SFU study highlights importance of adaptive capacity for fishery-dependent nations

SFU researcher Nick Dulvy, a Canada Research Chair in marine biodiversity and conservation, has co-authored a new report published this month in the journal Fish and Fisheries.

Dulvy, together with an international team of biologists and geographers, studied 132 countries and their dependence on fish for protein and income, as well as their social and economic ability to adapt to climate change impacts.

Findings from the study identified 33 countries that are “highly vulnerable” to effects of global warming such as rising ocean temperatures, severe flooding, coral bleaching, increased coastal storms and pronounced changes in river flows. Some of these countries include Malawi, Guinea, Senegal, Uganda and Yemen in Africa, Bangladesh, Cambodia and Pakistan in Asia, and Peru and Columbia in South America.

Dulvy proposes that these countries be given precedence in efforts to help them adapt to climate change, noting they account for over 20% of the world’s fish exports: “They are not necessarily the places that will suffer the greatest climate impacts on their fisheries. Rather, they are countries where fish play a large role in diet, income and trade yet there is a lack of capacity to adapt to problems caused by climate change.”

According to Dulvy, “more work is needed to predict with greater precision the impact of climate change on fish-dependent populations, so that national governments and international agencies can help the most vulnerable societies to anticipate and cope with climate change.”

ACT’s first set of policy recommendations, on climate change adaptation and biodiversity, can be found on our website at http://www.sfu.ca/act/.


Death toll in Australian wildfires rises to over 180; highlights urgent need for extreme events adaptation planning

The deadly wildfires currently ravaging Victoria, Australia as a result of record high temperatures are a chilling example of the extremes scientists project will occur at an increasing rate as climate change accelerates.

In a testament to the need for adaptation planning worldwide, survivors of the bushfires are demanding fundamental changes to the country’s emergency response system.

With little to no warning of the wall of flames surging toward them, many residents from affected areas escaped with no more than the clothing on their backs. Some were not so lucky. At least 180 residents of the southeastern state of Victoria are confirmed dead, with emergency crews and volunteers still sifting through ruined homes, charred cars, and other commercial property.

Considered to be one of the most demoralizing episodes in modern Australian history, citizens are now considering how such scenarios will be dealt with in the future.

“I think we really do need to look at our early warning systems,” said Attorney-General Robert McClelland.

ACT’s second set of policy recommendations – on Climate Change Adaptation and Extreme Weather Events, by IPCC author Dr. Gordon McBean – is scheduled for release in April.


ACT Releases background report to Biodiversity Recommendations

ACT is pleased to announce the release of the Adaptation to Climate Change Biodiversity Background Report, a compendium of research references and conclusion supporting our first set of policy recommendations: Climate Change Adaptation and Biodiversity: Transitioning to an Ecosystem-based Economy in British Columbia. We have also released an updated version of the policy recommendations.

The updated report contains policy recommendations for decision-makers on how to address and administer the urgent need for ecosystem protection, and specifically recommends that ecosystem protection and management take the form of an economic model that considers the value of ecosystem goods and services.

To download a copy of the policy recommendations or Background Report, visit the ACT website at www.sfu.ca/act/.


ACT Executive Director Authors White Paper for PICS

PICS (the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions) has released a white paper authored by ACT Executive Director Deborah Harford exploring climate change challenges facing BC in the context of nine top-of-mind issues. The paper, entitled “Adaptation to Climate Change: Planning for BC” references local, national and international responses and proposes practical recommendations designed to facilitate “smart adaptation” strategies that both acknowledge and leverage the links between adaptation to climate impacts and emissions reduction, or “mitigation”.

The white paper is one of eight commissioned by PICS, a new inter-university initiative of SFU, UBC, UVic and UNBC made possible by the BC government.

Visit the ACT website to download a copy of the white paper.


ACT co-founder Dr. Richard Lipsey featured in Globe and Mail on “creative revolution” strategies for Canada’s industrial decay

ACT co-founder and eminent Canadian economist Dr. Richard Lipsey was featured yesterday in an article by the Globe and Mail on a creative revolution spurred by new technology that he believes is the solution to Canada’s industrial decay. The article provides insight into how Dr. Lipsey sees uncertain economic times affecting dramatic decline in Canada’s manufacturing industries, and his prediction of a market “boom” in alternative energy production over the next ten years, following the current economic slowdown.

In the article, Dr. Lipsey describes his work with ACT in preparing local governments for the massive changes brought on by climate change as “urgent.”

“Municipalities are on the frontlines,” he says, as coping with the effects of increased flooding, landslides, public health risks, and other extreme weather-related hazards is an increasingly frequent reality for many communities.

“The best industrial policies consist of co-operation between the government, universities and the private sector to push new technologies,” states Dr Lipsey. This principal is a cornerstone of ACT’s goals, as we engage expert multi-disciplinary, cross-sectoral groups in research into and formation of dynamic new policy recommendations, designed to help smooth the path ahead.

ACT’s second set of policy recommendations on Extreme Weather Events is due for release in April 2009.


ACT Announces New Sponsors for 2009 ‘Energy’ Session

ACT’s third six-month session – on energy – scheduled for the spring and summer of 2009, is off to a great start! We are pleased to welcome three key partners who are helping to make it happen: Plutonic Power Corp, the BC Government’s Climate Action Secretariat, and BC Hydro.

The Energy session will look at the urgent need for new standards and solutions for BC’s energy sector in light of climate change impacts and economic stresses, as pressure to reduce emissions and the need to adapt energy generation and distribution methods to climate impacts create new opportunities as well as challenges.

BC is an ideal province to use as a model for exploration in this context, due to the fact that we have plentiful energy resources, a dynamic technology sector, and a range of vulnerabilities to climate change impacts. The session focus will include energy self-sufficiency and economic stimulation for resource-based communities, and BC’s leading role in emerging carbon market mechanisms such as the carbon tax.

Scheduled for March-August 2009, ACT’s Energy session will include several multi-stakeholder conferences. Through these and a policy research process, we will examine available and developing energy technologies, their efficiency and vulnerability in the context of climate change, and new developments and policies that can help smooth the path ahead. The session will include an exploration of emerging emissions market incentives, roles, structures and mechanisms; and we are discussing the prospect of partnering with offset market experts Habitat Enterprises in the latter section.

Findings from this session will be presented in ACT’s third summary report, to be released in Fall 2009.


ACT’s First Report on Biodiversity “Ark” Sparks Media Attention

The release of ACT’s first policy report on biodiversity in BC, authored by Jon O’Riordan – a former Deputy Minister for the BC government’s Ministry of Sustainable Resource Development, has drawn media coverage from several major publications. Content from the December 3 press conference releasing details of the report was covered in the Vancouver Sun, The Tyee, and the Globe and Mail.

The final version of O’Riordan’s report will be available on the ACT website (www.sfu.ca/act) and blog Friday December 19th. The background research compendium and accompanying economic analysis by researcher Eric Kimmel will also be available.

Video highlights and presentations from our second six-month session – Extreme Weather Events, held May-December 2008 – are now on the ACT website. You can also find presentations from our November 20th International round table event, held at the Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue that featured climate change adaptation experts from Africa, Australia, South America, and the Arctic.


BC’s biodiversity “ark” threatened by climate change: report

This past Wednesday was a landmark day for ACT: we released the results of the first session in our five-year series of 10 six-month sessions.

ACT’s inaugural session, Communities in Jeopardy: Plant, Animal and Human, ran from September 2007 to April 2008. The report from that session is called Climate Adaptation and Biodiversity: An Ecological and Community Perspective, authored by Jon O’Riordan, former deputy minister in the BC government’s Ministry of Sustainable Resource development, and supplemented by researcher Eric Kimmel, who wrote the accompanying economic analysis.

The report has already been featured in the Vancouver Sun in a story titled “BC ‘ark’ threatened by climate change, report says”, by Scott Simpson and on The Tyee online news site:SFU report ‘impetus’ for province to meet Great Bear commitments”.

Click here to download a PDF of the report.  A companion background report, authored by Eric Kimmel, will be available within the next two weeks.


Australia Turns to the Sea for Drinking Water

The worst drought in a century, especially in Australia’s most populated and fastest growing regions, has forced state governments to make expensive, and in some quarters unpopular, decisions to secure water supply.As rainfall dwindles, new dams are a less-than-promising prospect, so governments have looked to the boundless resource surrounding the country — the sea — for an answer. Their solution: desalination.

Last year was Australia’s sixth warmest on record. It was the warmest in the Murray-Darling Basin and in South Australia, New South Wales (NSW) and Victoria. The south-west and south-east continue to suffer long-term low rainfall. The Australia Bureau of Meteorology, in its annual climate statement for 2007, reported that south-east Australia has now missed out on the equivalent of an average year’s rainfall in the past 11 years, making the current drought one of Australia’s most severe on record. The current drought is notable for its record high temperatures and record low inflows to water storages. The statement warns of a drying trend in the decades ahead.

Four states — Western Australia, Queensland, South Australia and NSW — either have working desalination plants or are planning to build them. Opponents say that producing the large amount of electricity required to run a desalination plant hastens climate change, which may be the culprit behind Australia’s drying trend.

Some governments have countered or appeased those arguments by building wind farms to offset the power needs of their desalination plants. In Queensland, Premier Anna Bligh has challenged energy companies to come up with the best way to power a planned desalination plant at Tugun on the Gold Coast using only renewable sources. She said recently: “I want industry to come to us with their best ideas — it could be solar or wind-generated power for example, it could be carbon offsetting, or it could be a combination. Making the plant carbon neutral will save 207,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions every year — which is equivalent to emissions from 46,000 cars.”

Western Australia was first off the mark with a large-scale plant. Its Kwinana plant opened in November 2007. Now it provides about 45 gigalitres of water per year, about 17 per cent of Perth’ s needs. It is powered by a wind farm at Emu Downs, although the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission recently found that statements by the Perth Water Corporation that the plant was carbon neutral were misleading, and told it not to make similar claims in the future. The corporation is now calling for tenders for a new plant at Binningup, 155km south of Perth.

Victoria is building a plant at Wonthaggi in Gippsland which will supply about 150 billion litres a year, roughly one third of Melbourne’s water. The Victorian Government says it has already included the price of using renewable energy into the cost of the project.

Sydney’s desalination plant is being built at Kurnell on Botany Bay. The state government hopes to have it pumping 90 gigalitres of potable water per year from late 2009. To offset the power needs the state is building, with a private partner, a wind farm at Bungendore, east of Canberra. The 63-turbine farm is projected to have a capacity of 132 megawatts, about eight times greater than NSW’s existing installed and accredited wind power. Stung by public criticism of the plant’s power needs, the state government says that renewable energy certificates earned from the wind farm will provide clear public evidence that the desalination plant is powered by 100 per cent renewable energy.

The pioneer of desalination was South Australia, albeit small-scale. Since 1999 a plant at Penneshaw on Kangaroo Island has been providing with 300 kilolitres of fresh water every day. The island has no natural fresh water. In Coober Pedy, salty underground water is treated. At Marion Bay on the Yorke Peninsula a plant produces 60 kilolitres of water each day more cheaply than carting in fresh water. Now the state is going upscale, and has plans to build a plant at Port Stanvac that will initially supply a quarter of Adelaide’s water. The 50 gigalitre plant is expected to cost about $1.1 billion.

Desalination plants work by drawing in sea water and passing it through a porous membrane, which filters salt and impurities. The water is then treated with lime, chloride and fluoride to bring it up to drinking standard. Last, it is blended with fresh water from other catchment sources. What is left over, super-salty brine, is returned to the sea.

Not everyone is happy with desalination. Community groups have sprung up in each state where a plant is planned to oppose them on environmental and finance grounds. In South Australia, the Save Our Gulf Coalition says the planned plant at Port Stanvac presents many problems. Coalition chairman Peter Laffan says for one, the site is a contaminated former oil refinery. “Our chief concern is the brine in the Gulf St Vincent because it is very slow moving water and we have unusual phenomena in dodge tides; every two weeks there is no tidal movements for a day or so. That, together with the fact that flushing takes three to six months, means there is a significant threat that the brine will not disperse. Brine builds up in low-oxygen slugs that can create “dead” zones.”


Climate Change Caused Abandonment of Ancient Scottish Settlement

A Scots religious site that predates the pyramids and Stonehenge may have been abandoned because of climate change, researchers claim.Kilmartin Glen, in Argyll, has one of the most important concentrations of Neolithic and Bronze Age remains in Europe. The glen contains at least 350 ancient monuments, many of them prehistoric, including burial cairns, rock carvings and standing stones. The most spectacular of the remains is the fortress of the Scots at Dunadd, capital of the kingdom of Dalriada.

But archaeologists have identified a period of almost 1,000 years in which no monuments were erected and the population there “diminished”. They claim this period is marked by the start of a colder, wetter climate.

Dr Alison Sheridan, an archaeologist and head of early prehistory at the National Museum of Scotland, who has studied Kilmartin Glen for more than 20 years, said:”The earliest activity dates back to hunter-gatherers around 4,500BC, who left behind nothing more than a few pits, charcoal and some flint. It was a sacred landscape from at least as early as 3,700BC until as late as 1,100BC. It was a place for ceremony, for burying people and observing the movements of the sun and the moon.We are not too certain what happened between 1,100BC and around 200BC. A hoard of swords has been found and a few artifacts buried as gifts to the gods in the late Bronze Age between 1,000 and 750BC. But there are very few structures and no settlements.Certainly, in some parts it seems to have become colder and wetter after about 1,200BC, and the people may have moved away.”

Kilmartin Glen was home to self-sufficient and successful communities with links around the country and even overseas. Historic monuments include standing stones, a henge, a linear cemetery comprising five burial cairns and numerous cists, or stone coffins, which contained remains of adults and children as young as four.

Neal Ascherson, visiting Professor at the Institute of Archaeology, University College London, said climate change brought an end to “this strange, idyllic period of late Neolithic and Bronze Age in this area”.He said: “The weather, which was dryer and finer than it is now, seems to have come to an end around 1,000BC, when it began to change and the whole ecology began to alter. At the same time, culture changed.The capacity or wish to build these monuments and indeed to honour them or take account of them, died away. And in the Iron Age nobody took much account of these monuments and certainly nobody tried to build anything of the kind again. Instead, you get a quite different culture in which you get tiny fortified settlements and you feel everything is colder and more hostile. The population diminished heavily, but whoever was left seemed to fear everyone else.”

Sharon Webb, the curator of the Kilmartin Museum, said: “When the first people moved in to this landscape it would have been a landscape of plenty. The rivers and lochs would have been teeming with fish, the woods would have been full of game and there were lots of plants they could have eaten – nettles, berries and fungi in the forests. It was a really rich place for the hunter-gatherer people to find enough resources to live.”


Free Prince Rupert ACT Event: Sustainable Energy Solutions for the Future

Speaker: Guy Dauncey, President, BC Sustainable Energy Association
Date: Wednesday, November 5, 2008
Time: 6:00–8:00 pm
Location: Chances, 240 1st Avenue West, Prince Rupert
Cost: Free

How can Prince Rupert prepare itself for the impacts of global warming, and the coming global energy crunch?  How can it develop solutions that will tackle climate change, and provide local sources of renewable energy?
Simon Fraser University’s Adaptation to Climate Change Team (ACT) presents a speaker event on sustainable
energy. Hosted by the WWF-Canada, this event offers an opportunity to hear from one of BC’s top leaders in
sustainable energy sources, and discuss the future for Prince Rupert.
Guy Dauncey is President of the BC Sustainable Energy Association, and author of the award-winning book
Stormy Weather: 101 Solutions to Global Climate Change. He lives in Victoria. Guy will speak on a variety of
topics, including:
Bio-energy opportunities, such as creating bio-energy from waste and bio-fuel from woodchips
How can the North take advantage of new shipping routes with this bio-fuel, and add value to the northern
Container port development
Carbon footprint reduction possibilities
To register, please call James Casey, WWF-Canada at 1-250-624-3705, extension 23.


Stern Warns that the Risks of Global Warming are Greater than those of the Financial Crisis

The risks of inaction over climate change far outweigh the turmoil of the global financial crisis, a leading climate change expert said, while calling for new fiscal spending tailored to low carbon growth.

“The risk consequences of ignoring climate change will be very much bigger than the consequences of ignoring risks in the financial system,” said Nicholas Stern, a former British Treasury economist, who released a seminal report in 2006 that said inaction on emissions blamed for global warming could cause economic pain equal to the Great Depression.”That’s a very important lesson, tackle risk early,” Stern told a climate and carbon conference in Hong Kong.

As countries around the world move from deploying monetary and financial stabilization measures, to boosting fiscal spending to mend real economies, Stern said the opportunity was there to bring about a new, greener, carbon-reducing world order.”The lesson that we can draw out from this recession, is that you can boost demand in the best way possible by focusing on low carbon growth in future,” Stern said, including greater public spending on mass public transport, energy and green technologies.

Stern’s warning comes on the heels of the Asia-Europe or ASEM meeting in Beijing, where China indicated in talks it was committed to seeking a climate change pact in vital end-game talks in Copenhagen at the end of next year.Leaders at the summit also urged countries not to use global economic upheaval as a reason for delaying a deal. Partly as a result of the darkening global economic outlook, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi recently warned that 10 other EU nations backed his efforts to block an EU climate plan, prompting further doubts over European action on global warming.

Yet Stern remained optimistic, saying while talks would be “very tense” the likelihood of a deal in Copenhagen to reduce carbon emissions by 50 percent by 2050 remained “very high.”

Any deal would have to iron out differences between the United States, historically the largest greenhouse gas emitter, and rapidly developing countries like China, which by some accounts has surpassed the United States on emissions.China, with its bulging output of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas behind global warming, was singled out by Stern along with the U.S. as pivotal in the talks, with the next U.S. president likely to be much more proactive than George W. Bush.”The U.S. and China will be the key leaders for a global deal. Either one of them could kill it, and I don’t think either one of them will kill it.”

Fresh from a trip to China, Stern said China’s next national economic blueprint or five-year plan would acknowledge its key role to stave off a big rise in global temperatures, the melting of ice-caps and destructive rises in sea levels the world over.”I think we’ll see the 12th five-year plan focus on low carbon growth,” he said.


Scientists Predict Future Hunger Hotspots Associated with Climate Change

Where in sub-Saharan Africa will climate change hit hardest? When it comes to food supply, prospects for much of the centre and east of the region are looking grim. Reduced crop yields along with a rising population mean that Tanzania, Mozambique and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) are likely to face serious shortages by 2030, according to a comprehensive new study.

A team from the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology in Dübendorf led by Junguo Liu assessed the impact of climate change by 2030 on the production of six major food crops in sub-Saharan Africa: cassava, maize, wheat, sorghum, rice and millet. Higher temperatures will make wheat wilt, with yields falling by up to 18 per cent. By contrast, millet benefits, with yields up by as much as 27 per cent. Rice, maize, sorghum and cassava show little change.

By combining these assessments with projections for population and economic growth, the team then predicted how people in different countries would be affected. Tanzania, Mozambique and the DRC fared worst for food security. “They have the lowest economic growth, the fastest population growth or the lowest increase in calories from their crops,” Liu says.

The report goes on to predict that economic growth in Nigeria, Sudan and Angola will increase their purchasing power enough to allow them to buy their way out of hunger.


Climate Change Leads to Increasing Conflicts between Humans and Tigers

The dawn mist was still clinging to the mangroves when the tiger struck. Mohammed Rasul Hussain, 45, had left his hut in southwestern Bangladesh at sunrise three weeks ago, with his younger brother, Sheraz, and paddled across the river and into the vast Sundarbans forest. They moored their boat and set off on foot to search for crab, wild honey and firewood in the world’s largest mangrove swamp, which straddles Bangladesh’s border with India. Armed with only a machete, Mohammed did not stand a chance when the tiger leapt from the undergrowth, knocked him to the ground and sank its teeth into his neck. Sheraz could only scream in horror — and run. They buried Mohammed that evening, minus his left leg.

“He knew the dangers of the forest, but he couldn’t do anything else to survive,” said Fatima, 30, his widow and the mother of their three children. “It would be better if there were no tigers here.” Like Mohammed, villagers here have always understood the risks of entering the Sundarbans, one of the last refuges of the endangered Bengal tiger.

Spread across 9,583 square km in the Ganges delta, the Sundarbans is home to 440 tigers, according to a joint Indian and Bangladeshi survey done in 2004. Tigers have long been a problem here. Almost every village has its “tiger widows” and a shrine to Bon Bibi — the forest goddess who wards off the big cat.

Since a hurricane last November, the conflict between tiger and human has escalated to a new pitch — highlighting the environmental threats to this unique habitat. Tigers have killed twenty people in the Bangladeshi Sundarbans so far this year, compared with six in 2007 and seven in 2006, according to forestry officials. Even more worryingly, tigers have started straying into villages on the forest’s fringes. “The situation is quite negative,” says Rajesh Chakma, the head forest ranger in Munshiganj, the worst affected district with 18 fatal attacks this year. “We could see many more attacks before the year’s end, as it’s mating season now and tigers become more aggressive.”

In the village of Horinagar no one goes out after dark anymore, even to use the lavatory. On June 20 a tiger swam across the river from the Sundarbans and killed three people before villagers surrounded it, threw a noose around its neck and beat it to death with sticks. They summoned the forestry officials, as is required by law, but those who arrived could not provide help as they had no tranquillisers.

“The tigers never used to come into the villages, never in my lifetime,” says Shri Poti Mundal, 40, whose father and sister-in-law were killed by the tiger. “If they had captured it and released it, it might have come back.”

Other villages in the area have started lighting fires at night or using loudspeakers from the local mosque to scare off any approaching tigers.

Experts on tiger behaviour are unsure exactly what caused the rise in the attacks as they have not had time to do the necessary research. Most of them suspect that one central factor was Hurricane Sidr, which killed 4,000 people and destroyed 20 per cent of the Sundarbans in November 2007. “Tigers have been displaced to this area – and they are territorial,” Mr Chakma said.

Many also blame a “perfect storm” of environmental problems — rising sea levels, the silting up of rivers, annual floods and salination of fresh water supplies. “The Sundarbans is dying,” said Ainun Nishat, the head of the International Union for Conservation of Nature‘s Bangladesh office and an expert on the Sundarbans. “The forest is getting degraded, so that means less prey,” he said. “And you must remember that this is not the tigers’ natural habitat.”

The Sundarbans — a UNESCO World Heritage Site —- is simply the only space left for the tigers in a country slightly bigger than England with a population of 150 million people. Remarkably, tigers which normally inhabit inland jungle have adapted by learning to swim, catch fish and drink salty water. As fast as the animals have adapted, however, the forest has shrunk further and the human population around it has multiplied to 2.5 million. Thousands of people now enter the forest every day — many of them former rice farmers whose land was flooded with seawater — pushing ever deeper into the tigers’ domain.

It is a struggle for survival that man and beast are both doomed to lose. The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicted last year that rising sea levels could submerge 17 per cent of Bangladesh by 2050, creating 20 million “environmental refugees”. A 45cm (17.7in) rise in sea levels would destroy 75 per cent of the Sundarbans, according to UNESCO, and subsidence means that net water levels are already rising 3.1mm a year in parts of the forest.

Villagers are mostly unaware of such official forecasts but they know their fate is intertwined with that of the tigers. “The Sundarbans is our national treasure — and our livelihood,” said Athar Rahman Malik, 40, who survived a tiger attack last year and still bears the scars on his head and arms. “If the Sundarbans is alive, then we are alive.”


IPCC Chair Urges Action by the Media

The chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said the news media are not sufficiently addressing the severity of climate change at a meeting of U.S. environmental journalists earlier this week.R.K. Pachauri, head of the 2,500-member IPCC, said that unless policies are enacted soon to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, the global perils from shifting weather patterns and sea level rise will become worse in the coming years.

To communicate the dangers of climate change, Pachauri urged the annual gathering of the Society of Environmental Journalists (SEJ) to help translate the most recent IPCC assessment to a local scale and report on how climate change will affect local communities.”In the last year and a half, there has been a massive explosion of awareness; however, the media has not reported enough about the emergency and depth of action,” said Pachauri, who has led the United Nations panel since 2002.

The fact that only half of Americans polled consider human activity to be the main cause of climate change is often blamed on media coverage. But news reports of climate change have steadily increased in recent years, especially since government reports, a major Supreme Court hearing, and the documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” brought attention to the climate crisis in 2006.Pachauri suggested that major news agencies now rely too much on high-level science reports or large climate-related events for their stories, rather than examples of climate change’s ongoing effects. “We need to go beyond the cyclical coverage of climate change and emphasize the day-to-day relevance,” he said.

SEJ President Timothy Wheeler said news stories often reflect what public opinion polls suggest are priority topics. According to a January 2008 Pew Research Center study, U.S. voters listed global warming toward the bottom of their current policy concerns. “When the economy is the way it is, a war is going on, these are the things that grab the headlines and network news,” Wheeler said.

Several journalists at the conference voiced concerns that the financial instability of many U.S. newspapers may further limit the quantity and quality of environmental reporting. Many news organizations cut their reporting staff and the size of their publications this year due to dwindling profits during the Internet Age.In response, nearly a quarter of newspaper editors said they dedicate fewer reporting resources to science topics than three years ago, according to a July 2008 Pew Research Center survey of editors from the largest U.S. newspapers. Only 10 percent of editors surveyed consider science and technology reporting as “very essential” to the quality of their news product.

Yet the trend for environmental coverage, which would include local pollution stories in addition to global ecological problems, is less clear. The survey said 17 percent of editors decreased their environmental reporting resources, while 22 percent said these resources increased in the past three years.”Editors are cutting international, even national news, and they’re playing up more local and lifestyle stories,” said Wheeler, a reporter at The Baltimore Sun. “But the environment is still an important local story.”

Also speaking at the conference, journalist Jeff Goodell said the news media need to improve their coverage of the risk that coal-fired power plants pose for climate change, even if emissions are eventually captured.”[Carbon-capture and sequestration], as a journalist this is something we’ve done a very bad job of covering,” said Goodell, author of Big Coal. “There are a lot of questions about CCS and whether this is going to work. It’s something everyone in this room should look at in detail.”

Also related to media coverage of climate change, researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that only 0.5 percent of climate change articles mention the role that livestock and meat production play in warming the planet, according to a study set to be published in Public Health Nutrition. Food production in general was mentioned in 2.4 percent of the climate change stories published in U.S. newspapers studied between September 2005 and January 2008.The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization has stated that livestock production releases more greenhouse gas emissions than the transportation sector, mainly due to the clearing of land and the release of methane, a gas 23 times more potent than carbon dioxide.


Greening the Home – Public Speaker Panel

Date: October 23
Time: 7:00-9:00pm
Location: Beban Park Lounge, 2300 Bowen Road, Nanaimo
Cost: Free!

New emissions reduction targets
Energy costs rising
Financial crisis threatening real estate values
It’s time to Green your Home!

Simon Fraser University’s Adaptation to Climate Change Team (ACT) hosts a speaker panel event on Greening the Home. Working with both the Regional District and City of Nanaimo, under its “Defining the Sustainable City” series, the event invites homeowners to meet with leaders in sustainable development, green real estate investment, and home energy efficiency. Speakers and topics include:

Joe Van Belleghem, Managing Partner, Dockside Green
– the vision for sustainable development
Chris Corps, Principal, Asset Strategics
– good news on investments in green buildings
Helen Goodland, Executive Director, Light House Sustainable Building Centre
– practical tips on improving home energy efficiency

To register, please call the City of Nanaimo Community Planning Office at 250-755-4483.

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