Πέμπτη, Νοεμβρίου 08, 2007

1st PhD Conference in Economics 2008, in Memory of Vassilis Patsatzis

1st PhD Conference in Economics 2008
In memory of Vassilis Patsatzis
May 16th, 2008

Call for Papers

The Department of Economics and the University of Athens Doctoral Program in Economics (UADPhilEcon) at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens invite PhD Students and Junior Researchers, all around the world, in economics and related disciplines to submit papers for presentation at the 1st PhD Conference in Economics 2008 in memory of Vassilis Patsatzis. Research papers to be presented may source from all fields of economic theory, both theoretical and applied.

Researchers interested in applying must send a one-page abstract, summarizing the content and contribution to economic theory of their work. The document submitted should additionally include contact information (name, affiliation, phone number, e-mail address), 3-4 keywords and JEL classification codes. All the above necessary information must be included in a single PDF file, sent at econphdconference@gmail.com.

The deadline for submitting the research papers’ abstract is January 31st, 2008. Notification of acceptance will have been announced by March 15th, 2008.

Papers and presentations must be in English.

No registration or participation fee will be required.

Please do not hesitate to contact with any member of the organizing committee for any questions.

Vrettos Konstantinos: kvrettos@econ.uoa.gr
Zekente Kalliopi-Maria: popizek@econ.uoa.gr
Magonis George: gmagonis@econ.uoa.gr
Dafermos Yannis: yannis.dafermos@gmail.com
Kitsios Manos: manoskitsios@gmail.com

For more information check: www.uadphilecon.gr

Κυριακή, Νοεμβρίου 04, 2007

Νερό-δηλητήριο απειλεί την Αττική

Ψευδάργυρο, αρσενικό, μόλυβδο, νικέλιο, νιτρικά και άλλες επικίνδυνες ουσίες ανίχνευσαν οι ερευνητές
Ακατάλληλα για ύδρευση και άρδευση τα ύδατα σε Μαραθώνα, Μεσόγεια, Νέα Μάκρη, Σχινιά, Λαύριο, Φαληρικό όρμο και Θριάσιο


Οι βιομηχανικές και οι γεωργικές δραστηριότητες δηλητηριάζουν τα υπόγεια ύδατα με αποτέλεσμα τα νερά σε πολλές περιοχές της Αττικής να είναι ακατάλληλα ακόμη και για άρδευση

Το εξασθενές χρώμιο που «ξερνούν» τα ποτάμια και τα δίκτυα ύδρευσης στην Ανατολική Αττική και στη Βοιωτία, βάφοντας κόκκινο το νερό, δεν είναι ο μόνος θανατηφόρος κίνδυνος που απειλεί τους κατοίκους της περιοχής. Ψευδάργυρος, αρσενικό, μόλυβδος, νικέλιο, νιτρικά και άλλα επικίνδυνα τοξικά στοιχεία - τα οποία στην πλειονότητά τους ενοχοποιούνται για την εμφάνιση σοβαρών ασθενειών, ακόμη και για καρκινογενέσεις - ανίχνευσαν στα νερά όχι μόνον αυτών των περιοχών, αλλά και πολλών άλλων της Αττικής, οι ερευνητές του Ινστιτούτου Γεωλογικών και Μεταλλευτικών Ερευνών (ΙΓΜΕ). Οι ανεξέλεγκτες βιομηχανικές και γεωργικές δραστηριότητες «εμπλουτίζουν» τα υπόγεια ύδατα με επιβλαβείς για τη δημόσια υγεία ουσίες και δημιουργούν ένα «εκρηκτικό κοκτέιλ», ακατάλληλο για κάθε χρήση. Τα νερά στον Μαραθώνα, στα Μεσόγεια, στη Νέα Μάκρη, στον Σχινιά, στο Λαύριο, στον Φαληρικό όρμο και στο Θριάσιο δεν μπορούν να χρησιμοποιηθούν για ύδρευση, αλλά ούτε για άρδευση καλλιεργειών ή οιαδήποτε άλλη εφαρμογή.

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Πέμπτη, Οκτωβρίου 04, 2007

Τρίτη, Σεπτεμβρίου 25, 2007

Law and Economics for a Warming World

by Lisa Heinzerling and Frank Ackerman
Harvard Law and Policy Review volume 1, no. 2, pp.331-362

Both law and economics offer frameworks for understanding public policy – and both require changes in order to respond effectively to the challenge of climate change. Contrary to implicit conservative assumptions, maintaining the status quo is not an option; “business as usual” will lead to rapidly worsening results as greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise. The causal links between actions and impacts extend across centuries; the most important effects of our actions occur long after our lifetimes. The consequences, and probabilities of damages, from climate change are incalculable in detail, although worsening in general. Each of these problems compels a rethinking of aspects of both law and economics, as Lisa Heinzerling and Frank Ackerman explain in this article.

Visit the journal at: http://www.hlpronline.com/

Τετάρτη, Μαρτίου 28, 2007

Έρευνα για την Ελληνική Blogόσφαιρα

Καλησπέρα σε όλους του Έλληνες, αυτή τη φορά, αναγνώστες. Mια έρευνα διεξάγεται σχετικά με την ελληνόφωνη blogόσφαιρα από το Πάντειο Πανεπιστήμιο. Νομίζω ότι αξίζει να ξοδέψουμε λίγο από τον χρόνο μας ο καθένας για να απαντήσουμε στα ερωτήματα της έρευνας (δεν παίρνει ειλικρινά πολύ χρόνο). Όσοι αγαπάμε το blogging καλό είναι συμμετέχουμε σε αυτή την έρευνα. Παραθέτω το σχετικό link παρακάτω.


Παραθέτω και το παρακάτω άρθρο από την εφημερίδα το "Έθνος" για περαιτέρω κατανόηση της έρευνας.

Σε εξέλιξη βρίσκεται αυτές τις ημέρες διαδικτυακή έρευνα για τους Έλληνες blogger, στο πλαίσιο του Προγράμματος Μεταπτυχιακών Σπουδών «Δυνητικές Κοινότητες : Ψυχο-Κοινωνιολογικές Προσεγγίσεις και Τεχνικές Εφαρμογές» του Παντείου Πανεπιστημίου.

Όπως μας ενημέρωσαν αναγνώστες του Ethnos.gr που διατηρούν ή απλώς διαβάζουν ελληνικά ιστολόγια (blog αν προτιμάτε), η έρευνα καλεί τους «ιδιοκτήτες» σχετικών τόπων να συμμετάσχουν στη συμπλήρωση του ερωτηματολογίου, προκειμένου να σχηματιστεί μία πληρέστερη εικόνα για την ελληνική blog-όσφαιρα.

Μπορείτε να δείτε τη σχετική σελίδα και να συμμετέχετε στην έρευνα κάνοντας κλικ εδώ.

Στο σχετικό e-mail του ο συντάκτης κ. Ζαφείρης Καραμπάσης ενημερώνει ότι το Πρόγραμμα Μεταπτυχιακών Σπουδών «Δυνητικές Κοινότητες : Ψυχο-Κοινωνιολογικές Προσεγγίσεις και Τεχνικές Εφαρμογές» του Παντείου από τη Δευτέρα 26/3 και για περίπου 1,5 μήνα διεξάγει την πρώτη στην Ελλάδα μεγάλη on-line έρευνα -με τη μορφή ερωτηματολογίου- που αφορά στο προφίλ, τα κίνητρα και τις πρακτικές των ελληνόφωνων bloggers/ιστολόγων.

Όπως σχολιάζεται στο τέλος, «Νομίζουμε ότι πέρα από το προφανές ερευνητικό ενδιαφέρον, τα αποτελέσματα μιας τέτοιας έρευνας παρουσιάζουν ενδιαφέρον τόσο για τους ίδιους τους bloggers όσο και γενικότερο, αφού τα αποτελέσματα θα ανακοινωθούν δημόσια προσβάσιμα από όλους. Παράλληλα όμως θεωρούμε ότι η ακαδημαϊκή και πανεπιστημιακή αρχή με όλες τις θεσμικές και δεοντολογικές εγγυήσεις που φέρει, ως κατεξοχήν ανεξάρτητη και πέρα και πάνω από εμπορικές διαδικασίες, όχι μόνο αποτελεί έναν κατάλληλο φορέα να αναλάβει και να πραγματώσει ένα τέτοιο έργο -λόγω της πολλές φορές απαραίτητης για τέτοιες έρευνες ουδέτερης υπόστασής του- αλλά πολύ περισσότερο ότι η πρωτοβουλία αυτή αποτελεί και ένα κάλεσμα στήριξης, καλής θέλησης και βοηθείας, μια συσπειρωτική πρωτοβουλία που απευθύνεται σε όσους συμμετέχουν ή ενδιαφέρονται για το ελληνικό internet».

Κυριακή, Μαρτίου 25, 2007

Hollywood's Climate Follies

Washington Post
Wednesday, March 21, 2007

by Robert J. Samuelson

"My fellow Americans, people all over the world, we need to solve the climate crisis. It's not a political issue. It's a moral issue. We have everything we need to get started, with the possible exception of the will to act. That's a renewable resource. Let's renew it."

-- Al Gore, accepting an Oscar for "An Inconvenient Truth"

Global warming has gone Hollywood, literally and figuratively. The script is plain. As Gore says, solutions are at hand. We can switch to renewable fuels and embrace energy-saving technologies, once the dark forces of doubt are defeated. It's smart and caring people against the stupid and selfish. Sooner or later, Americans will discover that this Hollywood version of global warming (largely mirrored in the media) is mostly make-believe.

Most of the many reports on global warming have a different plot. Despite variations, these studies reach similar conclusions. Regardless of how serious the threat, the available technologies promise at best a holding action against greenhouse gas emissions. Even massive gains in renewables (solar, wind, biomass) and more efficient vehicles and appliances would merely stabilize annual emissions near present levels by 2050. The reason: Economic growth, especially in poor countries, will sharply increase energy use and emissions.

The latest report came last week from 12 scientists, engineers and social scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The report, " The Future of Coal," was mostly ignored by the media. It makes some admittedly optimistic assumptions: "carbon capture and storage" technologies prove commercially feasible; governments around the world adopt a sizable charge (a.k.a. tax) on carbon fuel emissions. Still, annual greenhouse gas emissions in 2050 are roughly at today's levels. Without action, they'd be more than twice as high.

Coal, as the report notes, is essential. It provides about 40 percent of global electricity. It's cheap (about a third of the cost of oil) and abundant. It poses no security threats. Especially in poor countries, coal use is expanding dramatically. The United States has the equivalent of more than 500 coal-fired power plants with a capacity of 500 megawatts each. China is building two such plants a week. Coal use in poor countries is projected to double by 2030 and would be about twice that of rich countries (mainly the United States, Europe and Japan). Unfortunately, coal also generates almost 40 percent of man-made carbon dioxide (CO2), a prime greenhouse gas.

Unless we can replace coal or neutralize its CO2emissions, curbing greenhouse gases is probably impossible. Substitution seems unlikely, simply because coal use is so massive. Consider a separate study by Wood Mackenzie, a consulting firm. It simulated a fivefold increase in U.S. electricity from renewables by 2026. Despite that, more coal generating capacity would be needed to satisfy growth in demand.

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is a bright spot: Catch the CO2and put it underground. On this, the MIT study is mildly optimistic. The technologies exist, it says. Similarly, geologic formations -- depleted oil fields, unusable coal seams -- provide adequate storage space, at least in the United States. But two problems loom: First, capture and storage adds to power costs; and second, its practicality remains suspect until it's demonstrated on a large scale.

No amount of political will can erase these problems. If we want poorer countries to adopt CCS, then the economics will have to be attractive. Right now, they're not. Capturing CO2and transporting it to storage spaces uses energy and requires costlier plants. On the basis of present studies, the MIT report says that the most attractive plants with CCS would produce almost 20 percent less electricity than conventional plants and could cost almost 40 percent more. Pay more, get less -- that's not a compelling argument. Moreover, older plants can't easily be retrofitted. Some lack space for additions; for others costs would be prohibitive.

To find cheaper technologies, the MIT study proposes more government research and development. The study's proposal of a stiff charge on carbon fuel -- to be increased 4 percent annually -- is intended to promote energy efficiency and create a price umbrella to make CCS more economically viable. But there are no instant solutions, and a political dilemma dogs most possibilities. What's most popular and acceptable (say, more solar) may be the least consequential in its effects; and what's most consequential in its effects (a hefty energy tax) may be the least popular and acceptable.

The actual politics of global warming defies Hollywood's stereotypes. It's not saints vs. sinners. The lifestyles that produce greenhouse gases are deeply ingrained in modern economies and societies. Without major changes in technology, the consequences may be unalterable. Those who believe that addressing global warming is a moral imperative face an equivalent moral imperative to be candid about the costs, difficulties and uncertainties.

Copyright 2007 The Washington Post Company

Παρασκευή, Μαρτίου 23, 2007

Gore Warns Congress of "Planetary Emergency"

The New York Times
March 21, 2007
By Felicity Barringer and Andrew Revkin

WASHINGTON, March 21 — It was part science class, part policy wonk paradise, part politics and all theater as former Vice President Al Gore came to Congress on Wednesday to insist that global warming constitutes a “planetary emergency” requiring an aggressive federal response.

Mr. Gore, accompanied by his wife, Tipper, delivered the same blunt message to a joint meeting of two House committees in the morning and a Senate panel in the afternoon: Humans are artificially warming the world, the risks of inaction are great, and meaningful cuts in emissions linked to warming will happen only if the United States takes the lead.

While sparring with Representative Joe L. Barton, a Texas Republican critical of his message, Mr. Gore resorted to a simple metaphor. “The planet has a fever. If your baby has a fever, you go to the doctor.” He added, “If the doctor says you need to intervene here, you don’t say ‘I read a science fiction novel that says it’s not a problem.’ You take action.”

In the House, there was little debate about the underlying science; the atmosphere was more that of a college lecture hall than a legislative give-and-take. But in the Senate, James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma, the ranking Republican on the Environment and Public Works Committee, set a pugilistic tone, challenging Mr. Gore’s analysis of the dangers of climate change from hurricanes and melting ice in Antarctica.

“It is my perspective that your global warming alarmist pronouncements are now and have always been filled with inaccuracies and misleading statements,” Mr. Inhofe said.

Beneath the carefully groomed surface of the House and Senate committees’ scripted production, a rift was evident. Republican committee leaders, including Mr. Barton in the House, and Mr. Inhofe in the Senate, seemed somewhat isolated from their rank-and-file colleagues, who appeared more receptive to Mr. Gore’s message and the scientific consensus on climate change. Even J. Dennis Hastert of Illinois, the former House speaker, seemed to accept the scientific consensus.

Climate experts have concluded with growing accord that human-generated greenhouse gases are the dominant driver of recent global warming and that centuries of rising temperatures and seas lie ahead if emissions are not curbed.

Instead of challenging the science, many Republicans focused on questions of how to attack the problem in the United States, tending to favor nuclear power — which Mr. Gore said should be a “small part” of any solution — and asking what to do about the emissions of large developing economies like China and India.

Senator John W. Warner, a Virginia Republican who briefly considered trying to replace Mr. Inhofe as the ranking member on the Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee, expressed concern about how to coax China into reversing its build-out of coal-fired power plants, which are heavy emitters of carbon dioxide, the most prevalent heat-trapping gas associated with global warming.

“When we lead, they will be a part of it,” Mr. Gore replied, adding that two recent speeches by Chinese leaders indicate “there’s excellent evidence that they” are concerned about the effects of climate change.

From the time that he arrived in the morning at the Rayburn House Office Building in a black Mercury Mariner hybrid S.U.V. to the time he was whisked out of the senators’ entrance at the Dirksen Building committee room, Mr. Gore combined the erudition of a professor with a touch of the preacher’s fire.

Evoking the movie “300,” about the ancient Spartans’ stand at Thermopylae, Mr. Gore, speaking to a joint session of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the House Science Committee, called on Congress to put aside partisan differences, accept the scientific consensus on global warming and become “the 535,” a reference to the number of seats in the House and Senate.

Democrats and Republicans, he said, should emulate their British counterparts and compete to see how best to curb emissions of smokestack and tailpipe “greenhouse” gases.

Mr. Gore also proposed a 10-point plan, calling for initiatives like a tax on carbon emissions, a ban on incandescent light bulbs and another on new coal-fired plants that cannot be designed to capture carbon. He also called for a national mortgage program to underwrite the use of home energy-saving technologies.

Waving his finger at some 40 House members, he said, “A day will come when our children and grandchildren will look back and they’ll ask one of two questions.”

Either, he said, “they will ask: what in God’s name were they doing?” or “they may look back and say: how did they find the uncommon moral courage to rise above politics and redeem the promise of American democracy?”

On the Senate side, Mr. Inhofe quickly hit an issue that some of Mr. Gore’s critics have sounded in recent weeks — the size and energy-consuming properties of his new home in Tennessee. Mr. Inhofe sought to exact a pledge from Mr. Gore to cut electricity use so that his home outside Nashville used no more than the average American home in a year.

This triggered a jousting match with both Mr. Gore and Senator Barbara Boxer of California, the committee chairwoman, which ended when Ms. Boxer made a tart reference to the change in power in the Senate. “You’re not making the rules,” she told Mr. Inhofe.

Mr. Gore then said he pays extra to use wind-generated electricity at the home; Mr. Inhofe took that response as a rejection of the pledge.

When Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, Democrat of New York, asked if Mr. Gore would favor a tax on carbon emissions over a cap on emissions, accompanied by a system of trading pollution allowances, he said both were needed.

Representative Ralph M. Hall, Republican of Texas, said calls for cuts in emissions of greenhouse gases amounted to an “all-out assault on all forms of fossil fuels” that could eliminate jobs and hurt the economy.

In written testimony for the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Bjorn Lomborg, a Danish statistician and author critical of people who present environmental problems as a crisis, asserted that Mr. Gore’s portrayal of global warming as a problem, and his prescription for solving it, were deeply flawed.

Mr. Lomborg said that “global warming is real and man-made,” but that a focus on intensified energy research would be more effective and far cheaper than caps or taxes on greenhouse gas emissions or energy sources that produce them.

Felicity Barringer reported from Washington, and Andrew C. Revkin from New York.

Source: The New York Times

Τρίτη, Μαρτίου 20, 2007

Οι δύο όψεις του Ιανού !!

Οι ΗΠΑ σπάνε την ομοφωνία των ισχυρότερων χωρών για την κλιματική αλλαγή

Σε συνάντηση των 13 κυριότερων βιομηχανικών και αναδυόμενων οικονομιών στη Γερμανία, οι ΗΠΑ έσπασαν την ομοφωνία για το πώς η διεθνής κοινότητα θα πρέπει να αντιμετωπίσει την κλιματική αλλαγή.

Στη διήμερη συνάντηση των υπουργών Περιβάλλοντος, που ολοκληρώθηκε το Σάββατο στο Πότσνταμ, οι ΗΠΑ δήλωσαν την αντίθεσή τους στη δημιουργία μιας παγκόσμια αγοράς για το διοξείδιο του άνθρακα, το κυριότερο από τα αέρια που προκαλούν το φαινόμενο του θερμοκηπίου.

Τάχθηκαν επίσης κατά της παροχής οικονομικών κινήτρων στις αναπτυσσόμενες χώρες για την εθελοντική προστασία των φυσικών τους πόρων, όπως τα τροπικά δάση.

«Πιστεύουμε ότι αυτό ήταν ατυχές» δήλωσε στο Γαλλικό Πρακτορείο Ειδήσεων ο Γερμανός υπουργός Περιβάλλοντος Σίγκμαρ Γκάμπριελ, προσθέτοντας μάλιστα ότι η αμερικανική αντίθεση «δεν προκαλεί έκπληξη».

Στις συνομιλίες έλαβαν μέρος εκπρόσωποι της G8 (Βρετανία, Καναδάς, Γαλλία, Γερμανία, Ιταλία, Ιαπωνία, Ρωσία, ΗΠΑ), της Βραζιλίας, της Κίνας, της Ινδίας, του Μεξικού και της Νοτίου Αφρικής.

Ο Γκάμπριελ χαρακτήρισε «μεγάλη επιτυχία» τη συνάντηση, καθώ όλοι συμφωνούν ότι η κλιματική αλλαγή πρέπει να αντιμετωπιστεί. Οι υπουργοί συμφώνησαν επίσης ότι τα μέτρα κατά της παγκόσμιας θέρμανσης δεν θα πρέπει να φρενάρουν την προσπάθεια των φτωχότερων χωρών για οικονομική ανάπτυξη.

Ωστόσο ο Αμερικανός εκπρόσωπος, ο διοικητής της Υπηρεσίας Περιβαλλοντικής Προστασίας Στίβεν Τζόνσον δήλωσε αντίθετος στη δημιουργία διεθνούς αγοράς ρύπων.

Το μοντέλο της αγοράς άνθρακα, που εφαρμόζεται από τις χώρες που έχουν αποδεχθεί το Πρωτόκολλο του Κιότο, προβλέπει ότι όσοι ρυπαίνουν περισσότερο από όσο τους αναλογεί πρέπει να πληρώνουν, ενώ όσοι δεν καταναλώνουν ολόκληρο το μερίδιό τους στην εκπομπή διοξειδίου του άνθρακα μπορούν να πωλούν το υπόλοιπο.

Περίληψη των αποφάσεων που ελήφθησαν στη συνάντηση του Πότσνταμ θα κατατεθούν στη σύνοδο της G8 τον Ιούνιο, η οποία αναμένεται να παίξει κρίσιμο ρόλο στις συνομιλίες για τη συμφωνία που θα διαδεχθεί το Κιότο το 2012. Οι διαπραγματεύσεις για τη συμφωνία αυτή θα πραγματοποιηθούν το Δεκέμβριο στο Μπαλί.

Πηγή: www.in.gr

Υ.Γ. Θυμίζω απλά ότι μιλάμε για τη χώρα του αμέσως προηγούμενου post!!!!

Κυριακή, Μαρτίου 11, 2007

Νωρίτερα... η θερινή ώρα για τις ΗΠΑ με στόχο την εξοικονόμηση ενέργειας!!!

Αυτοί οι Αμερικάνοι, πραγματικά ώρες-ώρες με τρελαίνουν με την ευρηματικοτητά τους!!!!!!

Οι πολίτες των ΗΠΑ μετέφεραν τα ρολόγια τους στην θερινή ώρα τρεις εβδομάδες νωρίτερα από το κανονικό, προκειμένου να μειώσουν την κατανάλωση καυσίμων και να βοηθήσουν το περιβάλλον.

Στις 02:00 τα ξημερώματα (τοπική ώρα) οι δείκτες του ρολογιού γύρισαν μια ώρα μπροστά. Σύμφωνα με το BBC, η θερινή ώρα θα διαρκέσει έως τις 4 Νοεμβρίου, μία εβδομάδα αργότερα σε σχέση με τα προηγούμενα χρόνια.

Οι τέσσερις επιπλέον βδομάδες αναμένεται να βοηθήσουν στη μείωση της κατανάλωσης ενέργειας, μιας και η ζήτηση για ηλεκτρικό ρεύμα μειώνεται το βράδυ, εάν υπάρχει φυσικό φως.

Το BBC αναφέρει πως το μέτρο ψηφίστηκε πριν από δύο χρόνια, ως τμήμα μιας ενεργειακής πολιτικής που σκοπό έχει να ενθαρρύνει τη χρήση νέων τεχνολογιών στον τομέα της ενέργειας.

«Η αλλαγή στο ξεκίνημα της θερινής ώρας είναι απλά ένα βήμα για να κάνουμε τη χώρα μας πιο αποδοτική όσον αφορά τη χρήση της ενέργειας και πιο ευαίσθητη σχετικά με το περιβάλλον μας» δήλωσε ο Έντουαρτ Μάρκεϊ, υπεύθυνος για την χρηματοδότηση του προγράμματος.

«Οι Αμερικανοί δεν θα έχουν μόνο περισσότερο φως στη διάθεσή τους για τέσσερις εβδομάδες μέσα στη χρονιά, αλλά το μέτρο θα διευκολύνει την εξοικονόμηση μεγάλης ποσότητας ενέργειας, την μείωση του εγκλήματος, τα αυτοκινητιστικά ατυχήματα και την αύξηση των οικονομικών δραστηριοτήτων» προσέθεσε.

Οι επικριτές του μέτρου θεωρούν ότι μπορεί να δημιουργηθούν σε μικροπροβλήματα, όπως βλάβες υπολογιστών και σε αποσυντονισμό διαφόρων συσκευών. Πολλοί μάλιστα δεν διστάζουν να παρομοιάσουν την κατάσταση που θα επικρατήσει με τον «ιό του έτους 2000».

Πηγή: in.gr

Report outlines global warming's effects

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The harmful effects of global warming on daily life are already showing up, and within a couple of decades hundreds of millions of people won't have enough water, top scientists will say next month at a meeting in Belgium.

At the same time, tens of millions of others will be flooded out of their homes each year as the Earth reels from rising temperatures and sea levels, according to portions of a draft of an international scientific report obtained by The Associated Press.

Tropical diseases like malaria will spread. By 2050, polar bears will mostly be found in zoos, their habitats gone. Pests like fire ants will thrive.

For a time, food will be plentiful because of the longer growing season in northern regions. But by 2080, hundreds of millions of people could face starvation, according to the report, which is still being revised.

The draft document by the authoritative Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change focuses on global warming's effects and is the second in a series of four being issued this year. Written and reviewed by more than 1,000 scientists from dozens of countries, it still must be edited by government officials.

But some scientists said the overall message is not likely to change when it's issued in early April in Brussels, Belgium, the same city where European Union leaders agreed this past week to drastically cut greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. Their plan will be presented to President Bush and other world leaders at a summit in June.

The report offers some hope if nations slow and then reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, but it notes that what's happening now isn't encouraging.

"Changes in climate are now affecting physical and biological systems on every continent," the report says, in marked contrast to a 2001 report by the same international group that said the effects of global warming were coming. But that report only mentioned scattered regional effects.

"Things are happening and happening faster than we expected," said Patricia Romero Lankao of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, one of the many co-authors of the new report.

The draft document says scientists are highly confident that many current problems -- change in species' habits and habitats, more acidified oceans, loss of wetlands, bleaching of coral reefs, and increases in allergy-inducing pollen -- can be blamed on global warming.

For example, the report says North America "has already experienced substantial ecosystem, social and cultural disruption from recent climate extremes," such as hurricanes and wildfires.

But the present is nothing compared to the future.

Global warming soon will "affect everyone's life ... it's the poor sectors that will be most affected," Romero Lankao said.

And co-author Terry Root of Stanford University said: "We truly are standing at the edge of mass extinction" of species.

The report's findings

The report included these likely results of global warming:

  • Hundreds of millions of Africans and tens of millions of Latin Americans who now have water will be short of it in less than 20 years. By 2050, more than 1 billion people in Asia could face water shortages. By 2080, water shortages could threaten 1.1 billion to 3.2 billion people, depending on the level of greenhouse gases that cars and industry spew into the air.
  • Death rates for the world's poor from global warming-related illnesses, such as malnutrition and diarrhea, will rise by 2030. Malaria and dengue fever, as well as illnesses from eating contaminated shellfish, are likely to grow.
  • Europe's small glaciers will disappear with many of the continent's large glaciers shrinking dramatically by 2050. And half of Europe's plant species could be vulnerable, endangered or extinct by 2100.
  • By 2080, between 200 million and 600 million people could be hungry because of global warming's effects.
  • About 100 million people each year could be flooded by 2080 by rising seas.
  • Smog in U.S. cities will worsen and "ozone-related deaths from climate (will) increase by approximately 4.5 percent for the mid-2050s, compared with 1990s levels," turning a small health risk into a substantial one.
  • Polar bears in the wild and other animals will be pushed to extinction.
  • At first, more food will be grown. For example, soybean and rice yields in Latin America will increase starting in a couple of years. Areas outside the tropics, especially the northern latitudes, will see longer growing seasons and healthier forests.
  • Looking at different impacts on ecosystems, industry and regions, the report sees the most positive benefits in forestry and some improved agriculture and transportation in polar regions. The biggest damage is likely to come in ocean and coastal ecosystems, water resources and coastal settlements.

    Africa, Asia to be hardest hit

    The hardest-hit continents are likely to be Africa and Asia, with major harm also coming to small islands and some aspects of ecosystems near the poles. North America, Europe and Australia are predicted to suffer the fewest of the harmful effects.

    "In most parts of the world and most segments of populations, lifestyles are likely to change as a result of climate change," the draft report said. "Net valuations of benefits vs. costs will vary, but they are more likely to be negative if climate change is substantial and rapid, rather than if it is moderate and gradual."

    This report -- considered by some scientists the "emotional heart" of climate change research -- focuses on how global warming alters the planet and life here, as opposed to the more science-focused report by the same group last month.

    "This is the story. This is the whole play. This is how it's going to affect people. The science is one thing. This is how it affects me, you and the person next door," said University of Victoria climate scientist Andrew Weaver.

    Many -- not all -- of those effects can be prevented, the report says, if within a generation the world slows down its emissions of carbon dioxide and if the level of greenhouse gases sticking around in the atmosphere stabilizes. If that's the case, the report says "most major impacts on human welfare would be avoided; but some major impacts on ecosystems are likely to occur."

    The United Nations-organized network of 2,000 scientists was established in 1988 to give regular assessments of the Earth's environment. The document issued last month in Paris concluded that scientists are 90 percent certain that people are the cause of global warming and that warming will continue for centuries.

    Source: Associated Press

    Σάββατο, Μαρτίου 10, 2007

    Caricature on Climate Change...

    The following picture illustrates magnificently, what I implied at an earlier post. Lately, everything goes green!!! What is wrong with that? Literally nothing. The point is that it does not turn green at a positive direction. There is a huge outburst to make citizens feel totally responsible for climate change and greenhouse gases, when the greatest burden should be carried out by industries.

    Sorry that the following caricature is in Greek...It refers to the EU Summit on Climate Change. The woman right next to the window proposes: "Gentlemen we have to do something. I think we must ban smoking from public spaces...".

    Παρασκευή, Μαρτίου 09, 2007

    Bush heralds biofuels pact Friday with Brazilian leader

    SAO PAULO, Brazil (AP) — At a mega fuel depot for tanker trucks, President Bush heralded a new ethanol agreement with Brazil Friday as way to boost alternative fuels production across the Americas.

    Demonstrators upset with Bush's visit here worry that the president and his biofuels buddy, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, really have visions of an OPEC-like cartel on ethanol.

    But Bush and Silva said increasing alternative fuel use will lead to more jobs, a cleaner environment and greater independence from the whims of the oil market. In Brazil, nearly eight in 10 new cars already run on fuel made from sugar cane.

    "'It makes sense for us to collaborate for the sake of mankind," Bush said at Silva's side, after touring the depot. "We see the bright and real potential for our citizens being able to use alternative sources of energy that will promote the common good."

    The agreement itself was signed Friday morning by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her Brazilian counterpart, White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe announced.

    Bush's focus on energy during the first stop on his eighth trip to Latin America comes as the president's nemesis in the region, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, is using his vast oil wealth to court allies. Bush's trip also includes visits to Uruguay, Colombia, Guatemala and Mexico.


    "Don't Discuss Polar Bears", Says U.S. Memo to Scientists

    Environmental News Network
    By Deborah Zabarenko
    March 09, 2007

    WASHINGTON -- Polar bears, sea ice and global warming are taboo subjects, at least in public, for some U.S. scientists attending meetings abroad, environmental groups and a top federal wildlife official said Thursday.

    Environmental activists called this scientific censorship, which they said was in line with the Bush administration's history of muzzling dissent over global climate change.

    But H. Dale Hall, director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said this policy was a long-standing one, meant to honor international protocols for meetings where the topics of discussion are negotiated in advance.

    The matter came to light in e-mails from the Fish and Wildlife Service that were distributed by the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Center for Biological Diversity, both environmental groups.

    Listed as a "new requirement" for foreign travelers on U.S. government business, the memo says that requests for foreign travel "involving or potentially involving climate change, sea ice, and/or polar bears" require special handling, including notice of who will be the official spokesman for the trip.

    The Fish and Wildlife Service top officials need assurance that the spokesman, "the one responding to questions on these issues, particularly polar bears" understands the administration's position on these topics.

    Two accompanying memos were offered as examples of these kinds of assurance. Both included the line that the traveler "understands the administration's position on climate change, polar bears, and sea ice and will not be speaking on or responding to these issues."


    Polar bears are a hot topic for the Bush administration, which decided in December to consider whether to list the white-furred behemoths as "threatened" under the Endangered Species Act, because of scientific reports that the bears' icy habitat is melting due to global warming.

    Hall said a decision is expected in January 2008. A "threatened" listing would bar the government from taking any action that jeopardizes the animal's existence, and might spur debate about tougher measures to cut the greenhouse gas emissions that spur global warming.

    Hall defended the policy laid out in the memos, saying it was meant to keep scientists from straying from a set agenda at meetings in countries like Russia, Norway and Canada.

    For example, he said, one meeting was about "human and polar bear interface." Receding Arctic sea ice where polar bears live and the global climate change that likely played a role in the melting were not proper discussion topics, he said.

    "That's not a climate change discussion," Hall said at a telephone briefing. "That's a management, on-the-ground type discussion."

    The prohibition on talking about these subjects only applies to public, formal situations, Hall said. Private scientific discussions outside the meeting and away from media are permitted and encouraged, he said.

    "This administration has a long history of censoring speech and science on global warming," Eben Burnham-Snyder of the Natural Resources Defense Council said by telephone.

    "Whenever we see an instance of the Bush administration restricting speech on global warming, it sends up a huge red flag that their commitment to the issue does not reflect their rhetoric," Burnham-Snyder said.

    Source: Reuters

    How strange that everything recently goes Green!

    By Rhonda Abrams
    March 8, 2007

    St. Patrick's Day is just around the corner, and that always gets me thinking green. Of course, all things green — actions to protect the environment — are hot right now.

    The Academy Awards ceremony went green, large retailers are pushing energy-saving products, and now the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship is holding a hearing to examine the role of small businesses in combating global warming.

    Whether you call it global warming or climate change, whether you want to help make America more energy independent or just want to reduce your energy bills, going green makes good sense.

    It's easy for small businesses to step up to the plate to do their part to protect the environment.

    Reduce waste. Waste is something you paid for and didn't consume — whether it's packaging, excess raw materials or supplies, or keeping the heat or lights on in an empty room. Examine your production and operations to see how you can reduce waste and save money.

    Replace high-energy-use light bulbs, fixtures, and equipment. Switch to low-energy use fluorescent light bulbs. Next, if you have old equipment, it may be time to upgrade. Look for energy-efficient office and production equipment. And unplug printers and monitors overnight
    and on weekends.

    Buy recycled products. Look for "post-consumer waste" products, including stationery, packaging materials, paper towels and other kitchen and bathroom supplies. This keeps waste from ending up in landfills.

    Buy environmentally-friendly products. The market for non-toxic supplies has exploded, giving you more affordable choices in items such as cleaning supplies, inks, and other materials.

    Use recycled and non-toxic materials for production. If you're a manufacturer, ask suppliers for environmentally-friendly materials. Who knows, they may even be less expensive than the raw materials you're currently using.

    Offer environmentally-friendly alternatives. If you're a retailer, look for non-toxic, recycled or organic products to sell. More and more consumers want such products, which are generally viewed as healthier. Being green can help bring in the green cash, too.

    Reduce commutes. For most businesses the biggest energy impact comes from commuting. Encourage carpooling. Perhaps some employees could telecommute — work from home — a few days a month or work four 10-hour days instead of five 8-hour days. When relocating, look for sites near your home or public transportation and where employees can be recruited nearby.

    Conduct more of your business online. Do you really need to take the trip to the bank to transfer funds? Can you send a document via email rather than by delivery service? That's a lot less expensive as well as reducing overall fuel consumption.

    Open the windows or doors. When the weather turns warm, before turning on the air conditioning, do something as simple as opening the windows and doors. In my office, we're often able to avoid using the air conditioning altogether.

    Buy hybrid cars. When buying a new vehicle for your business, look for cars or trucks that are energy-efficient, especially hybrids. Regardless of the vehicle, make sure your cars and vans are well maintained and tires are properly inflated. That reduces energy use.

    Find innovative uses for excess inventory or waste or recycle. If your business generates a lot of waste, sit down with your employees to come up with ways to turn that waste into something useful. As a publisher, my company ends up with hundreds of books returned from bookstores when new editions are released. We donate these to non-profit groups rather than just sending them to a recycling center.

    Check online information sources. Start with the Federal Government's Energy Star website for small business, www.energystar.gov/smallbiz. Another resource for businesses wanting to do something to help the environment is Greenbiz, www.greenbiz.com, which has links to and directories of websites with environmental information, including a searchable database of government programs and assistance.

    Remember, little things add up. Turn off extra lights. Put recycling wastebaskets throughout the office. Turn off office equipment overnight and on weekends. Wear a sweater when you're cold and open a window when you're warm.

    You'll find you've got more greenbacks in your pocket when you choose to go green.

    © 2007 USA TODAY

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    Κυριακή, Μαρτίου 04, 2007

    U.S. Predicting Steady Increase for Emissions

    The New York Times
    ByAndrew C. Revkin
    March 3, 2007

    The Bush administration estimates that emissions by the United States of gases that contribute to global warming will grow nearly as fast through the next decade as they did the previous decade, according to a long-delayed report being completed for the United Nations.

    The document, the United States Climate Action Report, emphasizes that the projections show progress toward a goal Mr. Bush laid out in a 2002 speech: that emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases grow at a slower rate than the economy. Since that speech, he has repeated his commitment to lessening “greenhouse gas intensity” without imposing formal limits on the gases.

    Kristen A. Hellmer, a spokeswoman for the White House on environmental matters, said on Friday, “The Climate Action Report will show that the president’s portfolio of actions addressing climate change and his unparalleled financial commitments are working.”

    But when shown the report, an assortment of experts on climate trends and policy described the projected emissions as unacceptable given the rising evidence of risks from unabated global warming.

    “As governor of Texas and as a candidate, the president supported mandatory limits on carbon dioxide emissions,” said David W. Conover, who directed the administration’s Climate Change Technology Program until February 2006 and is now counsel to the National Commission on Energy Policy, a nonpartisan research group that supports limits on gases. “When he announced his voluntary greenhouse-gas intensity reduction goal in 2002, he said it would be re-evaluated in light of scientific developments. The science now clearly calls for a mandatory program that establishes a price for greenhouse-gas emissions.”

    According to the new report, the administration’s climate policy will result in emissions growing 11 percent in 2012 from 2002. In the previous decade, emissions grew at a rate of 11.6 percent, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

    The report also contains sections describing growing risks to water supplies, coasts and ecosystems around the United States from the anticipated temperature and precipitation changes driven by the atmospheric buildup of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping greenhouse gases.

    Drafts of the report were provided to The New York Times by a government employee at the request of a reporter. The employee did not say why this was done, but other officials involved with producing it said they have been frustrated with the slow pace of its preparation. It was due more than one year ago.

    The report arrives at a moment when advocates of controls are winning new support in statehouses and Congress, not to mention Hollywood, where former Vice President Al Gore’s cautionary documentary on the subject, “An Inconvenient Truth,” just won an Academy Award. Five western governors have just announced plans to create a program to cap and then trade carbon-dioxide emissions. And on Capitol Hill, half a dozen bills have been introduced to curb emissions, with more expected.

    Ms. Hellmer defended Mr. Bush’s climate policy, saying the president was committed to actions, like moderating gasoline use and researching alternative energy, that limited climate risks while also increasing the country’s energy and national security. She said Mr. Bush remained satisfied with voluntary measures to slow emissions.

    Myron Ebell, who directs climate and energy policy for the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a group aligned with industries fighting curbs on greenhouse gases, said Mr. Bush was right to acknowledge the inevitability of growing emissions in a country with a growing population and economy. Mr. Ebell added that the United States was doing better at slowing emissions than many countries that had joined the Kyoto Protocol, the first binding international treaty limiting such gases.

    “Since 1990, for every 1 percent increase in emissions the economy has grown about 3 percent,” Mr. Ebell said. “That’s good, and it’s better than the European Union’s performance.”

    Several environmental campaigners said there was no real distinction between Mr. Bush’s target and “business as usual,” adding that such mild steps were unacceptable given recent findings by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and other research groups tying recent warming more firmly than ever to smokestack and tailpipe gases.

    “If you set the hurdle one inch above the ground you can’t fail to clear it,” said David D. Doniger, the director of climate policy for the Natural Resources Defense Council, which has long criticized the administration and sought binding cuts in greenhouse gases.

    The report is the fourth in a series produced periodically by countries that are parties to the 1992 Framework Convention on Climate Change, a treaty signed by the first President Bush. It is a self-generated summary of climate-related trends and actions, including inventories of emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, research on impacts of climate change, and policies to limit climate risks and emissions.

    The last such report, completed in 2002, put the administration in something of a bind because it listed many harmful or costly projected impacts from human-caused warming. Environmental groups used those findings to press President Bush to seek mandatory caps on greenhouse gases, while foes of such restrictions criticized the findings and criticized the administration for letting them stay in the document.

    While that report was approved by senior White House and State Department officials, Mr. Bush quickly distanced himself from it, saying it was “put out by the bureaucracy.”

    The new report has been bogged down for nearly two years. In April 2005, the State Department published a notice in the Federal Register saying it would be released for public comment that summer.

    Several government officials and scientists involved with preparing or reviewing parts of the report said that the recent departures of several senior staff members running the administration’s climate research program delayed its completion and no replacements have been named. The delays in finishing the report come even as Mr. Bush has elevated global warming higher on his list of concerns. This year, for the first time since he took office in 2001, he touched on “global climate change” in the State of the Union Message, calling it a “serious challenge.”

    The draft report contains fresh projections of significant effects of human-caused warming on the environment and resources of the United States and emphasized the need to increase the country’s capacity to adapt to impending changes.

    Drought, particularly, will become a persistent threat, it said: “Warmer temperatures expected with increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases are expected to exacerbate present drought risks in the United States by increasing the rate of evaporation.”

    Water supplies in the Northwest and Southwest are also at risk. “Much of the water used by people in the western United States comes from snow melt,” the report said. “And a large fraction of the traditionally snow-covered areas of this region has experienced a decline in spring snow pack, especially since mid-century, despite increases in winter precipitation in many places.” Animal and plant species face risks as climate zones shift but urbanized regions prevent ecosystems from shifting as well, according to the draft report.

    “Because changes in the climate system are likely to persist into the future regardless of emissions mitigation, adaptation is an essential response for future protection of climate-sensitive ecosystems,” it said.

    © 2007 The New York Times

    Δευτέρα, Φεβρουαρίου 19, 2007

    Weitzman on Stern

    Some months ago, Stern Review, was published and "shocked" global community with its harsh environmental prediction, especially the cost that future generations will have to bear regarding global warming and environmental degradation. Nevertheless, the Stern Report is also a piece of pure economic analysis concerning environmental issues. And if so, we have to judge it also of its economic value. Martin Weitzman was delegated from JEL to write a paper on the Stern Review. Even though I did not have a chance to read the paper carefully, I think (from a rather quick scan) that it is pretty interesting. The resume of Weitzman is that the Stern Review may be true, but completely different reasons than that raised by Stern.

    "History will judge whether the economic analysis of the Stern Review was more wrong or more right, and, if it was more right, whether as pure economic analysis it was right for the right reasons or it was right for the wrong reasons."

    Παρασκευή, Φεβρουαρίου 16, 2007

    Breathing Earth

    By David Bleja

    With all the talk of global warming, what better way to understand the pressing fragility of the planet than a real-time simulation? David Bleja's interactive map tracks carbon dioxide emissions and birth and death rates for countries throughout the world, using data from the CIA's World Factbook. As an ongoing display of symbols and red flashes pepper the map, you can scroll over countries to compare data. The site also keeps a running ticker to see how those numbers have grown since you opened the site.


    Κυριακή, Φεβρουαρίου 11, 2007

    Stern-Nordhaus-Dagupta debate on GW

    Economist's View: Global Warming Bonds

    Global Warming Bonds

    Andrew Oswald has an idea for a cooler world. This is from the comments section of Martin Wolf's Economists' Forum:

    Andrew Oswald: ...I believe we could and should work out a way for the next generation to pay. This is because it is those millions of unborn citizens who will benefit from a cooler world, and because doing so will solve the problem at the crux of the Stern-Nordhaus-Dasgupta debate, which is really the question: why should the current generation pay generously and pay quickly?

    This means it is necessary somehow to design a way of bringing the future, with their cheque books, to the negotiating table. Here is a suggestion.

    We print a government bond called a Global Warming Bond. These have stamped on them: "I pay out 1000 indexed pounds in every year - beginning in the year 2050 and going on forever". These bonds would be given out, as a subsidy, to those people and organizations who reduce emissions today.

    The bonds would have immediate value. A market in them would spring up. I shall assume that their status as government bonds would make risk of default negligible. One might object to this, but I shall leave it at that.

    The attractive thing about these bonds is that (leaving aside technical issues about general equilibrium reallocations across asset classes) they would be funded essentially by future taxpaying citizens. Those earning and paying taxes in 2050 onwards would fund them. Our citizens, in 2007, would gain.

    In this way, the unborn would subsidize us to cut carbon emissions.

    I offer this as an idea. There may be a flaw in it; one would have to think through a formal model. In economics, we are used to tax neutrality results coming back to bite us when we hope they will not. But perhaps the GW Bond idea suggests an avenue of ideas on these problems.

    That's a good trick - charging future generations to prevent environmental damage that would occur before they are born and then affect them. I wonder if we can get the unborn to pay us not to do other sorts of damage, kind of a protection racket. Pay us off in bonds or we'll pollute this river! I've got a chainsaw and I'm not afraid to use it! More seriously, what do you think of this idea? There are also comments by Jeffrey Frankel, Lawrence Summers, Paul Seabright, and John Williamson.

    Stiglitz on Global Warming

    Comment is free: Turning tides

    Turning tides

    The climate change message is finally getting through; it's time for political leaders to move beyond mere rhetoric and act.
    Joseph Stiglitz


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    February 10, 2007 10:00 AM | Printable version

    The message, it seems, has finally gotten through: global warming represents a serious threat to our planet. At the recent World Economic Forum in Davos, world leaders saw climate change, for the first time, topping the list of global concerns.

    Europe and Japan have shown their commitment to reduce global warming by imposing costs on themselves and their producers, even if it places them at a competitive disadvantage. The biggest obstacle until now has been the United States. The Clinton administration had called for bold action as far back as 1993, proposing what was in effect a tax on carbon emissions; but an alliance of polluters, led by the coal, oil, and auto industries beat back this initiative.

    To the scientific community, the evidence on climate change has, of course, been overwhelming for more than a decade and a half. I participated in the second assessment of the scientific evidence conducted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which perhaps made one critical mistake: it underestimated the pace at which global warming was occurring. The Fourth Assessment, which was just issued, confirms the mounting evidence and the increasing conviction that global warming is the result of the increase in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

    The increased pace of warming reflects the impact of complex non-linear factors and a variety of "tipping points" that can result in acceleration of the process. For instance, as the Arctic ice cap melts, less sunlight is reflected. Seemingly dramatic changes in weather patterns - including the melting of glaciers in Greenland and the thawing of the Siberian permafrost - have at last convinced most business leaders that the time for action is now.

    Recently, even President Bush seems to have woken up. But a closer look at what he is doing, and not doing, shows clearly that he has mostly heard the call of his campaign contributors from the oil and coal industries, and that he has once again put their interests over the global interest in reducing emissions. If he were truly concerned about global warming, how could he have endorsed the construction of coal-fired electricity plants, even if those plants use more efficient technologies than have been employed in the past?

    What is required, first and foremost, are market-based incentives to induce Americans to use less energy and to produce more energy in ways that emit less carbon. But Bush has neither eliminated massive subsidies to the oil industry (though, fortunately, the Democratic Congress may take action) nor provided adequate incentives for conservation. Even his call for energy independence should be seen for what it is - a new rationale for old corporate subsidies.

    A policy that entails draining America's limited oil supplies - I call it "drain America first" - will leave the US even more dependent on foreign oil. The US imposes a tariff of more than 50 cents per gallon on sugar-based ethanol from Brazil, but subsidises inefficient corn-based American ethanol heavily - indeed , it requires more than a gallon of gasoline to fertilise, harvest, transport, process, and distil corn to yield one gallon of ethanol.

    As the world's largest polluter, accounting for roughly a quarter of global carbon emissions, America's reluctance to do more is perhaps understandable, if not forgivable. But claims by Bush that America cannot afford to do anything about global warming ring hollow: other advanced industrial countries with comparable standards of living emit only a fraction of what the US emits per dollar of GDP.

    As a result, American firms with access to cheap energy are given a big competitive advantage over firms in Europe and elsewhere. Some in Europe worry that stringent action on global warming may be counterproductive: energy-intensive industries may simply move to the US or other countries that pay little attention to emissions. And there is more than a grain of truth to these concerns.

    A striking fact about climate change is that there is little overlap between the countries that are most vulnerable to its effects - mainly poor countries in the South that can ill afford to deal with the consequences - and the countries, like the US, that are the largest polluters. What is at stake is in part a moral issue, a matter of global social justice.

    The Kyoto Protocol represented the international community's attempt to begin to deal with global warming in a fair and efficient way. But it left out a majority of the sources of emissions, and unless something is done to include the US and the developing countries in a meaningful way, it will be little more than a symbolic gesture. There needs to be a new "coalition of the willing," this time perhaps led by Europe - and this time directed at a real danger.

    This "coalition of the willing" could agree to certain basic standards: to forego building coal-fired plants, increase automobiles' fuel efficiency, and provide targeted assistance to developing countries to enhance their energy efficiency and reduce emissions. Coalition members could also agree to provide stronger incentives to their own producers, through either more stringent caps on emissions or higher taxes on pollution. They could then agree to impose taxes on products from other countries - including the US - that are produced in ways that unnecessarily add substantially to global warming. What is at stake is not protecting domestic producers, but protecting our planet.

    The changing climate on climate change provides political leaders in Europe and other potential members of this "coalition of the willing" an unprecedented opportunity to move beyond mere rhetoric. The time to act is now.

    © Project Syndicate, 2007.

    Σάββατο, Φεβρουαρίου 10, 2007

    Theory of Incentives and Global Warming

    I was always convinced that incentives play the most significant role in the way that people think and act. Mainly, due to the fact that I study Economics I am prone to believe that proper incentives can guide optimal action. In this manner, I was amazed to read that Richard Branson announced a $25 million prize for the first scientist to come up with a way to extract greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. Are 25 $ million what someone could call a proper incentive? You bet it is!!!

    But you know, this reminds me some ads that say "We will pay you 3.000 euros if you prove that you can find better fuels than ours"!! The reason for publishing such an ad is threefold:

    1. None can ever prove such a thing.
    2. None will ever bother proving it.
    3. You are sincere and thus eager to pay someone who can prove it.

    As a nervous economist and always suspicious of others' intentions and "utility maximizations", I wonder why someone would like to pay such a great deal of money for a thing like global warming? A merely private donation, for a merely social issue!! Who knows? It is just that I fear that this environmental madness is not as noble and pure as it seems. In any case, what I am suspicious of are only speculations. I pray time will prove me wrong. For the time being one can cast a look at CNN.com and the relevant article.

    Πέμπτη, Φεβρουαρίου 08, 2007

    "Global Warming and Hot Air" by Robert J. Samuelson

    Washington Post
    February 7, 2007

    "Global Warming and Hot Air"
    by Robert J. Samuelson

    You could be excused for thinking that we'll soon do something serious about global warming. Last Friday, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) -- an international group of scientists -- concluded that, to a 90 percent probability, human activity is warming the Earth. Earlier, Democratic congressional leaders made global warming legislation a top priority; and 10 big U.S. companies (including General Electric and DuPont) endorsed federal regulation. Strong action seems at hand.

    Don't be fooled. The dirty secret about global warming is this: We have no solution. About 80 percent of the world's energy comes from fossil fuels (coal, oil, natural gas), the main sources of man-made greenhouse gases. Energy use sustains economic growth, which -- in all modern societies -- buttresses political and social stability. Until we can replace fossil fuels or find practical ways to capture their emissions, governments will not sanction the deep energy cuts that would truly affect global warming.

    Considering this reality, you should treat the pious exhortations to "do something" with skepticism, disbelief or contempt. These pronouncements are (take your pick) naive, self-interested, misinformed, stupid or dishonest. Politicians mainly want to be seen as reducing global warming. Companies want to polish their images and exploit markets created by new environmental regulations. As for editorialists and pundits, there's no explanation except superficiality or herd behavior.

    Anyone who honestly examines global energy trends must reach these harsh conclusions. In 2004, world emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2, the main greenhouse gas) totaled 26 billion metric tons. Under plausible economic and population assumptions, CO2emissions will grow to 40 billion tons by 2030, projects the International Energy Agency. About three-quarters of the increase is forecast to come from developing countries, two-fifths from China alone. The IEA expects China to pass the United States as the largest source of carbon dioxide by 2009.

    Poor countries won't sacrifice economic growth -- lowering poverty, fostering political stability -- to placate the rich world's global warming fears. Why should they? On a per-person basis, their carbon dioxide emissions are only about one-fifth the level of rich countries. In Africa, less than 40 percent of the population even has electricity.

    Nor will existing technologies, aggressively deployed, rescue us. The IEA studied an "alternative scenario" that simulated the effect of 1,400 policies to reduce fossil fuel use. Fuel economy for new U.S. vehicles was assumed to increase 30 percent by 2030; the global share of energy from "renewables" (solar, wind, hydropower, biomass) would quadruple, to 8 percent. The result: by 2030, annual carbon dioxide emissions would rise 31 percent instead of 55 percent. The concentration levels of emissions in the atmosphere (which presumably cause warming) would rise.

    Since 1850, global temperatures have increased almost 1 degree Celsius. Sea level has risen about seven inches, though the connection is unclear. So far, global warming has been a change, not a calamity. The IPCC projects wide ranges for the next century: temperature increases from 1.1 degrees Celsius to 6.4 degrees; sea level rises from seven inches to almost two feet. People might easily adapt; or there might be costly disruptions (say, frequent flooding of coastal cities resulting from melting polar ice caps).

    I do not say we should do nothing, but we should not delude ourselves. In the United States, the favored remedy is "cap and trade." It's environmental grandstanding -- politicians pretending they're doing something.

    Companies would receive or buy quotas ("caps") to emit carbon dioxide. To exceed the limits, they'd acquire some other company's unused quotas ("trade"). How simple. Just order companies to cut emissions. Businesses absorb all the costs.

    But in practice, no plausible "cap and trade" program would significantly curb global warming. To do that, quotas would have to be set so low as to shut down the economy. Or the cost of scarce quotas would skyrocket and be passed along to consumers through much higher energy prices. Neither outcome seems likely. Quotas would be lax. The program would be a regulatory burden with little benefit. It would also be a bonanza for lobbyists, lawyers and consultants, as industries and localities besieged Washington for exceptions and special treatment. Hello, influence-peddling and sleaze.

    What we really need is a more urgent program of research and development, focusing on nuclear power, electric batteries, alternative fuels and the capture of carbon dioxide. Naturally, there's no guarantee that socially acceptable and cost-competitive technologies will result. But without them, global warming is more or less on automatic pilot. Only new technologies would enable countries -- rich and poor -- to reconcile the immediate imperative of economic growth with the potential hazards of climate change.

    Meanwhile, we could temper our energy appetite. I've argued before for a high oil tax to prod Americans to buy more fuel-efficient vehicles. The main aim would be to limit insecure oil imports, but it would also check CO2emissions. Similarly, we might be better off shifting some of the tax burden from wages and profits to a broader tax on energy or carbon. That would favor more fuel-efficient light bulbs, appliances and industrial processes.

    It's a debate we ought to have -- but probably won't. Any realistic response would be costly, uncertain and no doubt unpopular. That's one truth too inconvenient for almost anyone to admit.

    © 2007 The Washington Post Company

    Κυριακή, Φεβρουαρίου 04, 2007

    Περιβάλλον και Ενέργεια

    Τις τελευταίες εβδομάδες όλοι έχουμε παρατηρήσει μια στροφή του τηλεοπτικού και εκδοτικού ενδιαφέροντος στα θέματα του περιβάλλοντος και της ενέργειας. Κάτι που στο εξωτερικό συμβαίνει εδώ και χρόνια, στην Ελλάδα -πιστοί στις παραδόσεις- προτιμούμε να "μπαίνουμε" τελευταίοι στο παιχνίδι. Οι περισσότερες κυριακάτικες εφημερίδες, λοιπόν, αφιερώνουν εκτενή άρθρα για το περιβάλλον και την κλιματική αλλαγή. Ωστόσο, ενέχει ο κίνδυνος να οδηγηθούμε σε μια κλιματο-υστερία που μόνο καλό δεν μπορεί να προσφέρει (όπως έχει γίνει για την πλειοψηφία θεμάτων τέτοιου χαρακτήρα). Η φιλική περιβαλλοντική συμπεριφορά δεν είναι θέμα που μπορεί να αλλάξει σε μια μέρα. Όπως η παιδεία και η κουλτούρα, χρειάζεται χρόνο για να εμπεδωθεί και να γίνει κομμάτι της καθημερινότητας (βέβαια ουσίας είναι αν διαθέτουμε τον απαραίτητο χρόνο...). Με αυτή τη λογική πρέπει να διαβάζουμε και να προβληματιζόμαστε πάνω στα θέματα του περιβάλλοντος. Περιττό, βέβαια, να τονίσω ότι προφανώς δεν είναι όλα τα προβλήματα του σύγχρονου κόσμου απόρροια του φαινομένου του θερμοκηπίου!!! Παραθέτω, λοιπόν, μερικά από τα άρθρα αυτής της Κυριακής που μου έκαναν εντύπωση, ξεχωρίζοντας, όμως, αυτά της Ελευθεροτυπίας και του Έθνους.

    Η "Κυριακάτικη Ελευθεροτυπία" αφιερώνει ένα εκτενές άρθρο στην έκθεση της IPCC (περίληψη της έκθεσης μπορεί να βρεθεί σε σχετικό πρηγούμενο link). Πολύ ενδιαφέρον όμως και το άρθρο, όσον αφορά την στροφή προς την πυρηνική ενέργεια.

    Το "in.gr" αναφέρεται στην αντιμετώπιση που είχε η έκθεση από την πλευρά των χωρών που ευθύνονται κυρίως για το φαινόμενο του θερμοκηπίου.
    Η "Κυριακάτικη Καθημερινή", πέρα από διάφορα άλλα άρθρα σχετικά με το περιβάλλον, αναφέρεται στη δυσχερή θέση στην οποία βρίσκεται η Ελλάδα ως προς την ενεργειακή της κατανάλωση.

    Το "Έθνος της Κυριακής" έχει ένα ιδιάιτερα ενδιαφέρον και "πικάντικο" θέμα σχετικά με την έκθεση της IPCC.

    Climate Change 2007

    Μιας και έχει γίνει ήδη αναφορά στην έκθεση για την "Κλιματική Αλλαγή", παραθέτω και το link της pdf περίληψης της έκθεσης.

    Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis

    Παρασκευή, Φεβρουαρίου 02, 2007

    Μη αναστρέψιμη η άνοδος της θερμοκρασίας

    kathimerini.gr | Μη αναστρέψιμη η άνοδος της θερμοκρασίας

    Μη αναστρέψιμη η άνοδος της θερμοκρασίας

    Η ΕΚΘΕΣΗ των επιστημόνων που συγκεντρώθηκαν στο Παρίσι και που αφορά τις κλιματικές αλλαγές, αναφέρει στα κύρια πορίσματα της ότι το επίπεδο της θάλασσας σε παγκόσμιο επίπεδο θα ανέβει μέχρι και 59 εκατοστά μέχρι το 2100. Επιπλέον, οι επιστήμονες δεν αποκλείουν μεγαλύτερες ανόδους εάν συνεχιστεί το λιώσιμο των πάγων στη Γροιλανδία και την Ανταρκτική.

    Η άνοδος του επιπέδου της θάλασσας κατά 59 εκατοστά που αναφέρεται στην έκθεση είναι μικρότερη από την αντίστοιχη άνοδο των 88 εκατοστών που προέβλεπε αντίστοιχη έκθεση του 2001. Οι επιστήμονες εξηγούν αυτή την αλλαγή στην πρόβλεψη λόγω της καλύτερης κατανόησης και μελέτης των κλιματικών αλλαγών κατά την τελευταία πενταετία.

    Ωστόσο, δεν αποκλείεται το ενδεχόμενο το νούμερο αυτό να αλλάξει εξαιτίας της έλλειψης κατανόησης σε ότι αφορά τους παγετώνες στη Γροιλανδία και την Ανταρκτική.

    Η Σάρον Χέιζ, επικεφαλής της αμερικανικής αντιπροσωπείας χαρακτήρισε την έκθεση «σημαντική και χρήσιμη» για τα πολιτικούς και τα κέντρα λήψης αποφάσεων. Η κ. Χέιζ θεωρεί σημαντικό ότι το κείμενο χρησιμοποιεί τελικά αυστηρή γλώσσα καθώς και την επισήμανση ότι η άνοδος της θερμοκρασίας οφείλεται τελικά στον ανθρώπινο παράγοντα.

    Η κ.Χέιζ δεν αναφέρθηκε ωστόσο στο πώς η έκθεση αυτή θα μπορούσε να επιφέρει αλλαγές στην πολιτική Μπους για τις ρυπογόνες εκπομπές αερίων. Οι πληροφορίες αναφέρουν ότι η σκληρή γλώσσα του κειμένου είναι αποτέλεσμα της προτροπής ενός Αμερικανού επιστήμονα και ότι το κείμενο διαφέρει σημαντικά από το Πρωτόκολλο του Κιότο, το οποίο οι ΗΠΑ δεν επικύρωσαν ποτέ. Ωστόσο, η κίνηση του Αμερικανού επιστήμονα δε συνεπάγεται σε καμία περίπτωση αλλαγή της πολιτικής του Λευκού Οίκου σε αυτό το σημαντικό θέμα.

    Η έκθεση της Διακυβερνητικής Διάσκεψη για τις Κλιματικές Αλλαγές είναι ένα επιστημονικό κείμενο που περιγράφει την άποψη των επιστημόνων για τα τεκταινόμενα στο περιβάλλον καθώς και προβλέψεις για το άμεσο μέλλον. Η έκθεση αναφέρει ότι η διαδικασία ανόδου της θερμοκρασίας στον πλανήτη έχει ήδη ξεκινήσει, κατά πάσα πιθανότητα είναι αποτέλεσμα της ανθρώπινης επέμβασης στο περιβάλλον και δεν θα είναι δυνατό να περιοριστεί για τους επόμενους αιώνες.

    IPCC report is out

    Global warming called 'unequivocal' - Print Version - International Herald Tribune

    International Herald Tribune
    Global warming called 'unequivocal'
    By Elisabeth Rosenthal and Andrew C. Revkin
    Friday, February 2, 2007

    In a bleak and powerful assessment of the future of the planet, the leading international network of climate change scientists concluded for the first time Friday that global warming is "unequivocal" and that human activity is "very likely" to blame. The warming will continue for hundreds of years, they predicted.

    The scientists, members of the Intergovernment Panel on Climate Change, said that new science had also allowed them to conclude that the warming caused by human activity is probably influencing other aspects of climate change — including a rise in the number of heat waves, extreme storms and droughts as well as ocean warming and wind patterns.

    A vast improvement in the science of climatology — including "large amounts of new and more comprehensive data" — has allowed the group to become far more confident and specific in its predictions since its last assessment, in 2001, the authors said. The conclusions were presented at a press conference in Paris, along with a summary of their much anticipated fourth report.

    Until Friday, there was still the scientific possibility that the global climate change in the last 50 years could be explained by natural variation rather than man-made influences, particularly the burning of fossil fuel.

    The scientists, representing 13 countries and whose work was vetted by representatives from hundreds of nations, left little doubt of where they stood.

    "There is no question that this is driven by human activity," said Dr. Susan Solomon, a chairwoman of the panel that produced the report. She noted that in calling the link between people and climate change "very likely" the scientists had increased certainty on a connection from their previous estimate of 66 percent to 90 percent. "Warming of the climate system is now unequivocal, unequivocal," she said.

    Achim Steiner, executive director of the United Nations Environment Program, said the report represented a tipping point in the accumulating data on climate change, even though the basic message of the document — that human activity is creating dangerous warming — had been already widely accepted in many quarters.

    "Feb. 2, 2007, will perhaps be remembered as the day" when global thinking about climate change moved from debate to action, he said. "The focus will shift from whether climate change is due to human activity, to what on earth are we going to do about it."

    Indeed, many of the report's authors called on governments to heed the powerful science now in hand.

    "Policy makers paid us to do good science, and now we have very high scientific confidence in this work — this is real, this is real, this is real," said Richard Alley, one of the lead authors and a professor at Penn State University. "So now act, the ball's back in your court."

    Climate change will cause far-flung ramifications for humans and nature, according to the 21-page summary of the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which was approved early Friday by teams of officials from more than 100 countries after three days and nights of wrangling over wording.

    Even Solomon, known as a staid and conservative scientist, chose to highlight dramatic examples. If greenhouse gases, which trap heat, cause temperatures to rise 1.9 to 4.6 degrees Celsius (3.4 to 8.3 Fahrenheit) as the report predicts it might, that could lead to a sea level rise of 7 meters, or 23 feet, if the temperature rise were sustained over thousands of years, she said.

    The ripple effect of the warming has devastating implications for man that will continue for centuries even if carbon emission could be stabilized at the 2000 level, because the gases persist for years. The impact that carbon emissions have had on climate has increased by 20 percent in the last 15 years, Solomon said.

    The report lays out four different scenarios of global warming, depending on how humanity responds. All predict a continued rise in temperature and sea level for the next century. Temperatures will rise between 1.8 and 6.4 degrees Celsius (3.2 to 11.5 Fahrenheit) depending on the scenario. Sea levels will go up 18 to 55 centimeters, or 7 to 21 inches.

    "It is very likely that hot extremes, heat waves and heavy precipitation events will continue to become more frequent," said the report.

    Officials here made clear that the effects would be felt in the very near future — indeed, they are being felt now.

    "If you are a South Asian child born in 2007 you may well in your lifetime be facing inundation of your lands and being turned into an environment refugee," Steiner said.

    Generally, the scientists said, more precipitation will fall at higher latitudes, which are likely also to see lengthened growing seasons, while semi-arid, subtropical regions already chronically beset by drought could see a further 20 percent drop in rainfall under a midrange scenario for increases in the greenhouse gases.

    But Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, a chairman of the panel, said the report was "heartening" in the sense that it gave politicians very specific information on which to act. "The science has move several steps beyond what was possible before," he said. "You see the extent to which human activity is influencing greenhouse gases. You are able to see the costs of inaction."

    The panel operates under the aegis of the United Nations and was chartered in 1988 — a year of record heat, burning forests and the first big headlines about global warming — to provide regular reviews of climate science to governments to inform policy choices.

    Government officials are involved in shaping the summary of each report, but the scientist-authors, who are unpaid, have the final say over the thousands of pages in four underlying technical reports that will be released later this year.

    Big questions remain about the speed and extent of some impending changes, both because of uncertainty about future population and pollution trends and the complex interrelationships of the emissions, clouds, dusty kinds of pollution, the oceans and earth's veneer of life.

    One big question mark involves how much arctic ice will melt and how fast, which would have a major impact on sea levels.

    The report essentially caps a half-century-long scientific effort to discern whether humans, through the buildup of carbon dioxide and other gases released mainly by burning fuels and forests, could influence the earth's climate system in potentially momentous ways.

    Two subsequent reports by the panel to be released this spring are to focus on how the world should respond to climate change.

    One will deal with mitigation — efforts by countries to reduce the production of heat trapping gases. These include international efforts like the Kyoto Protocol as well as programs that encourage individuals to use solar heating in their homes and to take public transportation rather than driving.

    The second will focus on adaptation, or how countries might respond to climate change that scientists are now sure will inevitably occur.

    Should rivers be artificially widened to accommodate increased rainfall that is likely to occur in much of Europe, for example? Should dikes be reinforced to prevent flooding in low-lying cities, or is sea level rise likely to be so great that such land should be abandoned and its residents moved inland?

    In two weeks, the European Union will convene a meeting in Berlin on how to adapt to changing in water conditions, like heavier rains and flooding.

    Andrew C. Revkin reported from New York.

    Πέμπτη, Φεβρουαρίου 01, 2007

    Δραματική πτώση υδροφόρου ορίζοντα

    "«Αρχή των πάντων» κατά τον Θαλή τον Μιλήσιο, δομικό στοιχείο του σύμπαντος και πρωταγωνιστής στο έργο της ζωής, το νερό είναι κάτι παραπάνω από ένα πολύτιμο φυσικό αγαθό. Σταγόνα βροχής, νιφάδα χιονιού, πάγος, πηγή, ποταμός - όταν το νερό μεταμορφώνεται, μεταμορφώνει τα πάντα, υπαγορεύει όλες τις εξελίξεις."

    Ένα πολύ ωραία άρθρο της Καθημερινής και αρκετά ανησυχητικό για την έντονη φετινή ανομβρία, αλλά και αυτή που μας επιφυλάσουν τα χρόνια που έρχονται.

    Τετάρτη, Ιανουαρίου 31, 2007

    Scientists take a second look at biofuels - International Herald Tribune

    Scientists take a second look at biofuels - International Herald Tribune: "Scientists take a second look at biofuels"

    AMSTERDAM: Just a few years ago, politicians and green groups in the Netherlands were thrilled by the country's early and rapid adoption of "sustainable energy," achieved in part by coaxing electricity plants to use some biofuel — in particular, palm oil from Southeast Asia.

    Spurred by government subsidies, energy companies became so enthusiastic that they designed generators that ran exclusively on the oil, which in theory would be cleaner than fossil fuels like coal because it is derived from plants.

    But last year, when scientists studied practices at palm plantations in Indonesia and Malaysia, this green fairy tale began to look more like an environmental nightmare.

    Rising demand for palm oil in Europe brought about the razing of huge tracts of Southeast Asian rain forest and the overuse of chemical fertilizer there. Worse still, space for the expanding palm plantations was often created by draining and burning peat land, which sent huge amount of carbon emissions into the atmosphere.

    Factoring in these emissions, Indonesia had quickly become the world's third-leading producer of greenhouse gases that scientists believe are responsible for global warming, ranked after the United States and China, concluded a study released in December by researchers from Wetlands International and Delft Hydraulics, both in the Netherlands.

    "It was shocking and totally smashed all the good reasons we initially went into palm oil," said Alex Kaat, a spokesman for Wetlands, a conservation group.

    Biofuels, long a cornerstone of the quest for greener energy, may sometimes produce more harmful emissions than the fossil fuels they replace, scientific studies are finding.

    As a result, politicians in many countries are rethinking the billions of dollars in subsidies that have indiscriminately supported the spread of all of these supposedly "eco-friendly" fuels, for use in power vehicles and factories. The 2003 European Union Biofuels Directive, which demands that all member states aim to have 5.75 percent of transportation fueled by biofuel in 2010, is now under review.

    "If you make biofuels properly, you will reduce greenhouse emissions," said Peder Jensen, of the European Environment Agency in Copenhagen. "But that depends very much on the types of plants and how they're grown and processed. You can end up with a 90 percent reduction compared to fossil fuels — or a 20 percent increase."

    "Its important to take a life cycle view," he said, and not to "just see what the effects are here in Europe."

    In the Netherlands, the data from Indonesia has provoked soul searching, and prompted the government to suspend palm oil subsidies. A country that was a leader in green energy in Europe has now become a leader in the effort to distinguish which biofuels are truly environmentally sound. The government, environmental groups and some of the "green energy" companies in the Netherlands are trying to develop programs to trace the origin of imported palm oil, to certify what is produced in an eco-friendly manner.

    Krista van Velzen, a member of Parliament, said the Netherlands should pay compensation to Indonesia for the damage palm oil has caused. "We can't only think, 'Does it pollute the Netherlands?'"

    Biofuels are heavily subsidized throughout the developed world, including the European Union and the United States, and enjoy tax breaks that are given because they more expensive to produce than conventional fuel.

    In the United States and Brazil most biofuel is ethanol, derived from corn and used to power vehicles. In Europe it is mostly local rapeseed and sunflower oil, used to make diesel fuel. But as many European countries push for more green energy, they are increasingly importing plant oils from the tropics, since there is simply not enough biomass at home.

    On the surface, the environmental equation that supports biofuels is simple: Since they are derived from plants, biofuels absorb carbon while they are grown and release it when they are burned. In theory that neutralizes their emissions.

    But the industry was promoted long before there was adequate research, said Reanne Creyghton, who runs Friends of the Earth's anti-palm oil campaign in the Netherlands. "Palm oil was advertised as green energy, but there was no research about whether it was really sustainable."

    Biofuelswatch, an environmental group in Britain, now say that "biofuels should not automatically be classed as 'renewable energy.'" It supports a moratorium on subsidies until more research is done to define which biofuels are truly good for the planet. Beyond that, the group suggests that all emissions rising from the production of a biofuel be counted as emissions in the country where the fuel is actually used, providing a clearer accounting of environmental costs.

    he demand for palm oil in Europe has skyrocketed in the past two decades, first for use in food and cosmetics, and more recently for biofuels. This versatile and low-cost oil is used in about 10 percent of supermarket products, from chocolate to toothpaste, accounting for 21 percent of the global market for edible oils.

    Palm oil produces the most energy of all vegetable oils per liter when burned. In much of Europe it is used as a substitute for diesel oil, though in the Netherlands, with little sun for solar power and little wind for turbines, the government has encouraged its use for electricity.

    Supported by hundreds of millions of euros in national subsidies, the Netherlands rapidly became the leading importer of palm oil in Europe, taking in 1.5 million tons last year, a figure that has been nearly doubling annually. The Dutch green energy giant Essent alone bought 200,000 tons, before it agreed to suspend new purchases until a better system for certifying sustainably grown palm oil could be developed. The company now has replaced the palm oil it used with conventional sources of energy and local biofuels.

    But already the buoyant demand has created damage far away. "When you drastically increase the demand for agricultural products, that puts new pressure on the land and can have unintended consequences and hidden costs," Jensen, of the European Environment Agency, said.

    Friends of the Earth estimates that 87 percent of the deforestation in Malaysia from 1985 to 2000 was caused by new palm oil plantations. In Indonesia, the amount of land devoted to palm oil has increased 118 percent in the past eight years.

    Oil needed by poor people for food was becoming too expensive for them. "We have a problem satisfying the Netherlands' energy needs with someone else's food resources," said Creyghton of Friends of the Earth.

    Such concerns were causing intense misgivings about palm oil already when, in December, scientists from Wetlands International released their bombshell calculation about the global emissions that palm farming on peat land caused.

    Peat is an organic sponge that stores huge amounts of carbon, thereby helping to balance global emissions. Peat land is 90 percent water. But when it is drained, those stored gases are released into the atmosphere.

    To makes matters worse, once dried, peat land is often burned to clear ground for plantations. In recent years Indonesia has been plagued by polluting wildfires so intense that they send thick clouds of smoke over much of Asia.

    The Dutch study estimated that the draining of peat land in Indonesia releases 600 million tons of carbon into the atmosphere a year and that fires contributed an additional 1,400 million tons annually. The total, 2000 million tons, is equivalent to 8 percent of all global emissions caused annually by burning fossil fuels, the researchers said.

    "These emissions generated by peat drainage in Indonesia were not counted before," Kaat, of Wetlands International, said. "It was a totally ignored problem." For the moment Wetlands is backing the certification system for palm oil imports, to make sure it is grown and processed in a sustainable manner.

    But some environmental groups are convinced that palm oil cannot be produced sustainably at reasonable prices. Part of the reason palm oil is now relatively inexpensive is because of poor environmental practices and labor abuses, they say.

    Still, some Dutch companies like Biox, a young company fully devoted to producing energy from palm oil, are confident there will be a solution and are banking on this biofuel.

    Biox has applied to build three palm oil power plants in the Netherlands; the first one gained approval just last week. It is currently auditing its plantations and refineries in Indonesia for sustainability.

    "Yes, there have been bad examples in the palm oil industry," said Arjen Brinkman, a company official. "But it is now clear that to serve Europe's markets for biofuel and bioenergy, you will have to prove that you produce it sustainably — that you are producing less, not more CO2."