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United Nations Building Evacuated Due to Suspicious Odor

The United Nations Security Council and General Assembly were forced to evacuate the U.N. building Tuesday because of a “suspicious” odor, Reuters reported.

Security officials first told the press that there was a gas leak in the Manhattan compound. But spokesman Farhan Haq said he could not confirm that was the case.

Haq said the evacuation was just a precautionary measure. “We are currently trying to identify the odor with local authorities,” he told reporters crowded outside the building.

The smell was later blamed on a sewage backup caused by high tides in the nearby East River.

“This is not a hazard, there were gases released by the sewage but it is not harmful,” Haq told reporters. “Public tours and General Assembly meetings should be able to resume by tomorrow.”

The U.N. compound is currently undergoing a $2 billion refurbishment. The Security Council has been meeting in the basement of the 39-story Secretariat building during renovations, and repairs have not begun for the adjoining General Assembly building, which is still being used.

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WikiLeaks Founder Released on Bail

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who is fighting extradition to Sweden over alleged sex crimes, was released from British custody on bail Thursday.

Assange, 39, appeared before the press and cheering supporters after a judge dismissed him on 200,000 pounds ($312,000) bail.

“It’s great to smell fresh air of London again,” the Australian founder of the controversial whistle-blowing website told the crowd, according to Reuters.

“I hope to continue my work and continue to protest my innocence in this matter and to reveal as we get it, which we have not yet, the evidence from these allegations,” he added.

As a condition of bail, Assange is off to a 10-room country home in eastern England owned by a WikiLeaks supporter. The mansion, called Ellingham Hall, has a fast internet connection that will allow Assange to continue working on his website, The Associated Press reported.

Assange must keep to a curfew, report to police daily, and wear an electronic tag, Reuters said.

He will return to court for a full extradition hearing in early February.

Last month, WikiLeaks released a cache of 250,000 secret U.S. diplomatic cables. U.S. authorities claimed the leak damaged international relations.

Posted in Organizations, People, Politics & Politicians0 Comments

South Korea's Carbon Dioxide Emissions Rise to 620 Million Tons in 2007

SEOUL, Dec. 29 (UPI) — South Korea’s carbon dioxide emissions increased 2.9 percent — totaling 620 million tons — in 2007, the government announced Monday, Xinhua reports.

That represents the highest growth rate since 2002 and is nearly three times faster than the growth rate in 2006. It is also a 103-percent increase from 1990 greenhouse gas emission totals.

According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, South Korea’s emissions are the fastest growing of all industrialized states.

Seoul attributes the sharp rise to increases in fossil fuel output because of a fall in nuclear power generation as well as energy consumption in the country’s steel and petrochemical sectors.

Yet South Korea regards carbon dioxide reduction not as a burden but a “business model,” the country’s climate-change ambassador, Rae-Kwon Chung, told Der Spiegel during the Copenhagen climate-change conference.

Rae-Kwon, who has been active in climate negotiations since they began internationally in 1991, is sometimes referred to as the “godfather” of the green growth movement, which contends that countries can boost wealth by reducing emissions.

In an interview with The Los Angeles Times during the Copenhagen talks, Rae-Kwon said world leaders need to capture the “opportunity” of renewable energy technology. To do so, he said, they need to rethink some fundamentals of daily life: tax structures, transportation patterns and, most importantly, to accept that cheaper energy is better for economic growth.

“They’re walking the walk” in South Korea, Jake Schmidt, international climate policy director for the Natural Resources Defense Council, who has worked closely with Chung on climate issues, told the Times. Schmidt said Chung “has had a very big impact in how South Korea views their role” on emission limits, domestically and internationally.

Recent announcements may confirm Schmidt’s observations.

Last week South Korea said it plans to officially register by the end of January its goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent from the projected emission level in 2020 compared with 2005.

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak announced Dec. 17 that $10 million would be used to establish a Global Green Growth Institute, bringing economists and top researchers together to develop new ideas.

And South Korea said Monday it would launch a carbon emissions trading scheme aimed at reducing the country’s emissions 1 percent to 2 percent of 2005 to 2007 averages, reports Xinhua.

The Korea Stock Exchange would serve as a platform for the three-year pilot program, starting as early as late 2010, said the Ministry of Environment. A total of 641 organizations will participate, including South Korea’s 14 local governments and 446 public organizations.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Air Pollutants, Air Quality Standards & Emissions, Air, Atmosphere, & Weather, Consumption, Energy, Ideas, Humanities, & Education, Organizations, Science, Space, & Technology, Transportation, Walking0 Comments

U.N Climate Change Summit Considered a 'Failure' to European Leaders

COPENHAGEN, Denmark, Dec. 21 (UPI) — The climate change summit in Denmark, expected to produce a historic document, fell way short of the mark, officials and organizations said.

European leaders called the two-week gathering at Copenhagen “disappointing” while environmental organizations characterized it as a “failure,” the EUobserver.com reported.

After nearly two weeks of stalled talks on a treaty to succeed the Kyoto Protocol for curbing greenhouse gases, the countries approved a five-page document that recognizes the need to limit global temperatures from rising no more than 2 degrees Celsius over 10 years, but doesn’t require signatories to take measures to address climate change.

As explained by U.S. President Barack Obama Friday, countries will list “concrete commitments” into the document’s appendix, and would be subject to international consultation and analysis, leading to a hoped-for more binding document later. Among other things, the accord also sets a goal of delivering $100 billion annually to developing countries to help them address climate change.

Fredrik Reinfeldt, Sweden’s prime minister and sitting as EU’s six-month rotating president, said the conference’s document won’t counter global warming.

“Let’s be honest. This is not a perfect agreement. It will not solve the climate threat,” he told EUobserver.com.

The agreement, while a step forward was “clearly below our ambitions,” European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said. “I will not hide my disappointment.”

The United States bullied developing countries “into backing a plan that completely undermines the existing U.N. process,” said Andy Atkins, Friends of the Earth executive director. “This summit has been a complete failure — the climate accord should be sent to the recycling bin.”

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Causes, Effects Of Air Pollution, International Relations & Treaties, Organizations, Other, Policy, Law, & Government, Recycling0 Comments

Climate Change Draft Deal Struck

COPENHAGEN, Denmark, Dec. 18 (UPI) — World leaders took a “meaningful and unprecedented” step in Denmark Friday by striking a voluntary agreement to fight global warming, U.S. President Obama said.

Mitigation, transparency and financing “formed the basis of a common approach” the United States and its partners embraced, Obama told reporters.

The agreement, while non-binding, provides the “foundation for global action to confront climate change for years to come,” Obama said before leaving Denmark to return to Washington to try to beat a predicted 12-inch snowfall.

“Today we made meaningful and unprecedented breakthrough here in Copenhagen,” Obama said. “For the first time in history, all major economies came together to accept responsibility for their actions” in global warming.

The agreement, which Obama said could lead to something more binding in the future, is structured so each nation will list its “concrete commitments” into the document’s appendix, and would be subject to international consultation and analysis.

“It (the agreement) will not be legally binding, but it will allow for each country to show to the world what they’re doing,” Obama said. “There’ll be a sense on the part of each country that we’re in this together.”

The mitigating efforts are part of a commitment to limit global temperature increases to no more than 2 degrees Celsius during the next decade.

U.S. officials said the deal includes also includes a commitment by wealthy nations to collect $100 billion a year in climate aid for poor nations by 2020.

Obama said he came to the U.N. conference guided by the principle that “whatever commitment we make, we make sure that they’re commitments we can keep.”

Anticipating criticism from environmental organizations about the lack of a binding treaty such as the Kyoto Protocol or more stringent requirements on individual countries, Obama said he, too, wanted something more binding, “but that wasn’t going to be achievable at this conference.”

“The most important thing I think we can do at this point is to build some trust” between developed and developing countries and “get to the point where everybody recognizes that we all have to move forward together.”

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in History, International Relations & Treaties, Organizations0 Comments

200 Protesters Arrested at U.N. Climate Change Summit

COPENHAGEN, Denmark, Dec. 15 (UPI) — Protesters, angry over the lack of progress during a climate change summit, set fire to temporary barricades in Copenhagen, Denmark, police said.

Authorities said they used tear gas to disperse the crowd for the first time since the climate change summit began last week, The New York Times reported Tuesday. About 200 protesters were arrested.

Police said they expected clashes with protesters to escalate as the talks conclude this week.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown was expected to arrive at the U.N.-sponsored summit Tuesday, two days ahead of schedule, to try to goose progress at the talks.

Early Tuesday, lines of government delegates and representatives of environmental organizations trying to get in to the conference stretched several hundred yards outside the conference facility, the Times reported. Thousands of participants endured hours-long waits to pick up credentials Monday.

The United Nations said in an e-mailed statement more than 45,000 people applied to attend the conference, nearly triple the facility’s capacity.

“An overwhelming number of those who applied arrived on Monday, causing congestion in the area outside the U.N. venue, which is under the control of the Danish police,” the statement said.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Global Warming & Climate Change, Organizations, People0 Comments

Climate Change Activists Rally in Copenhagen's Public Squares

COPENHAGEN, Denmark, Dec. 12 (UPI) — A public square in Copenhagen, Denmark, was jammed Saturday with thousands of protesters gathered at a U.N. climate change conference, witnesses said.

Police said they expected 60,000 people to march from Copenhagen’s Christiansborg Slotsplads, or Castle Square, toward the Bella Center, the convention hall were delegates from nearly 200 countries are gathered to forge an agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, The New York Times reported.

The newspaper said the demonstrators included climate activists, hundreds of environmental groups, anti-capitalists and human rights advocates who formed a sea of humanity dotted with flags and banners demanding action from world leaders to stop global warming.

“Bla, Bla, Bla,” the Times cited a popular sign as reading. “Act Now!”

Another reportedly read, “Nature Doesn’t Compromise.”

The “Global Day of Action” came one day after Danish police clashed with demonstrators, making 40 arrests, the BBC reported.

The British broadcaster said former supermodel Helena Christensen and actress Helen Baxendale were expected to be among the celebrities making appearances Saturday, while the archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, was to address a gathering of Christian Aid and other faith-based development organizations in Copenhagen’s Cathedral Square.

A part of the effort calls for churches around the world to toll their bells 350 times, symbolizing 350 parts per million — the level of carbon dioxide considered low enough to avoid climate change, the BBC said.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Global Warming & Climate Change, Organizations, Other, People0 Comments

Danish Climate Change Treaty Draft Angers BASIC Group

COPENHAGEN, Denmark, Dec. 8 (UPI) — A draft text of a climate change treaty proposed by the Danish government reveals the split in Copenhagen between developed countries and others, officials say.

The Danish draft, published by The Guardian newspaper on its Web site Tuesday, calls for overall worldwide emissions to start dropping after 2020 and to be cut in half by 2050. Negotiators from less-developed countries and representatives of non-governmental organizations such as Oxfam say that would lock in the current inequality between Europe, Japan, the United States and other developed countries and those that have less industrial development.

The BASIC group — Brazil, South Africa, India and China — wants an extension of the Kyoto Protocol.

The non-governmental organizations have also accused the Danish government of convening small working groups prior to the conference opening Monday and excluding the poorer countries, the EUobserver reported.

“The global community trusted the Danish government to host a fair and transparent process but they have betrayed that trust,” said Rahman Mehta of Action Aid India.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Global Warming & Climate Change, Organizations, Other0 Comments

Rhinoceros Poaching Surges in Asia and Africa

GLAND, Switzerland, Dec. 2 (UPI) — A report by two Switzerland-headquartered conservation groups says worldwide rhinoceros poaching is increasing, especially in Asia and Africa.

The report by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and the World Wildlife Fund says the poaching is being driven by Asian demand for horns and is made worse by increasingly sophisticated poachers, who are using veterinary drugs, poison, cross bows and high caliber weapons to kill rhinos.

The organizations said since 2006, 95 percent of the poaching in Africa has occurred in Zimbabwe and South Africa, new data indicates.

“These two nations collectively form the epicenter of an unrelenting poaching crisis in southern Africa,” said Tom Milliken of TRAFFIC, a wildlife trade monitoring network established by the two conservation groups to ensure trade in wild plants and animals is not a threat to the conservation of nature.

The report also raises concerns regarding the low and declining numbers as well as the uncertain status of some of the Sumatran and Javan rhino populations in Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam.

However, the conservationists note in some areas populations of rhinos are increasing. “Where there is political will, dedicated conservation programs and good law enforcement, rhino numbers have increased in both Africa and Asia,” they said.

The report is available at http://www.cites.org/common/cop/15/doc/E15-45-01A.pdf.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Animals, Conservation, Organizations0 Comments

Brown Pelican Removed From Threatened and Endangered Species List

WASHINGTON, Nov. 11 (UPI) — U.S. officials Wednesday removed the brown pelican from the list of threatened and endangered species.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Assistant Secretary for Fish, Wildlife and Parks Tom Strickland and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Sam Hamilton made the announcement.

“At a time when so many species of wildlife are threatened, we once in a while have an opportunity to celebrate an amazing success story,” Salazar said. “Today is such a day. The brown pelican is back!”

The brown pelican was first declared endangered in 1970. But since then, thanks to a ban on DDT and efforts by states, conservation organizations, private citizens and many other partners, the bird has recovered, officials said.

There are now more than 650,000 brown pelicans found across Florida and the Gulf and Pacific Coasts, as well as in the Caribbean and Latin America.

The Fish and Wildlife Service removed the brown pelican in Alabama, Georgia, Florida, and northward along the Atlantic Coast states from the list of endangered species in 1985. Wednesday’s action removes the remaining population from the list.

Federal officials said the pelican’s recovery is largely due to the 1971 federal ban on the general use of the pesticide DDT. That action followed former U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Rachel Carson’s book “Silent Spring” that alerted the nation to the widespread dangers associated with unrestricted pesticide use.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Animals, Conservation, Fish, Organizations, Other0 Comments

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