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U.S. President Obama Departs Washington for 2009 United Nations Summit on Climate Change in Copenhagen

U.S. President Obama Departs Washington for 2009 United Nations Summit on Climate Change in Copenhagen

U.S. President Barack Obama boards Marine One in Washington on December 17, 2009. President Obama is traveling to Copenhagen for the 2009 United Nations Summit on Climate Change. UPI/Alexis C. Glenn

Date Taken: December 17, 2009

Posted in Causes, Effects Of Air Pollution, International Relations & Treaties, Policy, Law, & Government0 Comments

Senator Byrd's Climate Stance Surprises West Virginia & Coal Industry

WASHINGTON, Dec. 18 (UPI) — West Virginia politicians and coal industry leaders say they’re surprised and puzzled by remarks on coal mining from Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va.

Byrd, 92, a longtime opponent of environmental restrictions on his state’s $3.5 billion coal industry, said this month, “The truth is that some form of climate legislation will likely become public policy” and will adversely affect coal mining, warning, “West Virginians can choose to anticipate change and adapt to it or resist and be overrun by it.”

Those remarks have flabbergasted many in the state, the Washington publication Politico reported Friday.

“To me, it was quite amazing,” Ken Hechler, a veteran West Virginia Democratic officeholder who served as congressman from 1959 to 1977, told the publication. “It was the first time that he had been at all critical of the coal industry. It was truly unexpected.”

“Over the years, he’s been a proponent of coal,” added Art Kirkendoll, the influential Democratic president of the Logan County Commission. “He’s the ranking senator in the Senate, a very powerful man, has accomplished a lot of things. Anytime he makes a statement — especially about a controversial issue — it has an impact on things.”

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Air Pollutants, Air Quality Standards & Emissions, Air, Atmosphere, & Weather, Art, Causes, Coal0 Comments

Climate Change Draft Accord Reached

COPENHAGEN, Denmark, Dec. 18 (UPI) — Climate change talks in Copenhagen, Denmark, have produced a draft accord calling for a 2-degree cap on global warming and aid to poor countries, diplomats say.

Participants at the U.N.-sponsored summit Friday said the deal lacks the legally binding pledges to cut greenhouse gas emissions, but does include language for countries to work to limit a rise in global average temperatures, EUobserver reported. The draft also called for providing $100 billion in aid to developing countries to help them address climate change issues.

The European Union convened a special meeting of 26 world leaders Thursday and worked until early Friday, the last day of a two-week long event.

“We tried to find an umbrella political accord,” said Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, who holds the European Union rotating presidency.

U.S. President Barack Obama, who arrived in Copenhagen Friday and did not participate in the EU discussions, referred to the accord during his remarks.

While not perfect, he said, the draft language offered a foundation and offered three necessary principles: mitigation of climate-changing greenhouse gas emission, transparency in efforts to reduce emissions and financing of developing countries to address climate change.

“It is a clear formula — one that embraces the principle of common but differentiated responses and respective capabilities,” Obama said.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Causes, Effects Of Air Pollution, International Relations & Treaties, Policy, Law, & Government0 Comments

World Leaders Try to Save Global Climate Protection Deal at U.N. Conference

COPENHAGEN, Denmark, Dec. 18 (UPI) — U.S. President Barack Obama and more than 100 other world leaders started last-minute attempts to reach a global climate protection deal at a U.N. conference in Denmark.

Obama was to meet with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, in a bilateral session that could save or bury the talks.

China is refusing to have its emissions monitored and the United States is resisting demands to boost its emissions reduction commitment beyond the 17 percent it promised by 2020. Observers have been frustrated by the positions of both countries.

Yet Obama, who landed in snowed-in Copenhagen Friday morning, appeared determined to broker a deal on the final day of a two-week summit.

“I come here today not to talk but to act,” Obama told the conference.

But he indicated no willingness to increase the United States’ emissions reduction commitments, a position criticized by major environment groups. Instead, he vowed that the United States was ready to help raise $10 billion until 2012, and $100 billion a year by 2020 for poor nations under a binding treaty that spells out emission reduction targets for industrialized nations — but only if that accord includes transparency measures ensuring that “we are living up to our mutual commitments.”

China has been unwilling to have its emissions monitored, a stance called a “deal-breaker” by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Obama urged China to move.

“I don’t know how you have an international agreement where we all are not sharing information and ensuring that we are meeting our commitments. That doesn’t make sense,” he said.

“We are ready to get this done today. But there has to be movement on all sides.”

Jiabao didn’t mention any willingness to accept more transparency measures but vowed that China will follow up on its voluntary climate protection commitments “with real action.”

President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva of Brazil delivered a memorable speech ahead of Obama, saying that his country, in a desperate effort to move talks forward, was “willing to make more sacrifices … (and) put forward money to help other countries. We will do it.”

Lula added he was “frustrated … because for a long time we have been discussing climate change,” without a meaningful outcome. Lula took part in all-night talks to save the deal and emerged saying that he was “laughing in order not to cry.”

Meanwhile, negotiators were able to agree to limit warming to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit compared with pre-industrial levels.

Obama vowed that the United States would continue to push clean energy at home and mitigate emissions reductions “no matter what happens here in Copenhagen.”

But he added that “we will all be more secure if we act together” by agreeing to an ambitious global climate protection treaty.

Any agreement reached in Copenhagen will have to be spelled out legally in the coming months. That means Copenhagen is only the beginning of the negotiation process.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Causes, Effects Of Air Pollution, Energy, International Relations & Treaties, Other, Policy, Law, & Government0 Comments

U.S. President Obama at Summit Trying for Climate Deal

COPENHAGEN, Denmark, Dec. 18 (UPI) — U.S. President Obama arrived in Copenhagen, Denmark, on the final day of the climate change summit, meeting with other heads of state trying to broker a deal.

Obama and at least 20 other world leaders met Friday to try to end the stalemate in the climate negotiations, CNN reported.

“We have had good, constructive discussions tonight. We hope to be able to reach a political umbrella agreement,” Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt said after the meeting. Sweden holds the revolving European Union presidency.

White House officials said Obama was hoping to reach a non-binding agreement that would lead to a treaty later.

Obama was to meet with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao of China to try to urge China to allow independent verification of its emission reduction program. Chinese leaders earlier said the country’s laws would suffice and outside verification was not needed.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said Thursday China “cannot consider that the transparency of efforts of all in any way undermines the sovereignty of each of us.”

China balks on the issue of transparency — proving a commitment to cut emissions — leading to a breakdown in negotiations Wednesday, U.S. and Chinese officials said.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said later countries committed to pursuing an agreement that has standards, including transparency, and hinted a refusal to agree to be transparent could be a deal-breaker.

Clinton also announced the United States would work with other countries to raise $100 billion by 2020 to address needs of developing countries to address climate change. She said the United States already is working with others to provide immediate funding that would reach $10 billion by 2012.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown urged leaders Thursday to agree on limiting long-term temperature increases to no more than 2 degrees.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Causes, International Relations & Treaties, Other, Policy, Law, & Government0 Comments

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Moves Copenhagen Climate Summit Talks Forward

COPENHAGEN, Denmark, Dec. 17 (UPI) — U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton instilled the stalled Copenhagen climate negotiations with new hope Thursday when she pledged that Washington would help raise $100 billion a year by 2020 to help poor nations deal with climate change.

The announcement came a day before more than 100 world leaders, including U.S. President Barack Obama, are due to meet in the Danish capital to sign a climate-protection treaty after two years of tedious negotiations.

It has been especially chaotic over the past days in the overcrowded Bella Center, with rich economies pitted against poor nations on several hot-potato issues.

“I know that the talks have been difficult,” Clinton said. “But the time is at hand for all countries to reach for common ground. … We have lost precious time in these past days. … It can no longer be about us versus them.”

The new finance commitment sends new hope as the United States and other rich nations had been slow to commit to long-term finance.

Yvo de Boer, the top U.N. climate official and probably the person who knows best what’s going on in the negotiations, was optimistic after Clinton’s statement.

“I would say hold tight and mind the doors — the cable car is moving again,” he said, adding, however, that he wanted to hear how much of the $100 billion Washington would contribute, which Clinton did not specify.

The sum is at the low end of what aid groups say developing countries need, but it’s in line with pledges from major powers, including the EU and Japan.

Clinton called it “a lot of money,” adding it was “appropriate, usable and will be effective.”

But only if there actually is a binding agreement.

Clinton warned Washington could not imagine one without regulations to boost transparency, mainly to monitor emissions by China.

Clinton said Washington would not agree to a deal “in the absence of transparency from … the first-biggest emitter and now nearly, if not already, the second-biggest economy.”

China recently surpassed the United States as the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases believed to cause global warming. It is also destined to overtake Japan as the world’s second-largest economy.

Observers say China has played a blocking role in the past 48 hours, indicating that it will not commit itself to a treaty containing legally binding emissions reductions. Washington would be ready to do so, but only if major emerging economies — include India, Brazil and Russia — hop on board, experts say.

But it’s not just China. The West will also have to convince African nations that it is doing enough. They said Thursday the industrialized countries need to boost their emissions reduction commitments and provide more money for the poorest nations or risk a collapse of the summit.

“To have no deal is better to have than a bad deal,” said Algeria’s Kamel Djemouai, speaking for the Africa Group.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel Thursday urged Western nations to come out with some last-minute attempts to save the negotiations.

“I hope that some industrialized countries can add to their current offers” of emissions reductions to reach global reductions of “at least minus 25 percent by 2020″ based on 1990 levels, Merkel said Thursday in a speech to representatives from nearly 200 countries here.

On the procedural side, things are moving again.

Two working groups were set up Thursday to hammer away at two texts — one would continue the Kyoto Protocol beyond 2012, and a new, second one would formulate commitments for the United States, which has not adopted Kyoto, and the developing countries.

“This is very encouraging. We now have clarity on the process, we have clarity on the documents that will be the basis for work, we have clarity the process will be transparent,” de Boer said.

Clinton also managed to disperse rumors that Obama might not attend, saying he would do so Friday.

“Obviously we hope that he has something to come for,” she added.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Causes, Effects Of Air Pollution, International Relations & Treaties, Other, Policy, Law, & Government0 Comments

Poland's Bears Putting off Bedtime

WARSAW, Poland, Dec. 7 (UPI) — A lead-in to winter that has been unusually warm is deflecting the attention of Poland’s bears from sleep to food, tourists say.

Recent visitors to Tatra National Park have been getting the unexpected sight of bears wandering near tourist trails, Poland radio reported Monday.

National park worker Marek Peksa blames the recent relatively warm weather, with temperatures often been above 50 degrees Fahrenheit, “causes the bears to be active, instead of getting ready for their winter hibernation.”

That Yogi-the-bear-like activity has included raiding beehives for honey and stripping apples off trees.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

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Landfills Still Filling Up in Northern California

SAN FRANCISCO, Nov. 25 (UPI) — Landfill operators in Northern California say it will take more than recycling to reduce the need for trash dumps in the coming years.

Tighter environmental regulations have led to some landfills in the San Francisco region to close, but at the same time has required other waste facilities to expand.

“We are on a path toward zero waste but we’re not there yet, and there’s a finite amount of landfill space in the Bay Area,” said Adam Alberti, spokesman for the waste-hauling company Recology. “A big part of it is that consumers need to change their behaviors — not just in recycling, but in consumption.”

The San Francisco Chronicle said Wednesday that Recology was seeking permits to begin shipping trash to Nevada by rail as some Bay Area dumps move closer to capacity or are shut down due to environmental concerns.

The newspaper said three landfills serving the area have either closed in the past four years on the verge of shutting down. Environmentalists say that causes more communities to truck their refuse farther to massive regional dumps.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Causes, Consumption, Landfills, Other, Recycling, Recycling & Waste, Regional0 Comments

Lake Worth Monster Expert Sallie Ann Clarke Clarke Dies

BENBROOK, Texas, Nov. 7 (UPI) — Texan Sallie Ann Clarke, known as the authority on the legendary Lake Worth Monster, has died at the age of 80, one of her children said.

Clarke wrote a 1969 book about the Lake Worth Monster, a 7-foot-tall man-goat creature allegedly first seen near the Texas lake that year.

Clarke, who claimed to have seen the Lake Worth Monster on three occasions after penning her book, said in a 1989 interview that her experiences with the creature made her regret her book’s tone.

“If I’d seen it before I wrote the book, the book would have been quite a lot different,” she said. “It wouldn’t have been semi-fiction. It would have been like a history.”

Clarke’s husband, Richard Lederer, said while some dismissed the Lake Worth Monster as a teenage prank, his wife remained a true believer.

“She offered a $5,000 reward for any person who could pass a polygraph that they were the monster,” Lederer said.

The Fort Worth (Texas) Star-Telegram reported Saturday that Clarke, who died of unspecified causes Tuesday following a long illness, is survived by Lederer, three children, six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

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H1N1 Swine Flu Deaths Rates Highest in Patients 50 and Older

RICHMOND, Calif., Nov. 5 (UPI) — Health officials say H1N1 primarily affects the young, but a study of California cases found H1N1 fatalities were highest in those 50 and older.

Dr. Janice K. Louie of the California department of public health and colleagues examined the clinical and epidemiologic features of the first 1,088 hospitalized and fatal cases due to pandemic influenza H1N1 reported in California from April 23 to Aug. 11.

The findings, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that of the 1,088 H1N1 cases, 32 percent were children younger than 18 years, with infants having the highest rate of hospitalization and people age 50 or older having the highest rate of death once hospitalized.

The median age of all of the H1N1 cases was 27 years. Fever, cough, and shortness of breath were the most common symptoms. Underlying conditions previously associated with severe influenza were reported in 68 percent of cases. Other underlying medical illnesses recorded included obesity, hypertension, hyperlipidemia and gastrointestinal disease, the researchers say.

“Overall fatality was 11 percent and was highest in persons age 50 and older,” the researchers say in a statement. “Of the deaths, 7 percent were children younger than 18 years. Among fatal cases, the median time from onset of symptoms to death was 12 days.”

The most common causes of death were viral pneumonia and acute respiratory distress syndrome, the researchers say.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Causes, Human Health & Wellness, Other, People0 Comments

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