Thursday, January 14, 2010

Poorest of the poor ask why Copenhagen failed to listen

Shorbanu Khatun of Bangladesh stood out among the thousands of suited negotiators in Copenhagen. Khatun's husband was killed by a tiger when their land was parched by extended dry seasons and flooded with salt water, forcing him to venture into the jungle to feed his family.

Then in May, Cyclone Aila destroyed Khatun's home, along with those of 500,000 others, forcing her to live in an internally displaced persons' camp on an embankment with thousands of other survivors. At high tide, they are flooded up to their chests. It is hard to imagine a more arduous existence.

Khatun describes her experience over five years: "Everything seems to have changed. It is suddenly too hot. There is a severe scarcity of rain. Because it is too hot, fish have reduced significantly in the river. Skin diseases, headache and diarrhoea have become regular phenomena . . . I want justice for my life; for my children's lives and livelihoods."

But it's hard to see how the Copenhagen Accord delivers justice to people in poor countries that are least responsible for climate change but suffer its impacts right now.

The accord is an empty political statement, shredding two years of negotiations down to 2½ pages of purely aspirational goals.

While it recognises the scientific view that the increase in global temperature should be kept below 2 degrees, it does not set out a trajectory for achieving this.

In February, countries will list their emissions reduction targets, which will be voluntary. They will have little to do with climate science and everything to do with the political climate in capitals around the world. If this is all the world can muster, we can expect a world that is 3.9 degrees warmer, year-round droughts in southern Africa, and water shortages affecting up to 4 billion additional people.

The promised $US100 billion a year by 2020, aimed at helping poor countries reduce their emissions and adapt to a changing climate, is less than half the amount needed. And the sad reality is the most vulnerable people will be lucky to get even a fraction of this amount, with rich countries likely to divert cash from existing aid commitments.

Nor is it clear how much will come from the public purse. But unless it does, there is no guarantee it will reach the right people in the right places. Crucially, the accord excludes the innovative revenue-raising mechanisms that could guarantee predictable flows of public money.

Developing countries were faced with an impossible choice between endorsing this inadequate compromise or watching the talks collapse.

Access to money was offered only to those countries that agreed to the accord. But the accord is not legally binding, nor does it set a timeline for reaching a legally binding agreement. It has as much chance of being honoured as a New Year's resolution. We have no choice but to continue negotiating as soon as possible. A fair, safe and legally binding agreement must be reached in early 2010.

The Australian Government should see this accord as a floor, not a ceiling. It will be hard to encourage countries such as the US and China to make real progress on climate change, if our ambitions remain low.

Australia, as one of the highest per-capita polluters in the world, and the developed country most at risk from climate change, must increase its target to a science-based 40 per cent by the February deadline. We must also contribute our fair share of climate finance, based on our historical responsibility for emissions and our capacity to pay. With Treasurer Wayne Swan yesterday lauding Australia's 19th consecutive year of growth, we can afford to do this.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd must make clear to Australians that significant changes - in our economy, our society and our relationships with the rest of the world - are needed to meet the climate change crisis.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has been irresponsible in simplifying the complex debate to trite sloganeering. As the alternative leader of our nation, he needs to understand that an effective response demands change, and this will have some costs now.

As numerous studies have shown, the cost of inaction will be far greater - it will cost the Australia dearly if we see a drop in agricultural yields in the country's food bowl, or have to cope with a rise in the number of catastrophic bushfires and severe weather events.

Globally, 300,000 people die each year from climate change and that number is rising. People like Khatun are not victims; they are finding solutions. But they need the support of the rich countries that are responsible for three-quarters of the carbon in the atmosphere.

Khatun has now headed back to the camp she and other victims of Cyclone Aila have called home for seven months. "How do I tell them their misery has fallen on deaf ears?" she asks.

Andrew Hewett is executive director of Oxfam Australia.

Source: The Age

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Philippines storm death toll nears 100

Philippines News.Net
Sunday 27th September, 2009 (IANS)

Nearly 100 people were killed as tropical storm Ketsana battered a wide area in the Philippines, dumping record rainfall on the capital that caused the worst flooding in 40 years, officials said Sunday.

Fifty people were also missing in floods and landslides following rains that exceeded what Hurricane Katrina dumped on New Orleans in August 2005, local officials and military spokesmen said.

Authorities rushed rescue and relief efforts to thousands of people who spent the night on the roofs of submerged houses in Manila and surrounding provinces. Some were trapped in their cars on flooded streets.

Defence Secretary Gilbert Teodoro said soldiers and volunteers rescued more than 5,000 drenched people from rooftops as the weather improved and floods receded in affected municipalities on Sunday.

'Our target is to finish the rescue operations before dark today,' he said. 'We have mobilized our air assets to find the people who need help and direct our forces there. We will continue our rescue operations until everyone that needs help is reached.'

The US government dispatched a helicopter and additional rubber boats to help in the rescue operations. Various UN agencies also donated funds to assist relief operations.

Rizal province east of Manila was one of the worst hit. One municipality in the province, Cainta, was almost completely submerged in floodwaters and still unreachable on Sunday.

At least 56 people died in floods in the province, provincial Governor Casimiro Ynares III said.

'Forty-five are still missing,' he said. 'We really need more rubber boats. We can't get through roads that are flooded. In some areas, the roads are blocked by stranded vehicles.'

Lieutenant Colonel Noel Detoyato, a civil military operations officer, said soldiers recovered 30 bodies in the town of Tanay alone in Rizal. The other fatalities drowned in the towns of Angono, Baras, Rodriguez, Teresa and San Mateo.

At least 11 people drowned in the Manila suburb of Marikina. The bodies were laid out on the streets as rescuers struggled to reach some isolated areas.

Thirty more people either drowned, were electrocuted, buried in landslides, struck by fallen trees and collapsed walls or suffered a heart attack in Manila, as well as the provinces of Laguna, Batangas, Quezon, Cavite and Apayao.

Detoyato said the fatalities in Laguna included two soldiers and three government militiamen who were dispatched to rescue flood victims in Pami town.

'The ill-fated team rescued more than 20 people before they were swept away by the strong current,' he said. 'Two other militiamen were missing.'

The weather bureau said the rainfall recorded Saturday in Manila was the capital's heaviest since 1967.

Nilo Prisco, head of the weather bureau, said the storm dumped 410.6 mm of rain in Manila in just nine hours, which was almost double the rainfall brought about by Hurricane Katrina.

The amount also exceeded the average monthly rainfall of 391 millimetres and the 1967 record of 331 millimetres.

'We can only attribute this to climate change,' Prisco said.

School classes in all levels were suspended for tomorrow (Monday) in Manila and the affected provinces to allow unhampered relief operations.

The National Disaster Coordinating Council said more than 290,000 people were affected by Ketsana, which has strengthened as it moved away from the Philippines. More than 47,000 were in evacuation centres, it added.

The weather bureau said the storm was packing maximum winds of 105 km per hour (kmph) and gusts of up to 135 kmph. It was moving west-north-west at 24 kmph towards the South China Sea.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Doom is lurking forth! Fresh for you today!

Water wars forecast as feeding India's hungry leaves the land thirsty.

September 26, 2009

Farmers who can no longer irrigate fear nothing will be left to drink, writes Matt Wade.

BALAWAS VILLAGE, Haryana: India is destined for water wars, one of its leading environmentalists has concluded after studying the effects of modern agriculture for more than 20 years.

''In a decade India could look like Darfur in Sudan,'' says Dr Vandana Shiva, a nuclear physicist turned environmental activist. ''When you run out of water it's a recipe for killing. Water really makes people so desperate.''

A patchy monsoon on the subcontinent this year has hit crops, particularly rice, highlighting the region's vulnerability to water shortages. But the problem is much bigger than one poor wet season.

In Haryana and Punjab, two states crucial to India's food security, farmers are drawing too much groundwater. Dubbed the subcontinent's breadbasket, this region has been the heartland of the country's green revolution since the mid-1960s. The high-yielding crop varieties grown here have enabled the country to feed its huge, fast-growing population. But the hybrid crops of the green revolution require a lot of water, as well as fertiliser and pesticides.

Farmers in Punjab and Haryana are now drilling deeper and deeper for water and the crop yields that once rose year after year have stagnated.

Last year the Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, told an international agriculture conference there was a ''persistent feeling that the first green revolution has run its course … we need a second green revolution''. But a second resource-intensive agricultural revolution is not sustainable.

An analysis of NASA satellite data taken over north-western India from 2002 to 2008 found aquifers were disappearing at an alarming rate. The study warned of the potential ''collapse of agriculture'' and severe shortages of drinking water in the region unless things changed.

Associate Professor Raj Kumar Jhorar, a soil and water specialist at Haryana Agricultural University, says too many farmers have switched to water-intensive crops such as rice, wheat and cotton. His research shows that the area of rice under cultivation in Haryana has risen by about 430 per cent since the late 1960s, cotton by 230 per cent and wheat by more than 200 per cent. ''This just isn't sustainable,'' he says.

A Punjab Government draft water policy document published last year said the state's water was being polluted by industrial waste, sewage and excessive pesticide use in agriculture. ''This can adversely affect the health of the populace and may cause diseases like cancer, skin diseases and miscarriage cases,'' it said.

These reports only confirm what local farmers already know.

Chatan Singh, a farmer in Balawas, has planted two crops in his fields since June but both have failed because of the scanty monsoon. A few years ago this would have been unthinkable because tubewells and a nearby canal could have made up for any shortfall in rain. But the canal recently ran dry and the tubewells are suddenly spewing out unusable saline water.

When this year's rains went truant, Chatan Singh's crops withered, leaving the father of eight deep in debt.

''This is new,'' he says. ''Once there was good water from the rains, the canal and the tubewells, but now it's scarce.''

He and his neighbours now drink the saline water that comes from the ground. Tests by a local university showed it was not fit for regular consumption but the villagers keep drinking. They have no alternative.

Shiva says water shortages could split communities along deeply entrenched divisions of caste and religion.

''What we will start seeing is localised conflicts over water,'' she says. ''As livelihoods evaporate, along with water, you will see all sorts of cracks opening up in society.''

Conflict is also possible between the majority rural population and the bursting cities.

''People with power live in cities and as the water crisis is deepening what remains is being increasingly delivered to the cities,'' Shiva says.

She is monitoring eight big river diversions to provide cities with more water.

Farmers in Balawas do not quibble with her prediction of violent conflict about water.

''Our wives already squabble over drinking water so when it gets to agricultural water there will be a much bigger fight,'' says one farmer, Jai Singh Sharma. His family owns 16 hectares of land in Balawas but he now plants crops on less than half a hectare because of a lack of water.

''Our wells are no longer giving us what we need,'' he says. ''If our water supply keeps receding at this rate we will see violence.''

At Dauatpur village, about 50 kilometres from Balawas, the farmers are just as pessimistic.

Kulbhushan Sharma, whose family owns six hectares, says he has been forced to drill his wells deeper, especially in the past five years.

''Slowly, slowly, year by year, things are going from bad to worse,'' he says.

''If this goes on it will be the end. Forget water for farming - we won't even have any to drink. The whole of India will be affected.''

There have been bitter fights recently about the dwindling supply of canal water in Dauatpur.

''The violence has started,'' Sharma says. Last month a gang of farmers at Aurangabad in the poverty-stricken state of Bihar gained nationwide publicity when they took up arms to guard their watered fields. They said people from nearby villages were trying to divert water towards their fields. They were ready to kill or be killed to protect their water.

''We don't want a fight but if someone diverts the canal water then how will we irrigate our fields?'' one of the armed men, Narendra Singh, told a local TV station.

The Government has been urged to manage water more effectively and to improve the patchy maintenance of the country's vast canal systems. The Punjab Government recently banned farmers from planting paddy rice until after the monsoon arrives in an attempt to save water.

However, political imperatives have stifled sensible reforms. Water is not priced appropriately and most farmers have free electricity to run their groundwater pumps. This encourages waste.

As if India's water problems were not enough already, global warming threatens to make them much worse. Scientists predict the annual monsoon, on which about 40 per cent of farmers depend, is likely to become more unpredictable as the country adds more than 20 million new mouths to feed every year. It is no wonder some locals are starting to fear the worst.

Saturday, September 19, 2009


Yes for a moment, lets take a small break from all the negativity about. At times it is good to pause from the daily diet, thrust down our gaping gullets, of stabbings, massacres, abuse, homeless crazies, violent sportsfans, shootings, ram raids, out of control teenagers, useless politicians, scientology nuts, artificially impregnated marsupials, etc etc.
Yes, pull up a pew, forget your mind numbing, brain deadending job, and just watch what wanders by....
For a change...!

Populate and perish: Sydney's time bomb

As one can see, quite clearly, Sydneys population is going to, and allready expanding in some quite fearsome ways.
Again, hornbag photography comes to our rescue, in showing in a best practice, ISO 9002 way, just how these changes are going to affect us all, in these 2 shots sauced only minutes apart.


September 19, 2009
SYDNEY in 2049 will be a vast urban sprawl stretching from Newcastle to Wollongong that as many as seven million people will call home, experts say.

Yesterday's revelation by the Treasurer, Wayne Swan, that Australia's population will swell to 35 million in 40 years has forced a reconsideration of whether Sydney can cope.

Demographers from the Australian National University predicted Sydney's population could grow to 6.9 million by 2049, an increase of 2.6 million.

The director of the Australian Demographic and Social Research Institute, Peter McDonald, said the natural constraint of the Blue Mountains would force the city to spread to the north and south, until it eventually met growing populations in Newcastle and Wollongong.

''I think you will see the coming together of those three cities into a single urban area,'' Professor McDonald said.

''It isn't simply that the Sydney metropolitan area will continue to grow. I think at some point people will actually choose Wollongong and Newcastle over Sydney to avoid the crowding and congestion and the cost of living.

''But the end result is that they will probably end up living in a larger metropolitan area anyway, with Sydney at its centre and a continuous urban link to those regional centres.''

Planners and experts in health and sustainability said a 50 per cent increase in Sydney's population would require tens of thousands of additional hospital beds and nearly a million new homes. The amount of water consumed for household use would increase from 1.3 billion litres a day to 2.1 billion litres, requiring a far greater utilisation of water recycling or a new dam.

''In the Sydney basin we may not be able to sustainably meet this population increase,'' said Dr Chris Dey, a sustainability expert from the University of Sydney. ''We need greater diversification - more harvesting, recycling, more reuse of waste water.''

Stuart White from the University of Technology's Institute for Sustainable Futures said public transport and housing would be greater challenges. ''These are major pieces of infrastructure that must be integrated into the city on a mass scale and that is an extremely difficult task, particularly when you're starting from the position we're in now.''

While the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, welcomed the population increase, Labor backbencher Kelvin Thompson said Australia was ''sleepwalking into an environmental disaster''.

''Another 13 or 14 million people will not give us a richer country, it will spread our mineral wealth more thinly and give us a poorer one,'' Mr Thompson said. ''It will make a mockery of our obligation to pass on to our children a world in as good a condition as the one our grandparents gave to us.''

Friday, September 11, 2009

Freak tornado' kills 14 in Argentina, Brazil

Ah yes, some hornbags of various shapes, sizes and colours, causing tornadoes, and freak storms, of various intensities in their local area.
Well, at least to some blokes anyway
Beware, strange weather coming to a street near you, soon!
If not, at least hornbags provide some temporary distraction.
Until the roof caves in, is blown away, or collapses into a gaping cavern.

Posted Wed Sep 9, 2009 10:00am AEST

A violent storm described as a "freak tornado" has shredded hundreds of houses and killed at least 14 people in the southern part of South America, officials said.

Northern Argentina and southern Brazil, and the small countries of Uruguay and Paraguay wedged between them, were hit by a fierce atmospheric mass packing rain, hail and winds over 120 kilometres per hour.

In northeastern Argentina, 10 people died, including seven children, authorities said.

More than 50 others were injured, and trees and power lines were toppled in the towns of Santa Rosa, Tobuna and Pozo Azul, said Ricardo Veselka Corrales, head of the local civil defence office.

Witnesses and local media described the storm as a tornado.

Meteorologists were wary, although the US National Climatic Data Centre said the area is the only place in South America with a likelihood of experiencing the high-speed spinning tubes of destructive wind.

"It could have been a tornado," said Jorge Leguizamon, of Argentina's National Meteorological Service.

"The phenomenon still hasn't been classified, experts will have to evaluate the damage."

What was clear was that "it's not normal for this area," said the provincial minister, Daniel Franco.

"We've always had very strong winds and torrential rains here but this was a phenomenon never seen before. Houses were completely destroyed," he said.

The devastation was "incredible," said the mayor of San Pedro, Orlando Wolfart, noting that several homes had been wiped from their foundations.

Television images showed a destroyed landscape, with several homes levelled and others still standing but with their roofs ripped off.

In the southern Brazilian state of Santa Catarina, similar devastation occurred from what the region's civil defence service agreed was "a probable tornado."

Four people died when winds ravaged 37 towns and villages, knocking over more than 100 homes and blasting others with hail big enough to puncture roofs, it said in a statement.

At least another 64 people were hurt, 40 of whom were hospitalised.

One town in the state, Sao Domingos, was isolated, while several others had water and electricity supplies cut.

Flooding was widespread.

The head of the civil defence service, Major Marcio Luiz Alves, said "the real extent of the damage will be known in the next few hours."

In Sao Paulo, Latin America's biggest city, the storm turned the sky so dark that it appeared to be night, with occasional bolts of lightning and the persistent rumbling of thunder.

Heavy rain submerged 28 spots around the city and brought traffic on normally congested roads to a standstill.

Many flights were delayed at Sao Paulo's main domestic airport and pilots were being forced to rely on instruments because of zero visibility.

In Paraguay, hail stones peppered roofs and damaged some 700 rural properties.

"Damage was registered in the areas of Neembucu, San Pedro, Paraguari, Cordillera, Canindeyu and Caaguazu. Many crops were damaged," said the risk manager for the country's emergency service, Aldo Saldivar.

The change in weather saw temperatures in the capital Asuncion suddenly plunge from 35 degrees Celsius to 12 degrees.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

More fresh and steaming doom!

It is good to see hornbags coping with the impending doom that is laid before us.
In fact, as one can see with the HB in white boots, she is firmly giving her tongue out as a vibrant opinion to what she thinks about the impending doom, in our lifetime, of all that we know and value.
So, lets look to world class, best practice hornbags, to make void all these doom merchants who know nothing, wish to purvey before us.
After all, what would a Korean who happens to be head of the UN, and visited the Arctic at first hand, know?
Yes indeed!

World heading for abyss on climate change: UN chief.

The world is accelerating towards an abyss on climate change, the UN chief Ban Ki-moon warned on Thursday, urging rapid progress in troubled talks to cut emissions and tackle global warming.

"Our foot is stuck on the accelerator and we are heading towards an abyss," the United Nations Secretary General said in a speech to the World Climate Conference.

Ban, who earlier this week visited the Arctic to witness first hand the changes wrought by global warming, warned that many of the "more distant scenarios" predicted by scientists were "happening now."

"Scientists have been accused for years of scaremongering. But the real scaremongers are those who say we cannot afford climate action -- that it will hold back economic growth," he said.

"They are wrong. Climate change could spell widespread disaster," Ban warned.

The UN Secretary General pinned his hopes on a summit of world leaders in New York to discuss climate change in two weeks' time. Talks on extending the Kyoto agreement on emissions cuts in time for December's Copenhagen conference had been too limited and slow, he said.

"We have 15 negotiating days left until Copenhagen. We cannot afford limited progress. We need rapid progress," he added.

"In New York, (I) expect candid and constructive discussions. I expect serious bridge building. I expect strong outcomes," Ban told delegates and ministers from some 150 countries at the meeting in Geneva.