groups for more information on the Kyoto Protocol March in London: Campaign Against Climate Change and Rising Tide.