Best of our wild blogs: 28 Sep 13

Free public walk at Chek Jawa Boardwalk - 5th Oct 2013 (Sat)
from Adventures with the Naked Hermit Crabs

Serenity and Diversity @ Lower Peirce Reservoir Park
from Beauty of Fauna and Flora in Nature

Butterflies Galore! : Plain Palm Dart
from Butterflies of Singapore

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Minister Desmond Lee wants to make Singapore truly home

Straits Times 28 Sep 13;

New Minister of State for National Development Desmond Lee got his first taste of politics at age four, when he held up a tape recorder at an election rally for his father, former education minister Lee Yock Suan. As the Government's point man on heritage and green issues, the former lawyer wants to upend the assumption that the State stands for relentless development, and tells Rachel Chang that he is a nature-loving conservationist at heart.

What is your job at the Ministry of National Development?

I'm focused on the push to keep Singapore as a city in the garden. We started off many years ago as a garden city, but "the city in the garden" is not just a play on words but literally a change in thinking.

In the early years, we focused on issues of survival, on existence. Housing, roofs... But we have some space (now) to focus more on issues of soul, of spirit, issues that make Singaporeans cherish what we have as home. We are talking more in terms of building homes, communities, living spaces, as opposed to infrastructure and amenities.

I'm also working on heritage issues. In the past, we had no problem with protecting places of national significance, like City Hall. But increasingly, people might feel a bit disoriented if the pace of change is such that they lose a building, a school, or a corner of an estate that they hold personally dear to themselves.

For example, Rulang Primary School in Jurong West (Mr Lee's constituency) is a place with 80 years of history, set up by villagers with their own funds for their children. It was re-sited a long time ago, but they still cherish very fond memories, and I asked them if they would consider finding the former location and placing a marker, so that alumni and future generations will know how the school started.

Finding innovative ways to allow people to retain personal memories in a way that will balance the needs of development for the wider population of Singaporeans: that is the challenge. How to retain a sense of place and the memories that go with that, in the pace of change that we have here.

Many see the Government as not on the side of conservation.

That is a narrative that comes from a particular angle. But I think you have to look at it from what we are actually doing on the ground, and what more we can do. It's not really a case where it's polar opposite demands of on the one hand, you must develop, and on the other hand, you must conserve. We want to do both. It's not an easy line to tread. We must find new and innovative ways to do so. We must take time. The process will be slower than in the early days when development moved faster.

Ultimately, a decision has to be made, and we need to move, but we need to do so in a sense which weighs the things that are very hard to measure. Memories, heritage, sense of rootedness, sense of the here and now, sense of where we are.

It's not like goodwill - like this brand attracts X amount of value. What I just described is very hard to value and to put on the weighing scale. But my personal sense is that it is something extremely dear and important. It's the sense of who you are, and no amount of development can compensate for a loss of identity. And therefore this is something that I would like to focus a lot more on.

You watched the fight for Bukit Brown as a backbencher. What did you take away on how to handle such issues in the future?

Ultimately, the decision - to build a costlier green bridge to limit the damage to the site - took two years. In every plan, there will be people who raise their concerns, some of which we know exist, some which we don't know exist. It's a process of bringing people to the table, having a conversation and then trying to build a consensus.

It was not a case of, let's just build and if people don't stir it up, we will go ahead. Not the case where you just bulldoze through, that was not how the Bukit Brown story developed.

But Singapore is a young nation, and as we move into the future, the things that Singaporeans hold dear to themselves change. Their perspectives change, and so, too, does the Government have to change its processes to accommodate this.

It was a learning journey for everybody - as much for the Government as for the heritage groups and the planners, and for all Singaporeans - that when you feel passionately about something, speak up and be counted. That is the positive lesson we all can draw from this.

What were the lessons you took away for your own engagement with conservation groups?

I think, announce your plans at a very early stage if you can, let people know, be transparent.

I come from the point of view that, when some groups appear adversarial, ask yourself why they feel the need to be adversarial. Let them vent, then ask them, put yourselves in their shoes and let them show you very clearly the value of what they are protecting.

And we must show them that we want to have a genuine conversation without a preconceived destination. There is no orchestrated intent.

And hopefully, when cooler heads prevail but passions undimmed, we can move closer to a win-win situation, not a compromise that satisfies no one, not a cop-out, but that sweet spot. If you can achieve that, that would be a major triumph for nation-building.

What is an example of such a win-win?

Pulau Semakau. I recently went there with a youth group, and the Nature Society people took us around to see the intertidal mudflats. The interesting thing is, there is a dump for all the rubbish that's been incinerated there. They're so careful about measuring the border between the dumping site and the nature area. We have fulfilled the needs of Singapore's waste management and in a way that's absolutely sensitive to the fragile ecosystem that is at its very door.

We have been able to preserve the spirit of old buildings while renewing them. Like the Cathay cinema in Bras Basah. It's not perfect, but if you ask anyone who has been to the old cinemas, they can recognise that frontage.

To me, a successful city-state, one that endures, must have depth, have identity. We don't have a hinterland for people to let off steam and come back. Even Hong Kong has the Lantau islands, the hills, for people to recharge. In Singapore, we don't. So we must have that cultural ballast, that weight of history.

My kindergarten is now a junction under a highway. I have a picture of me receiving an award from (former law minister) Eddie Barker when I was in that kindergarten.

Some say, who cares? But in the end, I'll tell my kids, Papa graduated from K2 under that highway.

You are following in your father's footsteps. He also started off as Minister of State for National Development, in 1983. Do you think you'll have a tougher time in Government than him?

Everyone says that. I once thought so, but it's not true. First, the issues are so different. They were fighting the communists back then in the 1960s. That was a different ball game. It was your life, you could get killed. Later on, there were policies that got people very passionate, CPF or the graduate mothers' scheme.

That's no different from today. People are people, and they have a sense of what affects them.

Maybe back then people had more of the same goals, and the issues, of housing, water, electricity, you could clearly see which policies benefited the majority. But it was painful - relocation, for example.

Till today, there are people who feel the angst of having been forced to leave their farms decades ago.

It may be harder today to tell which are the policies that clearly benefit the majority. And it is perhaps easier for people to express their views today. But I wouldn't dare say that last time, they were more compliant or more willing to accept pain.

I wouldn't be arrogant as to say that my job now is tougher than it was for my father or his compatriots. For all politicians who want to bring Singapore to a better place, there will always be these challenges.

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The natural thing to do in design and building

Shelters should respect and protect the surroundings, says Ken Yeang
Cheong Suk-Wai Straits Times 28 Sep 13;

AS A practising architect for more than 40 years, Malaysian Ken Yeang is only too aware of how much humanity has degraded the environment for millennia.

Penang-born Dr Yeang, 65, says: "We can clear land, change climates, dam rivers, blow up towns, scrape the earth and flatten hills. So we're the most powerful of all species."

He was in town a fortnight ago to speak at the Build Eco Xpo Asia.

The question is: How best should people exercise such power?

His answer has been to pioneer ground-breaking ways to design buildings such that they are as natural as trees lining roads.

Of that, British architect Norman Foster, who is himself a leading proponent of eco-architecture, wrote in a 2011 commemorative book of Dr Yeang's work: "In contrast to the hermetically- sealed, air-conditioned tower, his high-rise buildings... are naturally lit and ventilated, linked to terraces and interspersed with lush vegetation - even though they may be 30 storeys above ground."

So it is that Dr Yeang's big idea is that human beings should build shelters that respect, conform to and protect their surroundings - and not the other way round as has long been the case.

This approach to building design is called eco-architecture, and one that became trendy only after 1990, although Dr Yeang had worked on it since the 1970s.

Another architectural titan, American Charles Jencks, who trained Dr Yeang in the 1970s, says of him: "As a realist, he is one of the very few willing to operate in the gap between necessity, compunction and hope."

Dr Yeang's quest to embrace, not repel, Mother Nature in construction began in 1971, when he was a researcher at Cambridge University.

His then supervisor, the sustainable building technologies pioneer Alexander Pike, got him working on an autonomous house, that is, one that could warm and cool itself without plugging into the city's power or water grids.

But the more Dr Yeang probed that, the more he realised that the better approach was to understand fully the character and constraints of a building site first, and then design a shelter that would showcase the environment's best features while using up as few resources as possible.

So he decided to study ecological design and masterplanning fully with another Cambridge University supervisor, Dr John Frazer, and in 1974 obtained his PhD in the field.

He has since honed his approach by melding greenery, water sources, human needs and engineering techniques to create "seamless and benign" solutions to living that "mimic" nature.

"I started doing this because we are making our world more and more artificial with inorganic and synthetic things," he says.

The Encyclopaedia Britannica reckons that since 2000, the planet's buildings have used up 16 per cent of the world's fresh water, between 30 and 40 per cent of all electricity supplied and, by weight, 50 per cent of all raw materials. Buildings also emit about 30 per cent of all greenhouse gases. These are nightmare statistics when you consider that by 2050, 75 per cent of the world's population will live in concrete jungles.

To counter this, Dr Yeang has tried to mimic nature by:

Conceiving of a skyscraper as a giant tree, with ramps upon ramps as its branches. So he wraps ramps around the body of a building, lining them with vegetation to bring plants closer to people. Examples of this include his Solaris building within the 30ha Fusionopolis campus here and his Spire Edge development in Gurgaon, India;
Designing zigzag walls, each of which looks like the Allen key that furniture store Ikea provides to tighten furniture screws. He then positions these zigzag walls such that they let in the wind but keep out the rain; and
Designing a dwelling such that it can be a dynamic filter for the climate. For example, he positions a swimming pool such that breezes will blow across it and cool the interior of a house.

He stresses: "A building must look like a living system, not a dead concrete shell."

So not for him the "spotty" efforts of planting trees and shrubs in the corners of buildings, or the "eco-gadgetry" of installing environmentally-friendly devices.

The end in mind, he notes, is to "connect all things like how nature links greenery and birds and butterflies".

A prime example of his work is the National Library Board (NLB) headquarters here in Victoria Street.

Recalling the effort, Dr Yeang says: "It was a fun project. The NLB's then chief executive Christopher Chia supported me 100 per cent.

"When I first started work on it, Dr Chia drove me around Singapore for a whole day. He showed me stuff that he would and would not like to have in the building, from big enough carparks to toilets. Imagine that attention to detail."

A 2011 survey of staff and visitors to the building showed that 99.7 per cent of library users, and 87.2 per cent of staff, were satisfied with the NLB headquarters.

The married father of four studied architecture at Britain's Architectural Association in 1970, moving on to research work at Cambridge University in 1971.

After obtaining his PhD there in 1974, he returned to Malaysia and set up his practice, TR Hamzah & Yeang, with Malaysian prince Robert Hamzah in 1975.

Since 2005, Dr Yeang has had a British practice in partnership with architect Llewelyn Davies.

He says Singapore is one country that is definitely showing other countries the way.

"Your Building and Construction Authority is doing a good job by requiring developers to comply with Green Mark ratings before their plans can be approved. Very few governments do that."

For example, the NLB headquarters runs on 172kw of electricity per sq m per annum, compared to the average office building that needs 250kw per sq m per annum.

The average household runs on about 40kw per sq m per annum.

But, he is quick to add, ratings are not enough to take eco-architecture forward.

"Ratings are prescriptive; they say if you achieve this or that target, you will get something. We need to move to a performance-based cycle, where we do more holistic things like close the water cycle."

That includes harvesting rainwater, as Singapore does, so such readily available fresh water does not escape to the sea.

He adds: "Architecture is only a small part of the solution. The real issue is in being able to encourage our clients to make their businesses and industries green, such as by not paving land so much that water can no longer go back into the soil."

THE BIG IDEA IN HISTORY: Eco-architecture

THE trend towards constructing and maintaining a building with as little energy as possible stems from the global oil crisis of the 1970s, when much of the Western world and Japan experienced a petroleum shortage after supplies from Iran and the United States were disrupted.

But as The Economist notes, eco-architecture's roots go way back to the 19th century, when architects devised Crystal Palace in Britain and Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Italy. London's Crystal Palace was ventilated naturally by cleverly designed roofs while the Milan mansion had underground chambers that cooled the air indoors and so regulated temperatures.

Eco-architecture, also known as green architecture, gained traction only in 1990, after the United Nations met to discuss the impact of climate change and what everyone could do about it. That year, the US' Green Building Council established its rating system for eco-friendly buildings, known as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.

Britain followed that in 2000, when it established its popular Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method.

Singaporeans began exploring eco-architecture in earnest in 2005, when the Building and Construction Authority launched its Green Mark Scheme, which benchmarks eco-friendly buildings desirably against all other properties in the market.

Among others, The National Library Board headquarters in Victoria Street and Republic Plaza in Raffles Place have attained the Green Mark Scheme's highest standard - Platinum - by consuming 70 per cent less energy than the industry average.

THE BIG IDEA IN ACTION: Building a house from matchsticks

ARCHITECTS face frequent design challenges, but rarely do they involve the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB).

Singaporean architect Jaye Tan, 34, took about five months to convince the drug-busters that her attempt to build a 314 sq m art gallery at the Singapore Botanic Gardens would not break laws here.

That is because her chosen material was industrial hemp hurd, which come in 11kg sacks and look like matchsticks, and are the inner fibres of stalks from the cannabis plant. The cultivation and consumption of cannabis is illegal here.

CNB has since cleared the hemp hurd of concerns.

She says that one needs to mix 10 sacks of hemp hurd with 10 25-kg sacks of construction lime binder to create one cubic metre of wall, which is hardy and freestanding.

The mulch-like mixture is then poured in between two wooden panels and tamped down with a broom-like tool to build up one cubic metre of wall. The wall dries to a sandstone-like finish.

Prices for industrial hemp vary, but she estimates that each tonne of the imported stuff cost between $200 and $400.

Ms Tan, who is an associate with home-grown firm DP Architects, won a commendation from the Building and Construction Authority in May for her green architecture efforts, and was invited to speak on her low-carbon footprint building methods at this year's Building Eco Xpo here a fortnight ago.

She also has the support of homegrown property developer CDL, which is underwriting her gallery project, and the National Parks Board, which has given her a site behind its Botany Centre for it.

If all goes well, she says, you will be able to visit the gallery in November.

She is determined to make a shelter out of hemp because the material is suitable for the tropics, being relatively cheap, water-repellent and recyclable.

Ms Tan was so taken by those features that she went to Ireland to learn how to build with it.

She found it hard initially to convince fellow architects

that they should build with hemp instead of "always extracting raw materials from the earth".

When The Straits Times visited her half-completed structure at the Botanic Gardens on Tuesday, she was discussing with the project's India-born foreman the option of building low-cost houses of hemp in his country.

She says: "What makes a building meaningful is not just that it is a space for people, but that it has a message for everyone in how to live better in this world."

Background story

THE BIG IDEA: Making buildings a part of nature

Award-winning architect Ken Yeang has made it his "lifetime agenda" to integrate man-made structures with flora and fauna. He does this by thinking of a building as an artificial limb of the greater organic body that is the natural landscape. Some of his ideas:

Design buildings to conserve electricity, energy and other non-renewable resources. Recycle resources such as rainwater by using it to cool a building. Use renewable resources such as solar cells as much as possible;
Design ramps that spiral around, or through, the facades of buildings, and line these ramps with plants. Better still, design cafes and other spaces along the ramps for people to rest and relax in; and
Turn rooftops of skyscrapers into lush parks, building roomy atria that funnel breezes through, as well as connecting separate towers with vegetatin-lined bridges.

Not for Dr Yeang the 'spotty' efforts of planting trees and shrubs in the corners of buildings, or the 'eco-gadgetry' of installing environmentally- friendly devices. The end in mind is to 'connect all things like how nature links greenery and birds and butterflies'.

Ken Yeang on...


"The Guardian is always finding ways to sell itself so it thought, 'Let's get a funny Malaysian to intrigue readers.'"


"I don't know whether or not I've made it globally. I'll find out after I die!"


"I have to suffer some people who don't really know enough about what to do. Then there are those who trust me and say, 'Okay, you teach me how to do it.' So I've spent 40 years teaching people how to become developers, and made them super-rich."


"I told them not to become architects because the architect's business model is not right - he designs for, and is paid by, the client early on, but spends years implementing his work amid growing problems."


"Educate them as you would your children; you know, depending on their ages, you could tell them, 'Do this or you're grounded for a month' or 'Do this or you're out of my will.'"


"I tell people not to give me things I cannot use; so every Christmas, I get only socks and handkerchiefs!"


"As Spiderman says, when you have such immense power, you have to be very prudent with it and use it for a good cause, rather than for selfish reasons."

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Malaysia: Coal-fired Power Plant is not a Sustainable Option

WWF 27 Sep 13;

25 September 2013, Kota Kinabalu: WWF-Malaysia has serious concerns over the recent announcement by the Federal Government to revive the coal-fired power plant project in the east coast of Sabah.

“Coal-fired power plant is not a sustainable option from the perspectives of long-term energy security, health and environment. We urge the government not to proceed with the coal-fired power plant plan but to explore and expand green energy resources.” said WWF-Malaysia Executive Director/CEO, Dato’ Dr Dionysius S K Sharma.

Malaysia is already quite heavily dependent on imported coal for its power generation, particularly coal from Indonesia. Coal imports will rise if Malaysia chooses to build more coal-fired power plants. This will make the country even more susceptible to potential external volatilities such as fluctuation in global coal prices and interruption in supply.

Coal generated power plants are one of the single largest contributors to global warming. The global warming phenomenon threatens both the environment and the economies of every nation in the world including Malaysia.

Coal burning also compromises the health of the public through air and water pollution. It releases sulphur dioxide that pollutes the air and causes acid rain, nitrogen oxides that results in smog, particulate matter, mercury and other harmful pollutants. When these chemicals are circulating in the air, small acidic particulates penetrate human and wildlife lungs and are absorbed into the bloodstream, burn lung tissues, increase asthma attacks and increase risk in chronic respiratory diseases.

One way to mitigate the potential external volatilities is to diversify our energy sources by increasing renewable energy (RE) sources and improving energy efficiency (EE).

Malaysia should honour its commitment made at ASEAN, i.e., to increase the development and utilization of RE sources to achieve the 15% target share of RE in ASEAN power generation mix by 2015.

“Sabah has 1.4 million hectares of palm oil plantations and these plantations generate tonnes of waste like empty fruit bunch (EFB), palm kernel shell (PKS) and decanter cake, which can be turned into renewable energy. By promoting this, WWF-Malaysia believes that Sabah is able to contribute to the Government’s target for RE and also contribute towards the nation’s aspiration of reducing greenhouse gases emissions intensity of GDP by 2020.” Dr Dionysius says.

Another cost-effective alternative is to reduce energy demand by improving energy efficiency in the state. This involves better use of energy through both the use of technology and the promotion of individual behaviour, working methods and industrial practices which are less energy-intensive. This requires enhancement of institutional and human capacity emphasizing the development of energy efficiency technology and service providers in the country, and encouraging private sector participation, especially financial institutions to support EE investment and implementation.

“Eastern Sabah is home to a wide diversity of flora and fauna and we are blessed to live with endemic species of plants and animals. To build a coal-fired power plant will surely have repercussion on the already fragile ecosystem and on the health of residence in the area.” Dr Dionysius said.

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Scientists more convinced mankind is main cause of warming

Alister Doyle and Simon Johnson Reuters Yahoo News 28 Sep 13;

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Leading climate scientists said on Friday they were more convinced than ever that humans are the main culprits for global warming, and predicted the impact from greenhouse gas emissions could linger for centuries.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said in a report that a hiatus in warming this century, when temperatures have risen more slowly despite growing emissions, was a natural variation that would not last.

It said the Earth was set for more heatwaves, floods, droughts and rising sea levels from melting ice sheets that could swamp coasts and low-lying islands as greenhouse gases built up in the atmosphere.

The study, meant to guide governments in shifting towards greener energies, said it was "extremely likely", with a probability of at least 95 percent, that human activities were the dominant cause of warming since the mid-20th century.

That was an increase from "very likely", or 90 percent, in the last report in 2007 and "likely", 66 percent, in 2001.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the study was a call for governments, many of which have been focused on spurring weak economies rather than fighting climate change, to work to reach a planned U.N. accord in 2015 to combat global warming.

"The heat is on. Now we must act," he said of the report agreed in Stockholm after a week of talks between scientists and delegates from more than 110 nations.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the report was a wake-up call. "Those who deny the science or choose excuses over action are playing with fire," he said, referring to skeptics who question the need for urgent action.

They have become emboldened by the fact that temperatures rose more slowly over the last 15 years despite increasing greenhouse gas emissions, especially in emerging nations led by China. Almost all climate models failed to predict the slowing.


European Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard said it was time to treat the Earth's health. "If your doctor was 95 percent sure you had a serious disease, you would immediately start looking for the cure," she said.

Compiled from the work of hundreds of scientists, the report faces extra scrutiny this year after its 2007 edition included an error that exaggerated the rate of melting of Himalayan glaciers. An outside review later found that the mistake did not affect its main conclusions.

The IPCC said some effects of warming would last far beyond current lifetimes.

Sea levels could rise by 3 meters (9 feet, 10 inches) under some scenarios by 2300 as ice melted and heat made water in the deep oceans expand, it said. About 15 to 40 percent of emitted carbon dioxide would stay in the atmosphere for more than 1,000 years.

"As a result of our past, present and expected future emissions of carbon dioxide, we are committed to climate change and effects will persist for many centuries even if emissions of carbon dioxide stop," said Thomas Stocker, co-chair of the talks.

The IPCC said humanity had emitted about 530 billion tons of carbon, more than half the 1 trillion ton budget it estimated as a maximum to keep warming to manageable limits. Annual emissions are now almost 10 billion tons and rising.

Explaining a recent slower pace of warming, the report said the past 15-year period was skewed by the fact that 1998 was an extremely warm year with an El Nino event - a warming of the ocean surface - in the Pacific.

It said warming had slowed "in roughly equal measure" because of random variations in the climate and the impact of factors such as volcanic eruptions, when ash dims sunshine, and a cyclical decline in the sun's output.

Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the IPCC, told Reuters the reduction in warming would have to last far longer - "three or four decades" - to be a sign of a new trend.

And the report predicted that the reduction in warming would not last, saying temperatures from 2016-35 were likely to be 0.3-0.7 degree Celsius (0.5 to 1.3 Fahrenheit) warmer than in 1986-2005.

Still, the report said the climate was slightly less sensitive than estimated to warming from carbon dioxide.

A doubling of carbon in the atmosphere would raise temperatures by between 1.5 and 4.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 to 8.1F), it said, below the 2-4.5 (3.6-8.1F) range in the 2007 report. The new range is identical to the ranges in IPCC studies before 2007.

The report said temperatures were likely to rise by between 0.3 and 4.8 degrees Celsius (0.5 to 8.6 Fahrenheit) by the late 21st century. The low end of the range would only be achieved if governments sharply cut greenhouse gas emissions.

And it said world sea levels could rise by between 26 and 82 cm (10 to 32 inches) by the late 21st century, in a threat to coastal cities from Shanghai to San Francisco.

That range is above the 18-59 cm estimated in 2007, which did not take full account of Antarctica and Greenland.

Bjorn Lomborg, author of "The Skeptical Environmentalist" said "the IPCC's moderate projections clearly contradict alarmist rhetoric" of higher temperature and sea level rises by some activists.

(Additional reporting by Nina Chestney in London, Barbara Lewis in Brussels, Valerie Volcovici in Washington; editing by Alistair Scrutton and Mark Trevelyan)

IPCC climate report: six things we've learned
The IPCC's long-awaited fifth assessment report says it is 'extremely likely' that humanity is to blame for global warming. What else can we learn from the report?
Adam Vaughan 27 Sep 13;

• Scientists are more certain than ever that humanity is to blame for rising temperatures. The head of the United Nations' World Meteorological Organisation, Michel Jarraud, said "it is extremely likely that changes in our climate system in the past half century are due to human influence." The report says: "Human influence on the climate system is clear. This is evident from the increasing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere, positive radiative forcing, observed warming, and understanding of the climate system."

• Concentrations of CO2 and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have increased to levels that are unprecedented in at least 800,000 years. The burning of fossil fuels is the main reason behind a 40% increase in CO2 concentrations since the industrial revolution.

• We're likely to surpass rises of 2C by 2100, the threshold of warming that governments have pledged to hold temperatures to, and beyond which dangerous consequences including drought, floods and storms are expected. "What is very clear is we are not" on the path to keeping temperatures below 2C, said Thomas Stocker, one of the co-chairs of today's report. Global temperatures are likely to rise by 0.3C to 4.8C by the end of the century, the report said.

• Sea level rises are coming. "Global mean sea level will continue to rise during the 21st century," says today's report, by a further 26-82cm by 2100, but Stocker said "there is no consensus in the scientific community over very high sea level rises".

• Scientists said claims that the rate of temperature rises in the last 15 years has slowed did not affect the big picture, and temperatures are going up in the long-term. Climate trends "should not be calculated for periods of less than 30 years," said Stocker.

• The amount of carbon the world can burn without heading for dangerous levels of warming is far less than the amount of fossil fuels left in the ground. "The IPCC carbon budget to stay below 2C is 800-880 gigatonnes of carbon (GTC). 531 GTC had already been emitted by 2011. So we have 350 GTC left, which is much less than the carbon stored in fossil fuel reserves," notes our correspondent Fiona Harvey.

IPCC climate report: the digested read
The fifth assessment report from the IPCC looks at everything from oceans and sea ice to carbon budgets and geoengineering
Damian Carrington and John Vidal 27 Sep 13;

Global change

The global climate has already changed in many ways that are unprecedented in the past hundreds or thousands of years, the world's scientists and governments concluded in the new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. These changes have affected every region of the globe, on land and at sea. Continued carbon emissions will drive further heatwaves, sea level rise, melting ice and extreme weather. The changes will last for centuries and limiting the effects would require "substantial and sustained" cuts in carbon dioxide, the scientists report.

Scientists are now at least 66% certain that the last three decades are the warmest in 1400 years, with global temperature having risen by 0.9C in the last century. However, more than 90% of the heat trapped by greenhouse gases is being stored in the oceans.

By mid-century, scientists predict a further rise of 1.4-2.6C if carbon emissions continue to rise as they are today. If emissions were halted almost immediately and significant carbon was extracted from the atmosphere, the rise by mid-century would be 0.4-1.6C.

The scientists predict the average temperature between 2080 and 2100 will be 2.6-4.8C higher than today if emissions are unchecked. They are 90% certain that heatwaves will be more frequent and longer.

In the oceans, the strongest surface warming is expected in tropical and sub-tropical regions, up to 2C by 2100 and posing a grave threat to coral reefs which sustain much sealife. Scientists conclude that a collapse of the Gulf Stream that warms western Europe, as dramatised in the film The Day After Tomorrow, is very unlikely this century but cannot be ruled out afterwards.

Global sea level has already risen by 20cm in the last century and scientists are now 90% certain that the rate of the rise will increase. The tide line is rising as warming glaciers and ice sheets pour hundreds of billions of tonnes of water into the oceans each year, but an equally big factor is the warming – and therefore expansion – of the seawater itself.

The new projections for the average sea level in the period 2080-2100 are greater than in the 2007 report, ranging from 45-82cm higher than now if nothing is done to curb emissions to 26-55cm if carbon emissions are halted and reversed. In the former case, sea level could have risen by a 98cm by the end of the century, seriously threatening cities from Shanghai to New York and meaning hurricanes and cyclones inflict far worse damage when they hit shorelines.

Sea level projections have been controversial because exactly how fast glaciers and ice sheets will slip into the sea is not well known. A collapse in ice sheets is therefore not included in the estimates and could add tens of centimetres more to the rise. Because the big Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets are slow to melt, scientists predict melting and sea level rise will continue for centuries. If a temperature rise of between 1C and 4C is sustained, the vast Greenland ice sheet will completely melt adding 7m to sea level, scientists predict, but over the course of a millennium.

The acidity of the ocean is also increasing, due the large amounts of carbon dioxide it is absorbing, and this will continue. This will harm shell-forming sealife but scientists are still determining to what extent.

The impact of warming is crystal clear in the faster rates of melting in virtually all the world's glaciers and the huge ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica. The ice sheets have been shedding at least five times more water in the 2000s than in the 1990s, the scientists report. Northern hemisphere snow cover has fallen by 11% a decade since 1967 and the temperature of the seasonally frozen ground, or permafrost, has increased by 2-3C in Russia and Alaska.

Arctic sea ice has been melting by 9-14% a decade since 1979, while sea ice around Antarctica has been increasing by 1-2%, probably due to current changes.

Scientists are 90% sure that Arctic sea ice, snow cover and glaciers will continue to shrink. The scientists say a "nearly ice-free" Arctic ocean in September is at least 66% likely before 2050. By 2100 between 35% and 85% of the remaining world glacier volume will have vanished if emissions are not cut. Permafrost is also 99% likely to shrink further.

It is 90% certain that the number of warm days and nights has increased globally and heatwaves have become more frequent, lasting longer in Europe, Asia and Australia. Droughts have also become more frequent and intense in the Mediterranean and west African regions.

The number of heavy rainfall events over land has increased in more regions than it has decreased. It is virtually certain that the frequency and intensity of the strongest tropical cyclones in the North Atlantic has increased since the 1970s.

The scientists concluded it is 99% certain that the frequency of warm days and warm nights increases in the next decades, while that of cold days and cold nights to decrease. The frequency and intensity of extreme downpours is very likely to increase in many populous regions.

The last decade has been the warmest on record but although CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere have continued to accelerate, surface air temperatures have only marginally increased in the past 15 years, leading some to suggest global warming has stopped. The IPCC scientists reject this, reporting that while the warming trend is robust over decades, there is "substantial" variability within decades. They conclude: "Trends based on short records ... do not in general reflect long-term climate trends."

They add that the heat being trapped by global warming in 2011 was 43% more than the estimate for 2005 in their last report and that over 90% of all the heat added enters the oceans.
Carbon budget

Scientists calculate that nearly half of all the carbon dioxide that can be safely emitted without raising temperatures above a dangerous 2C has already been emitted. This, says the IPCC, means governments must act quickly to have a reasonable change of avoiding 2C. It is also very likely that more than 20% of emitted CO2 will remain in the atmosphere longer than 1,000 years after man-made missions have stopped. According to the IPCC, a large fraction of climate change is thus "irreversible on a human time-scale", except if man-made CO2 emissions are sucked out of the atmosphere over a long period.

The scientists report that "geoengineering" the climate by reducing the amount of sunlight being absorbed by earth or by extracting and storing carbon dioxide and other climate-changing emissions is theoretically possible. But, the IPCC warns, there is insufficient knowledge to assess how effective such methods, such as pumping sunscreen chemical into the stratosphere, would be and warns of "side effects and long-term consequences on a global scale."
Abrupt change

It is "very likely" that the so-called Gulf Stream, which ferries warm water to western Europe, will weaken over the 21st century. But it is "very unlikely" to collapse or undergo a major transition this century. Further warming will lead to significant methane emissions from permafrost over the next century, equivalent to 50 to 250 billion tonnes of CO2. But the IPCC scientists do not assess the possibility of catastrophic releases this century.

In terms of data, information is still limited in some locations and especially from before 1950s. There is also limited data from oceans below 700m.

Theoretical uncertainties are how pollution affects cloud formation and the planet's overall climate "sensitivity", ie how much it responds to extra CO2 in the atmosphere. The new report slightly reduces the minimum climate sensitivity but at the report's launch event, co-chair Thomas Stocker said that change, if realised would slow the impacts of climate change by just a few years.

There is uncertainty about the contribution of human activity to changes in tropical cyclones and droughts.
Other explanations of warming

The scientists state: "It is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century." The report rules out any significant contribution from changing solar cycles, volcanoes and cosmic rays.

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Climate change stars fade, even if risks rise

Alister Doyle PlanetArk 27 Sep 13;

Compared to the heady days in 2007 when U.S. climate campaigner Al Gore and the U.N.'s panel of climate scientists shared the Nobel Peace Prize, the risks of global warming may be greater but the stars preaching the message have faded.

With many governments focused on tackling short-term economic growth, the shift reinforces what former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has sometimes called a "shocking lack of leadership" in confronting long-term global warming.

The U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which won the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with ex-Vice President Gore, will issue a report on Friday in Stockholm about mounting risks of global warming, from heatwaves to rising sea levels.

"We need new voices," said Jennifer Morgan, of the World Resources Institute think-tank in Washington. "Hopefully the IPCC will inspire leadership, from the Mom to the business leader, to the mayor to the head of state."

It is a sign of the times that some of the world's most powerful figures such German Chancellor Angela Merkel - a former environment minister - U.S. President Barack Obama or Chinese Premier Li Keqiang appear to have put the issue on the backburner to focus on domestic economic issues.

Even former Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed, who made global headlines in 2009 with the world's first underwater cabinet meeting to highlight the threat of rising sea levels to his small islands, was forced from power in domestic turmoil. He is now seeking a comeback.

China and the United States are the top emitters of greenhouse gases seen by climate scientists as contributing to global warming.

Times have changed since, as environment minister, Merkel said in 1995 something that might well say today: "the existing commitments will not solve the climate change problem."

Drafts show that the IPCC will on Friday raise the probability that global warming is manmade to at least 95 percent from 90 in its previous report in 2007.


Much of the 'glamour' has gone since Rajendra Pachauri, the Indian chair of the IPCC, and Gore proudly showed off the Nobel gold medals in 2007, a time when firm global action on reducing emissions of greenhouse gases seemed feasible.

The problem proved intractable in the financial crisis. A U.N. summit in Copenhagen in 2009 failed to work out a deal, and many voters may simply have tired of hearing of global warming. Governments have now agreed to work out a U.N. accord in 2015.

"The IPCC has become more cautious ... it's a pity," said Yvo de Boer, former head of the U.N. Climate Change Secretariat who now works at auditors KPMG and was among those most outspoken about the need for action during his 2006-2010 term.

"You might ignore it (climate change) but it's not going to ignore you," he said. He said U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry could be the strongest up and coming leader on the issue.

Both Gore, the IPCC and Pachauri, now 73, won a series of international awards for their work in 2007. Gore's movie, "An Inconvenient Truth", won an Oscar and standing applause at U.N. negotiating sessions when it was shown.

But Gore has also been worn down by criticisms, especially by U.S. Republicans who say his climate campaigns are alarmist and question the science behind them.

His later ventures have been less high profile. He sold his struggling cable channel, Current TV, to Al Jazeera in January. Gore's latest book, "The Future: Six Drivers of Global Change," has won good reviews.

IPCC leaders including Pachauri have been less outspoken in recent months than before the 2007 report by the IPCC when he said, for instance, that he hoped it would "shock" the world into action.

A 2010 review by scientists in the InterAcademy Council (IAC), partly spurred by an error in the IPCC report that exaggerated a thaw in the Himalayas, said that IPCC leaders should stick to science and not recommend policies.

"Straying into advocacy can only hurt IPCC's credibility," it said. The IAC found no reason to question the IPCC's main conclusions despite the Himalayan mistake.

It is unclear who will succeed Pachauri when he retires in 2015. Jan Pascal van Ypersele, a Belgian physicist, is sometimes tipped.

Leadership is an elusive quality on climate change.

"In the run up to Copenhagen I was struck by the number of people talking about a lack of leaders who were meant to be leaders," de Boer said.

(With extra reporting by Deborah Zabarenko in Washington; Editing by Alistair Scrutton and Ralph Boulton)

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