Hansen Denounces Efforts by Special Interests to Undermine Nasa Research on Global Warming

Plus the Hijacking of Iceland’s Hydrogen Plans, Disaster Creates Opening for Peace in Aceh, and More in the November/December 2006 Issue of World Watch

Washington, DC – Even as scientists make major breakthroughs in their understanding of global warming, U.S. special interest groups are working to undermine this research and mislead the public about increasing environmental risks, according to “Swift Boating, Stealth Budgeting, & Unitary Executives,” NASA scientist James Hansen’s contribution to the November/December issue of World Watch magazine. Hansen challenges the unscientific approach of Cato Institute researchers to discredit climate data and the unconstitutional efforts of the Bush administration to cut NASA’s science budget and delete a key component of its mission statement—to understand and protect our home planet—from the record books.

“It is understandable that special interests gravitated, early on, to scientists who had a message they preferred to hear,” contends Hansen. “But now that global warming and its impacts are clearer, we need for business people to understand the legal and moral liabilities that accrue with continued denial of global warming.” Pointing to the administration’s 20percent cut of NASA Earth Science’s Research and Analysis 2006 budget, Hansen observes that “one way to avoid bad news is to stop the measurements! Yet as NASA's original mission ‘to understand and protect our home planet’ is erased, the severity of the cuts and their long-term implications are not universally recognized.”

MISSING IN ACTION: ICELAND’S HYDROGEN ECONOMY

Despite Iceland’s inspiring 1998 announcement to eliminate dependence on fossil fuels and design an energy economy fueled by clean hydrogen, “there seem to be little or no tangible deliverables in these projects, nor concrete timetables, and Iceland’s hydrogen production is actually declining,” writes Freyr Sverrisson in “Missing in Action: Iceland’s Hydrogen Economy.” While Iceland continues to receive global recognition for its investment in hydrogen production, its government is actually subsidizing environmentally destructive hydroelectric power plants to fuel polluting aluminum smelters, retarding economic growth, and allowing natural resources to transfer into a few powerful private hands.  “Political or economic ideology alone cannot explain current policies,” Sverrisson argues. “One explanation may be that a certain oligarchy in Iceland's elite circles of power and finance sees an opportunity to transfer national resources into private hands at bargain prices."

POST-TSUNAMI ACEH FINDS PEACE OUT OF DISASTER

Since the December 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami wrought enormous devastation to Indonesia’s tiny Aceh territory north of Sumatra, international crisis management and an intense global spotlight have spurred peace agreements between Aceh separatists and the Indonesian government, according to Michael Renner in “Unexpected Promise: Disaster Creates an Opening for Peace in a Conflict-Riven Land.” Yet despite advancements in the peace process, including withdrawal of the Indonesian military in Aceh and capitulation by the Gerakan Aceh Merdeka (Free Aceh Movement), “building a democratic political system, and establishing accountability for past human rights violations” are ongoing struggles. “Post-disaster goodwill can carry warring factions beyond the stumbling blocks of a peace process only if it is transformed into political change—addressing the root causes of conflict, setting up a firm and reliable peace process, giving people a tangible stake in peace, and taking on the vested interests that might benefit from a continuation of conflict,” writes Renner.

IS CONSUMPTION OF SUPERSIZED TVS AND ELECTRONICS SUSTAINABLE?

In this month's “Green Guidance,” Paul W. McRandle writes that “some plasma TVs eat up more energy annually than a refrigerator, and in the United States TV-related energy use is predicted to rise 50 percent by 2009.” Plastic TV and computer casings can also release toxic chemicals when they end up in landfills and can even accumulate in mothers’ breast milk, causing unknown damage to their babies’ developing brains. McRandle provides readers with a few simple solutions: choose TVs with smaller screens, try to upgrade existing electronic devices before buying new models, and limit your kids’ TV and video-gaming time.

EYE ON EARTH: FEATURED TOPICS

Tradable Permit Proposed to Slow Deforestation
Global Action Required to Avert Water Crisis
Plant-Based Chemicals Could Be Boon for Africa
Capitalism Grows More Socially Conscious

MATTERS OF SCALE: WATER WORLD

Percent share of all water on Earth that is freshwater: 2.5%
Percent share of all freshwater that is frozen in glaciers and polar icecaps: 70%
Percent share of all freshwater that is available for human use: <1%

Average annual per-capita freshwater consumption, North America: 1,851,170 liters
Average annual per-capita consumption, Africa: 245,944 liters

Population worldwide without access to secure water supplies: 1.1 billion
Population without access to adequate sanitation: 2.6 billion

Annual deaths attributed to dirty water and poor sanitation: 1.6 million
Annual global consumption of bottled water, liters: 154 billion
Percent share of bottled water that is actually tap water: 40%

Annual global spending on bottled water: US$100 billion
Annual global spending on clean water and sanitation: US$15 billion
Number of people living in countries that are overpumping aquifers: 3.3 billion
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SOURCES: Freshwater percentages: www.globalchange.umich.edu. Freshwater consumption: www.globalministries.org. Water and sanitation access: World Health Organization. Bottled water consumption, tap water share, spending on bottled water and clean water, population in overpumping countries: Earth Policy Institute.

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