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Accelerating Global Climate Change III

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Sore Throat

Joined: 01 Sep 2000
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2010 continues on track to be record hot year PostMon Sep 20, 2010 7:27 pm  Reply with quote

2010 continues on track to be record hot year

By Associated Press ,

WASHINGTON (AP) — After eight months, 2010 is running neck and neck with 1998 for the record as the hottest year at this point.

The planet's average temperature for January–August was 58.5 degrees Fahrenheit (14.7 Celsius), tying the record heat set for that period in 1998, the National Oceanic (News - Alert) and Atmospheric Administration said Wednesday.

While 1998 was the hottest year through the first eight months, 2005 is the hottest full year on record.

NOAA's National Climatic Data Center also reported:

—It was the third–hottest August on record with an average temperature for the month of 61.2 degrees F (16.2 C). The hottest August was 1998, followed by 2009.

The meteorological summer — June–August — averaged 61.3 degrees F (16.2 C), making it the second–hottest summer on record worldwide behind 1998.

Meanwhile, a separate report from the National Snow and Ice Data Center said Arctic sea ice cover appears to have reached its minimum extent for the year and is the third–lowest extent recorded since satellites began measuring minimum sea ice extent in 1979.

Arctic sea ice covered an average of 2.3 million square miles (6.0 million square kilometers) during August. This is 22 percent below the 1979–2000 average extent and the 14th consecutive August with below–average Arctic sea ice extent, NOAA reported.

Melting sea ice is part of a pattern of changes atmospheric scientists attribute to global warming, which has been documented in rising temperatures over the last several decades.

Other changes include melting ice in Greenland and Antarctica, which can lead to rising sea levels, a decline in glaciers and changes in weather patterns around the world.

The new climate report noted that August was hotter than normal in eastern Europe, eastern Canada and parts of eastern Asia but cooler than average in Australia, central Russia and southern South America.

It was the hottest August since 1961 in China, but the coolest August since 1993 in the United Kingdom.



NOAA website:
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Sore Throat

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Energy Firms Spending Millions to Thwart California Global W PostMon Sep 20, 2010 7:32 pm  Reply with quote

Energy Firms Spending Millions to Thwart California Global Warming Law

By Patrick Corcoran

Out-of-state energy interests are spending millions of dollars to propel a ballot initiative that would suspend California’s landmark law curbing greenhouse gas emissions, The New York Times reports.

Proposition 23, as the ballot initiative is called, is intended to block the greenhouse gas law, which is known as the Global Warming Solutions Act or AB 32. However, if a majority of California voters vote “no” on the November ballot measure, the global warming law will remain on track to take full effect in 2012.

Supporters of the ballot initiative have raised $7.9 million, out of a total of $8.2 million, from energy companies, which would view the law’s suspension as a major scalp. Most of the energy money comes from out-of-state donors, such as billionaire Kansas brothers Charles and David Koch, who together directed $1 million to the cause.

The state’s ground-breaking global warming law was passed in 2006. It mandates that the state reduce carbon and other emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, which would be accomplished through caps on emissions for businesses and reductions on the amount of carbon in gasoline.

Proposition 23 would prevent the law from taking effect until California’s unemployment slips beneath 5.5 percent for four straight quarters, an event that has happened only three times in the past four decades. The current unemployment rate in California lies north of 12 percent, and hasn’t hit the 5.5 percent target since November 2007.

Proposition supporters say the global warming law, if allowed to go into effect, would force energy companies to raise prices and cut jobs.

As the Los Angeles Times reported earlier this week, though, California business leaders are divided on the initiative, and the state Chamber of Commerce has decided to remain neutral.

Among the opponents of Proposition 23 is George Shultz, U.S. secretary of state during the Reagan administration and the co-chair of an effort to defeat the initiative. Passage of the initiative “would have big implications,” Shultz told The New York Times. “That is one reason why these outside companies are pouring money in to try to derail the same thing. At the same time, the reverse is true: they put this fat in the fire and if we win, that also sends a message.”
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Sore Throat

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Arctic Ice in Death Spiral PostTue Sep 21, 2010 5:04 pm  Reply with quote

Arctic Ice in Death Spiral

By Stephen Leahy

UXBRIDGE, Canada, Sep 20, 2010 (IPS) - The carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels have melted the Arctic sea ice to its lowest volume since before the rise of human civilisation, dangerously upsetting the energy balance of the entire planet, climate scientists are reporting.

"The Arctic sea ice has reached its four lowest summer extents (area covered) in the last four years," said Mark Serreze, director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center in the U.S. city of Boulder, Colorado.

The volume - extent and thickness - of ice left in the Arctic likely reached the lowest ever level this month, Serreze told IPS.

"I stand by my previous statements that the Arctic summer sea ice cover is in a death spiral. It's not going to recover," he said.

There can be no recovery because tremendous amounts of extra heat are added every summer to the region as more than 2.5 million square kilometres of the Arctic Ocean have been opened up to the heat of the 24-hour summer sun. A warmer Arctic Ocean not only takes much longer to re-freeze, it emits huge volumes of additional heat energy into the atmosphere, disrupting the weather patterns of the northern hemisphere, scientists have now confirmed.

"The exceptional cold and snowy winter of 2009-2010 in Europe, eastern Asia and eastern North America is connected to unique physical processes in the Arctic," James Overland of the NOAA Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in the United States told IPS in Oslo, Norway last June in an exclusive interview. ' Paradoxically, a warmer Arctic means "future cold and snowy winters will be the rule rather than the exception" in these regions, Overland told IPS.

There is growing evidence of widespread impacts from a warmer Arctic, agreed Serreze. "Trapping all that additional heat has to have impacts and those will grow in the future," he said.

One local impact underway is a rapid warming of the coastal regions of the Arctic, where average temperatures are now three to five degrees C warmer than they were 30 years ago. If the global average temperature increases from the present 0.8 C to two degrees C, as seems likely, the entire Arctic region will warm at least four to six degrees and possibly eight degrees due to a series of processes and feedbacks called Arctic amplification.

A similar feverish rise in our body temperatures would put us in hospital if it didn't kill us outright.

"I hate to say it but I think we are committed to a four- to six-degree warmer Arctic," Serreze said.

If the Arctic becomes six degrees warmer, then half of the world's permafrost will likely thaw, probably to a depth of a few metres, releasing most of the carbon and methane accumulated there over thousands of years, said Vladimir Romanovsky of the University of Alaska in Fairbanks and a world expert on permafrost.

Methane is a global warming gas approximately 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide (CO2).

That would be catastrophic for human civilisation, experts agree. The permafrost region spans 13 million square kilometres of the land in Alaska, Canada, Siberia and parts of Europe and contains at least twice as much carbon as is currently present in the atmosphere – 1,672 gigatonnes of carbon, according a paper published in Nature in 2009. That's three times more carbon than all of the worlds' forests contain.

"Permafrost thawing has been observed consistently across the entire region since the 1980s," Romanovsky said in an interview.

A Canadian study in 2009 documented that the southernmost permafrost limit had retreated 130 kilometres over the past 50 years in Quebec’s James Bay region. At the northern edge, for the first time in a decade, the heat from the Arctic Ocean pushed far inland this summer, Romanovsky said.

There are no good estimates of how much CO2 and methane is being released by the thawing permafrost or by the undersea permafrost that acts as a cap over unknown quantities of methane hydrates (a type of frozen methane) along the Arctic Ocean shelf, he said.

"Methane is always there anywhere you drill through the permafrost," Romanovsky noted.

Last spring , Romanovsky's colleagues reported that an estimated eight million tonnes of methane emissions are bubbling to the surface from the shallow East Siberian Arctic shelf every year in what were the first-ever measurements taken there. If just one percent of the Arctic undersea methane reaches the atmosphere, it could quadruple the amount of methane currently in the atmosphere.

Abrupt releases of large amounts of CO2 and methane are certainly possible on a scale of decades, he said. The present relatively slow thaw of the permafrost could rapidly accelerate in a few decades, releasing huge amounts of global warming gases.

Another permafrost expert, Ted Schuur of the University of Florida, has come to the same conclusion. "In a matter of decades we could lose much of the permafrost," Shuur told IPS.

Those losses are more likely to come rapidly and upfront, he says. In other words, much of the permafrost thaw would happen at the beginning of a massive 50-year meltdown because of rapid feedbacks.

Emissions of CO2 and methane from thawing permafrost are not yet factored into the global climate models and it will be several years before this can be done reasonably well, Shuur said.

"Current mitigation targets are only based on anthropogenic (human) emissions," he explained.

Present pledges by governments to reduce emissions will still result in a global average temperature increase of 3.5 to 3.9 C by 2100, according to the latest analysis. That would result in an Arctic that's 10 to 16 degrees C warmer, releasing most of the permafrost carbon and methane and unknown quantities of methane hydrates.

This why some climate scientists are calling for a rapid phaseout of fossil fuels, recommending that fossil fuel emissions peak by 2015 and decline three per cent per year. But even then there's still a 50-percent probability of exceeding two degrees C current studies show. If the emissions peak is delayed until 2025, then global temperatures will rise to three degrees C, the Arctic will be eight to 10 degrees warmer and the world will lose most its permafrost.

Meanwhile, a new generation of low-cost, thin-film solar roof and outside wall coverings being made today has the potential to eliminate burning coal and oil to generate electricity, energy experts believe – if governments have the political will to fully embrace green technologies.
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Sore Throat

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Climate change may exacerbate extreme weather PostWed Sep 29, 2010 4:58 pm  Reply with quote

Climate change may exacerbate extreme weather

Washington Post

A tornado watch was issued Tuesday for New York City and the U.S. Northeast. If one were to form, it would be the fourth tornado to hit New York City this year. Two touched down Sept. 16, and one hit the Bronx in July.

It's been a year of extreme weather, from Snowmageddon in Washington, D.C., to triple-digit heat in Los Angeles and from hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico to floods in Wisconsin - and the extreme weather won't stop any time soon, scientists say.

David Easterling, chief of the Scientific Services Division at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Climatic Data Center, said there will be more incidences of extreme weather because the planet is heating up.

What we consider heat waves will become more the norm, Easterling said, and along with heat waves, heavy rainfall and flooding will increase. Plus, while "hurricanes have always been a problem ... the ones that do occur will be more powerful."

The heavy rains and snows can also be attributed to the increased heat because the warmer the air is, the more moisture it holds. "Expect more snow," he said, but also expect that the length of the snow season will be reduced.

Former President Bill Clinton voiced his concern about climate change at the recent Clinton Global Initiative in New York.

"There is every reason to believe the incidence of economically devastating natural disasters will accelerate around the world with the changing of the climate," he said.

Despite these signs of climate change, political support for curbing emissions is weakening and it is unlikely that the United States will impose national limits on greenhouse gases before 2013, at the earliest, experts say.

Several leading GOP candidates this fall are questioning whether such emissions cause warming, while some key Democratic Senate candidates are disavowing the cap-and-trade bill the House passed in 2009.

This article appeared on page A - 10 of the San Francisco Chronicle
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Sore Throat

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Ted Turner blasts U.S. for once again sitting back on climat PostWed Sep 29, 2010 5:25 pm  Reply with quote

Ted Turner blasts U.S. for once again sitting back on climate change

By Scot Kersgaard

Speaking at the Colorado Conservation Voters annual fall luncheon today, media mogul Ted Turner scolded the United States for failing to sign the Kyoto Protocol and said the rest of the world is waiting for the United States to take a leadership role in clean energy and climate change.

“It is such a complicated issue,” Turner said of climate change. “It is the most complicated issue humanity has ever faced. It is easy to be a naysayer, and the opposition has learned that it is easier to do nothing. They have done a good job of casting some doubt on global warming.”

Gov. Bill Ritter, sitting on stage with Turner and moderator Reggie Rivers, agreed with Turner that climate change is the issue of the day.

“I think we are at a place better than we were at five years ago, but it has become politicized and I think we are in a really difficult place in the country because some really important issues have become politicized and very difficult to work on,” Ritter said.

“Climate change has become a four-letter word, where candidates are afraid to have a discussion on it,” Ritter said.

“There is also a time imperative if we don’t act soon. We’ve moved nowhere in the last two years from a policy perspective. If we allow another two years to go by, that’s four years. We don’t have the luxury of waiting,” he said.

Ritter said nothing will change on climate change until the United States takes a leadership role. “It won’t happen if the U.S. doesn’t lead. They say they are waiting for the United States. They are not going to move without us. I don’t think even China or India will move unless we develop a policy where they can say, ‘There it is; the U.S. is leading.’”

“We have not gotten any legislation on energy or climate change through Congress at all, and that’s not good and the prospects are not that good for anything significant happening in the immediate future,” Turner said.

“It looks a lot like Kyoto. We weren’t there in the beginning. We weren’t there in the middle and we weren’t there at the end. And we were the only country in the world that didn’t sign onto the Kyoto Protocol. God help us if we take that same position now,” Turner said.

“I keep hoping it will change, that Kyoto was the aberration. But it is Kyoto all over again three years into the new regime,” Turner said.

Rivers asked why the issue was so important to Turner.

“I got laid off at AOL Time Warner,” Turner said to laughter. “I’ve worked all my life and I’m way too young to retire at 65, so I looked around for something to do and this looked like the most important area. It’s a survival issue for the human race, for life on the planet, so I decided to concentrate on it.

“It is a survival issue. We choose to do this because it is so important. Failure is not an option because if we fail here, it is just unthinkable. The consequences are just so great. We have to deal with this,” Turner said.

“We almost lost the bison in this country, and I dedicated part of my life to bringing the bison back. We have to pick our fights and fight hard and we can’t afford to lose this one,” he said.

Rivers asked the two men what they were most proud of in their careers, and Turner mentioned the land his 50,000 head of bison live on.

“Preserving two million acres of primarily grassland, which is some of the most endangered ecosystems in the world,” is what Turner said he was proudest of.

Ritter said he was proudest of getting Colorado to the point where it is known nationally and beyond for its green energy initiatives.

He said when he ran for governor in 2006, he was wary of promising too much in the way of creating a green energy brand for the state, but that now that his term is about to expire, he thinks he has succeeded.

“We said we were going to do it. We’ve done it. People from around the country, even around the world, look to Colorado for our public policy and the things we have done to establish the new energy economy and I am proud of that. Job creation is tied to that as well,” he said.

He and Turner both said that working on environmental issues is a calling they feel to serve future generations. “It’s about our kids and our grandkids,” Ritter said.

“Almost more than anything else you can do, this is about our kids and our grandkids. As we’ve crafted out legislative agenda, there has really been a passion about that. It is so not about self-interest. There are a lot of other arenas you deal with in politics, where you just deal with people’s self interest. It was always about our understanding that this is bigger than our self interest,” he said.
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Sore Throat

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Coral reefs 'could disappear by 2100' PostThu Sep 30, 2010 6:12 pm  Reply with quote

Coral reefs 'could disappear by 2100'

Emily Shelton

Copenhagen targets too weak to combat climate change, new report by Institute of Physics (IOP) suggests

Weak climate change targets could mean the end of coral reefs by 2100 if ‘urgent action’ isn’t taken. A new report by the Institute of Physics (IOP) suggests nations have failed to commit to high enough targets to reduce emissions, and warns, unless these are raised, CO2 levels leading to ocean acidification could destroy coral reefs by the end of the century.

The IOP’s analysis of the Copenhagen Accord, the international pledge agreed at last year’s Copenhagen climate change conference, criticises individual nations’ targets to reduce emissions as too 'low' and 'weak' and states a global temperature increase of up to 4.2 º C and the end of coral reefs could become reality by 2100 if national targets are not revised.

Rick MacPherson, Conservation Programs Director at the Coral Reef Alliance (CORAL), says: ‘This is a global crisis. We all receive direct or indirect benefits from healthy coral reef ecosystems.’

‘If coral reefs collapse, the life support system of many nations collapse as well. What we potentially face is a humanitarian crisis of unprecedented proportion.’

He continued: ‘The big atmospheric CO2 producing nations need to get their acts together quickly if there is any hope for reefs’.

Joeri Rogelj from the Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science and a lead researcher of the report, said: ‘Ocean acidification due to increased atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide…will put increasing stress onto marine eco-systems. Based on our analysis, thresholds that were defined…as being critical for marine eco-systems will be exceeded from 2030 onwards.'

Rogelj said the ‘result [of Copenhagen] in terms of effective climate change target is not what was needed.’

Targets too 'low' and 'weak'

The IOP report criticises the USA and European Union’s emission reduction targets as two of the lowest. The EU is aiming for a reduction of 20 or 30% below 1990 levels, while USA’s target is 17% below 2005, equivalent to only 3% below 1990 levels.

Miyoko , from the Center for Biological Diversity, said: ‘This report affirms that climate pledges made in Copenhagen fall far short of the action necessary to avoid catastrophic climate impacts. Action to confront the climate crisis must be massively scaled if we are to preserve a planet resembling the one humans have known’.

Short window to rectify targets

Global emissions rose by 21% between 1990 and 2005. Nations now have until the end of 2010 in which to revise their targets and commit to higher ambitions for reduced emissions.

McPherson explained how healthy reefs provide the primary source of protein to over 1 billion people globally, protect coastal areas from severe hurricanes and storms, and generate 27 times more income than global fisheries. He also stated that fifty per cent of all current cancer research is exploring the benefits of chemical compounds isolated from species found on coral reefs.

He said the publication of this report is ‘an opportunity to galvanise policy-shapers to make hard decisions now while there is still time to avert catastrophe.’

Last edited by Sore Throat on Thu Oct 21, 2010 7:04 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Sore Throat

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Ocean acidification: the facts PostThu Sep 30, 2010 6:15 pm  Reply with quote

Ocean acidification: the facts

The marine campaign group Oceana has put together a fact sheet about ocean acidification

What is ocean acidification?

Ocean acidification is the process caused by increasing man-made carbon dioxide emissions, by which the oceans are becoming more acidic.

When carbon dioxide enters the ocean, it combines with seawater to produce carbonic acid, which increases the acidity of the water.

Rising carbon dioxide emissions, primarily from the burning of fossil fuels for energy, has led to a 30 per cent rise in ocean acidity from pre-industrial levels, as measured by a fall of 0.1 units in the pH of ocean surface waters.

If carbon emissions growth continues at the current rate, the pH of ocean surface water will fall 0.2 units by 2050, lower than at any time in the last 20 million years. By the end of this century, the pH will have fallen 0.4 units from its natural level – close to a doubling of ocean acidity. The change is happening 100 times faster than at any time in the history of the planet.

How will ocean acidification affect marine life?

Ocean acidification leads to a reduction in the amount of carbonate ions in the water. Many marine animals need carbonate ions for the calcium carbonate required to form skeletons and shells. This will affect their development and ability to reproduce – ultimately threatening their populations.

Species under the most immediate threat include corals, crabs, lobsters, clams and oysters.

Falling numbers of less well-known species, like pteropods – tiny swimming snails – have significant effects further up the food chain. Pteropods are important sources of nutrition for many types of fish, whales and birds in polar and sub-polar regions.

The effects on corals, already highly sensitive to their environment, are particularly concerning, since one quarter of all marine species depend on coral reefs for homes, nurseries, feeding grounds and spawning sites.

This equates to nine million marine species, including four thousand species of fish. OCEANA forecasts the mass extinction of corals in both tropical and cold waters this century, if carbon emissions growth continues unchecked.

How will ocean acidification affect humans?

Further declines in fish and shellfish stocks will impact an important source of protein for millions of people. In 2006, fish provided more than 2.9 billion people with at least 15 percent of their average animal protein intake.

The livelihoods of the world's 47.5 million fishermen will also be adversely affected. The fishing industry is estimated to employ a further 120 million people, supporting 8 per cent of the world's population.

What can be done to prevent this?

The cause of ocean acidification is man-made carbon dioxide emissions, produced mainly by the burning of fossil fuels for transport (cars, buses, trains, ships, planes), by some industrial processes, and the production of electricity (coal, oil and gas power plants).

The level of man-made carbon dioxide emissions is typically given by measuring the concentration of carbon dioxide in the Earth's atmosphere. This is currently 385 parts per million.

The 'tipping point' for coral reefs – when they will die and be unable to
recover - will come when carbon dioxide concentrations reach 450ppm. At current rates of growth, this will happen by middle to end of this century.

To return the oceans to normalcy will require stabilization of carbon dioxide concentrations at 350ppm or less. This means reducing global carbon dioxide emissions by 80-90 per cent by 2050. This can only be achieved by a massive shift away from fossil fuels to alternative sources of energy (wind, solar).
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Sore Throat

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Thank you, Global Warming: UCI-Led Study Shows Sea Levels St PostTue Oct 05, 2010 7:01 pm  Reply with quote

Thank you, Global Warming: UCI-Led Study Shows Sea Levels Steadily Rising

By Matt Coker

Frequent and extreme storms tied to global warming are causing more freshwater to flow into the Earth's oceans and sea levels to rise, concludes a team of researchers led by Jay Famiglietti, a UC Irvine Earth system science professor.

"All told, 18 percent more water fed into the world's oceans from rivers and melting polar ice sheets in 2006 than in 1994, with an average annual rise of 1.5 percent," reads a UCI statement on the research.

"That might not sound like much--1.5 percent a year--but after a few decades, it's huge," Famiglietti is quoted as saying.

"In general, more water is good," he added. "But here's the problem: Not everybody is getting more rainfall, and those who are may not need it. What we're seeing is exactly what the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicted--that precipitation is increasing in the tropics and the Arctic Circle with heavier, more punishing storms. Meanwhile, hundreds of millions of people live in semiarid regions, and those are drying up."

Famiglietti was the principal investigator on the study that will be published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. It is based on ongoing research that employs NASA and other world-scale satellite observations rather than computer models to track total water volume each month flowing from the continents into the oceans.

The NASA-funded study's lead author is Tajdarul Syed of the Indian School of Mines and formerly of UCI. Other authors are: Don Chambers of the University of South Florida; Joshua Willis of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena; and Kyle Hilburn of Remote Sensing Systems in Santa Rosa.

To dumb it down for us, Famiglietti says to think about the evaporation and precipitation cycle taught in grade school. Now, think of that cycle on steroids. The research indicates it is accelerating dangerously because of greenhouse gas-fueled higher temperatures that trigger monsoons and hurricanes. Or, as the UCI statement puts it:

Hotter weather above the oceans causes freshwater to evaporate faster, which leads to thicker clouds unleashing more powerful storms over land. The rainfall then travels via rivers to the sea in ever-larger amounts, and the cycle begins again.

The researchers do caution that although they had analyzed more than a decade of data, it was still a relatively short time frame and that natural ups and downs that appear in climate data make detecting long-term trends challenging.

The answer: more study.
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Sore Throat

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Coral reef mass deaths caused by ‘human-induced global warmi PostThu Oct 21, 2010 6:15 pm  Reply with quote

Coral reef mass deaths caused by ‘human-induced global warming’

Raymond Gellner

Coral reef populations in regions of Southeast Asia as well as in the Indian Ocean are in the process of a mass death due to bleaching caused by “human-induced global warming,” an expert in the field of coral reef studies said on Tuesday in a news release.

According to the statement from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, the bleaching of coral occurs when it is stripped of algae, which contains nutrients vital to its survival. In this case the event occurred due to an expanse of unusually warm water which swept through the affected region several months ago. Without the algae, the coral which is a vital component of the oceanic food chain will continue to starve to death.

The warmer temperatures were measured at 34° C during peak time, a measurement which is more than 4° C above the long term average for the region.

Dr Andrew Baird of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and James Cook Universities stated, “It is certainly the worst coral die-off we have seen since 1998. It may prove to be the worst such event known to science. So far around 80% of Acroporacolonies and 50% of colonies from other species have died since the outbreak began in May this year.”

He also added, “My colleagues and I have high confidence these successive ocean warming episodes, which exceed the normal tolerance range of warm-water corals, are driven by human-induced global warming. They underline that the planet is already taking heavy hits from climate change – and will continue to do so unless we can reduce carbon emissions very quickly.

“They also show this is not just about warmer temperatures: it is also threatening the livelihoods of tens of millions of people and potentially the stability of our region.”

The areas affected include reefs from the Seychelles all of the way to Sulawesi and the Philippines, and includes Sri Lanka, Burma, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia.
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Forecast: global warming may bring giant drought PostThu Oct 21, 2010 6:22 pm  Reply with quote

Forecast: global warming may bring giant drought

Courtesy of the U.S. National Science Foundation
and World Science staff

Thanks to glob­al warm­ing, the Un­ited States and many oth­er pop­u­lous coun­tries face a grow­ing threat of long, harsh drought in the next 30 years, a new study in­di­cates.

If the pro­jec­tions “come even close to be­ing real­ized, the con­se­quenc­es for so­ci­e­ty world­wide will be enor­mous,” said Aiguo Dai of the U.S. Na­tional Cen­ter for At­mos­pher­ic Re­search in Boul­der, Co­lo., who con­ducted the re­search.

Projected drought con­di­tions at this cen­tury's end, ac­cord­ing to a new study. (Cour­tesy NCAR).

His anal­y­sis con­cludes that glob­al warm­ing will likely cre­ate in­creas­ing dry­ness across much of the globe, pos­sibly reach­ing a scale in some re­gions by the cen­tu­ry’s end rare­ly, if ev­er, seen in mod­ern times.

Us­ing an en­sem­ble of 22 com­put­er cli­mate mod­els and a com­pre­hen­sive in­dex of drought con­di­tions, as well as anal­y­ses of pre­vi­ously pub­lished stud­ies, Dai re­ports that by the 2030s, dry­ness is likely to in­crease sub­stanti­ally across most of the West­ern Hem­i­sphere, along with large parts of Eur­a­sia, Af­ri­ca, and Aus­tral­ia.

In con­trast, higher-latitude re­gions from Alas­ka to Scan­di­na­via are likely to be­come moister, but not enough to bal­ance out the dry­ing else­where, Dai pre­dicts.

Dai cau­tioned that the find­ings are based on the best cur­rent pro­jec­tions of emis­sions of green­house gas­es, which trap heat in the at­mos­phere. What hap­pens will de­pend on many fac­tors, in­clud­ing nat­u­ral cli­mate cy­cles such as El Niño.

The find­ings ap­pear this week as part of a long­er pa­per in the re­search jour­nal Wi­ley In­ter­dis­ci­plin­ary Re­views: Cli­mate Change. The study was sup­ported by the U.S. Na­tional Sci­ence Founda­t­ion.

“This re­search does an ex­cel­lent job of plac­ing fu­ture warm­ing-induced drought in the con­text of the his­tor­i­cal drought record,” said Er­ic DeWeaver, pro­gram di­rec­tor in founda­t­ion’s Di­vi­sion of At­mos­pher­ic and Geo­space Sci­ences. “The work ar­gues credibly that the worst con­se­quenc­es of glob­al warm­ing may come in the form of re­duc­tions in wa­ter re­sources.”

While re­gion­al cli­mate pro­jec­tions are less cer­tain than those for the globe as a whole, Dai’s study in­di­cates 2030s. that most of the west­ern two-thirds of the Un­ited States will be sig­nif­i­cantly dri­er by the 2030s. Oth­er places predicted to face a sig­nif­i­cant dry­ing threat in­clude much of Lat­in Amer­i­ca, in­clud­ing large sec­tions of Mex­i­co and Bra­zil; re­gions bor­der­ing the Med­i­ter­ra­nean Sea, which could be­come es­pe­cially dry; large swaths of South­west Asia; most of Af­ri­ca and Aus­tral­ia, with par­tic­u­larly arid con­di­tions in re­gions of Af­ri­ca; and South­east Asia, in­clud­ing parts of Chi­na and neigh­bor­ing coun­tries.

The study al­so finds that drought risk can be ex­pected to de­crease this cen­tu­ry across much of North­ern Eu­rope, Rus­sia, Can­a­da, and Alas­ka, as well as some ar­eas in the South­ern Hem­i­sphere. But “the in­creased wet­ness over the north­ern, sparsely pop­u­lated high lat­i­tudes can’t match the dry­ing over the more densely pop­u­lated tem­per­ate and trop­i­cal ar­eas,” Dai said.
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Sea ice melting as Arctic temperature rises PostThu Oct 21, 2010 6:59 pm  Reply with quote

Sea ice melting as Arctic temperature rises

By The Associated Press

Report: Arctic temperature rising at near record rates, sea ice melting

The latest report on the Arctic shows the temperature is rising again and the sea ice is declining to one of the lowest levels on record.

The government on Thursday released this year's update, a report by 69 researchers in eight countries.

According to the lead author, the new report "tells a story of widespread, continued and even dramatic effects of a warming Arctic."

They said even the massive snowstorms that struck the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states in December and February had an Arctic warming connection.

Story continues below...
Source: AP News

Mochila insert follows...

Sea ice melting as Arctic temperature rises

Report: Arctic temperature rising at near record rates, sea ice melting

AP News

Oct 21, 2010 14:17 EDT

The latest report on the Arctic shows the temperature is rising again and the sea ice is declining to one of the lowest levels on record.

The government on Thursday released this year's update, a report by 69 researchers in eight countries.

According to the lead author, the new report "tells a story of widespread, continued and even dramatic effects of a warming Arctic."

They said even the massive snowstorms that struck the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states in December and February had an Arctic warming connection.

Source: AP News
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New Research: Global Warming is Burning Up Forests and Coral PostWed Nov 10, 2010 11:37 pm  Reply with quote

New Research: Global Warming is Burning Up Forests and Coral Reefs

WASHINGTON (November 9, 2010) -- In the wake of last Tuesday’s election results, climate change skepticism likely will get more attention on Capitol Hill in the next legislative session. Regardless, the science remains unequivocal: Global warming is real, and it is poses a serious threat to public health, the environment, the economy and national security.

As part of a continuing effort, the Union of Concerned Scientists today held a press briefing that presented new scientific findings that show just how risky global warming really is.

The briefing featured two scientists, one focused on land, the other on the sea, whose findings show that global warming is literally burning up our environment.

Olga Pechony, a research scientist at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, concludes that if we do not dramatically reduce carbon emissions, subsequent warming is likely to lead to an unprecedented number of forest fires around the world.

Her study, which she co-authored with NASA colleague Drew Shindell, uses a new way of tracking wildfires to produce the first long-term history of global burning. It appeared in last month’s issue of the “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.”

Pechony and Shindell found that in the past, precipitation levels largely determined the extent of fires. From now on, however, rising temperatures likely will be the key factor. Her study is the most comprehensive look yet on how global wildfire patterns are changing due to global warming.

Pechony says that in future decades, the wildfires are expected to become more prevalent in many parts of the world. “It’s likely that we will not only have to reduce emissions, but also improve strategies to prevent and suppress fires,” she said.

Global warming is also pushing ocean temperatures to record highs. This year, warming likely will lead to extensive coral reef damage. Higher ocean temperatures literally heat living coral to death. At these temperatures, the algae that inhabit the reef and provide food for the coral begin producing toxins, triggering a process that harms or kills the coral. Reefs are more than just beautiful undersea forests. They are essential to ocean health given they provide a home for a quarter of all sea life.

Mark Eakin, the coordinator of Coral Reef Watch at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), said this year will likely be one of the worst for coral reefs around the world.

He compared 2010 with other major coral die-offs, and warned that reef damage may pose a serious threat to marine diversity and ecosystems. The federal government is now considering a petition to list more than 80 coral species as threatened or endangered species.

Eakin said that even if 2010 does not turn out to be the worst year ever for reefs, it will be a very bad year. “It’s like comparing the effects of atomic bomb blasts,” he said. “They’re all destructive. Reefs are being seriously harmed by global warming.”
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Study Finds CO2 the Culprit in Ancient Global Warming PostWed Nov 10, 2010 11:45 pm  Reply with quote

Study Finds CO2 the Culprit in Ancient Global Warming

Scientists describe an actual warming event rather than one predicted by a model

By Catherine M. Cooney

Some 40 million years ago, the world experienced an extreme spike in global warming. The heat was so intense that deep sea temperatures rose by about 4 degrees Celsius. This enigmatic sultry period, known as the Middle Eocene Climatic Optimum (MECO), marked a 400,000-year-long heat wave in the midst of a long era of global cooling.

Now research published Nov. 5 in the journal Science suggests the rise in surface sea temperature occurred during a time when atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) levels were particularly high, according to a research team from Utrecht University and the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research.

First reported by U.S. scientists in 2003, the MECO warming period has been documented by data from a smattering of sites around the world. “Our paper is among the first to show that CO2 concentrations and the temperature varied hand in hand in that time,” says Peter Bijl, a paleoclimatologist at the Netherlands’ Utretcht University and one of the paper’s lead authors.

The study may help put to rest some of the doubts expressed about today’s climate models because it describes an actual warming event rather than one predicted by a model, according to Jeff Kiehl, head of the Climate Change Research Section at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, CO.

“This paper shows indeed that the planet is sensitive to CO2 and that it corresponds with a rise in sea surface temperatures,” Kiehl said. “This is something that is independent of a model—this is real data” that can be used to “test today’s models against to see if they agree.”

Richard Norris, a paleobiologist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego, said the research is “highly relevant.”

“One of the reasons you want to look in the ancient past like the authors have done is that you see complete events. Now that the population is expanding and energy use is shooting up….The question is, what is going to happen?” Norris said. “We can forecast it, but if you are a climate skeptic, you can say, ‘I don’t believe the models.’ Fortunately there is the geological record, and it shows exactly what happened” in the past when increased atmospheric CO2 may have had an impact on the Earth’s systems.

Kiehl said another intriguing find from the study is that 40 million years ago water temperatures reached as high as 25 degrees Celsius in areas where today the water is close to freezing. “That is a completely different world than what it is today,” he said. “That is very intriguing from an Earth system perspective."

Cause of Increased CO2 Levels in Eocene Remains Unknown

The team analyzed core sediment samples collected in 2000 from an area in the Southern Ocean known as the East Tasman Plateau at Ocean Drilling Program (ODP) Site 1172. Researchers who set out to re-create the opening between the subcontinents of Antarctica and Australia originally took the samples, Bijl says. Some 40 million years ago, Australia was still connected to Antarctica.

The group reconstructed the ancient CO2 concentrations by examining the fossil molecules of algae. The carbon isotopic composition of these algae is strongly controlled by the atmospheric CO2 concentration during growth, or during photosynthesis. The group also studied the changes in the abundance of different groups of fossil plankton in the sediment to help refine their CO2 estimate, Bijl said.

In a mostly positive commentary accompanying the Science study, Paul Pearson, of the School of Earth and Ocean Sciences at the UK’s Cardiff University, cautioned that the actual level of atmospheric CO2 rise and the sea surface temperatures should be considered best estimates because they rely on a series of assumptions made by the researchers. Nonetheless, “what the study did show was that the CO2 was certainly higher during this period, and it at least doubled during the MECO,” he wrote.

What caused the rise in atmosphereric CO2 levels remains unknown. Scientists have proposed a number of potential causes, including the disappearance of an ocean between India and Asia that occured as the Himalayas rose, significant volcanic activity or the recycling of carbon from carbonate sediments in the dying ocean through “extensive metamorphic decarbonation reactions,” Pearson wrote.

“To put it briefly, the change in CO2 40 million years ago was too large to have been the result of temperature change and associated feedbacks,” Bijl said. “Such a large change in CO2 certainly provides a plausible explanation for the changes in Earth’s temperature.”
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The Warming of Antarctica: A Citadel of Ice Begins to Melt PostTue Nov 23, 2010 7:26 pm  Reply with quote

The Warming of Antarctica: A Citadel of Ice Begins to Melt

by Fen Montaigne

The fringes of the coldest continent are starting to feel the heat, with the northern Antarctic Peninsula warming faster than virtually any place on Earth. These rapidly rising temperatures represent the first breach in the enormous frozen dome that holds 90 percent of the world's ice.

In 1978, when few researchers were paying attention to global warming, a prominent geologist at Ohio State University was already focused on the prospect of fossil fuel emissions trapping heat in the Earth's atmosphere. His name was John H. Mercer, and when he contemplated what might be in store for the planet, his thoughts naturally gravitated to the biggest chunk
of ice on Earth - Antarctica.

"If present trends in fossil fuel consumption continue..." he wrote in Nature, "a critical level of warmth will have been passed in high southern latitudes 50 years from now, and deglaciation of West Antarctica will be imminent or in progress... One of the warning signs that a dangerous warming trend is under way in Antarctica will be the breakup of ice shelves on both coasts of the Antarctic Peninsula, starting with the northernmost and extending gradually southward."

Mercer's prediction has come true, and a couple of decades before he anticipated. Since he wrote those words, eight ice shelves have fully or partially collapsed along the Antarctic Peninsula, and the northwestern Antarctic Peninsula has warmed faster than virtually any place on Earth.

Much attention has rightly been paid to the precipitous warming of the Arctic, where Arctic Ocean ice is rapidly shrinking and thinning, Greenland's large ice sheets are steadily melting, and permafrost is thawing from Alaska, to Scandinavia, to Siberia.

But none of the earth's ice zones, or cryosphere, can compare with Antarctica, which is 1.5 times the size of the United States - including Alaska - and is almost entirely covered in ice, in places to a depth of three miles. The Antarctic accumulated this unfathomable volume of ice because it is a continent surrounded by ocean - the Southern Ocean - which acts like a great, insulating moat around the South Pole. The Arctic, by contrast, is an ocean surrounded by continents, whose landmasses moderate the polar climate.

How cold is the Antarctic? How about -128.6 degrees F cold, which is the lowest temperature ever recorded on Earth, as measured at the Soviet Antarctic base, Vostok, on July 21, 1983. The polar plateau, where legendary explorers such as Robert Falcon Scott perished, routinely records temperatures of -70 or -80 degrees F in winter. So it will be quite some time before the heart of Antarctica's vast ice dome begins to melt.

The periphery, however, is another matter, and steady warming there has the potential to raise global sea levels many feet and to affect global ocean circulation.

No place on the fringes of Antarctica has warmed with the swiftness of the Antarctic Peninsula, a crooked, 900-mile finger of land that juts toward the tip of South America. A 60-year temperature record on the northwestern Antarctic Peninsula, taken at a research base originally built by the British and now run by the Ukrainians, paints a stark picture: Winter temperatures have increased by 11 degrees F and annual average temperatures by 5 degrees F. Ninety percent of 244 glaciers along the western Antarctic Peninsula have retreated since 1940. Sea ice now blankets the Southern Ocean off the western Antarctic Peninsula three fewer months a year than in 1979, according to satellite data.

In addition, ice shelves - large slabs of ice that flow off the land or out of submarine basins and float atop the ocean - have been disintegrating up and down the peninsula. The most notable breakup occurred in early 2002, when several summers of warm weather heated up the surface of the Larsen B Ice Shelf, creating countless melt ponds that enabled warmer water to seep down into the ice shelf. That led in March 2002 to what's known as a "catastrophic" break-up; the ice shelf, once the size of Connecticut, shattered in a matter of days.

"We are already at the point where the changes we're seeing in this part of Antarctica are unprecedented throughout the entire period of human civilization," said Ted Scambos, the lead scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colo.

The level of warming in Antarctica is far more severe than global warming of the past century, which has been about 1.4 degrees F. One major cause is that the warming of landmasses and oceans to the north has set up a sharper contrast with Antarctica's intense cold. That has led to a strengthening of northerly winds, pulling far warmer air down from the south Pacific and south Atlantic onto the Antarctic Peninsula.

"One of the fundamental laws of thermodynamics is that heat always goes from warm to cold," said Douglas Martinson, an oceanographer and Antarctic specialist at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

The physical changes - especially the drop in sea-ice duration - have had major ecological effects. Ice-dependent organisms, including certain species of phytoplankton, are declining where sea ice is disappearing. The most important link in the Antarctic food chain - ice-dependent Antarctic krill, on which just about every seabird or marine mammal in Antarctica feeds - also appears to be in decline. (One study suggested that krill in the southwestern Atlantic sector of Antarctic waters had fallen by 80 percent, but other krill specialists think the decline is not nearly so steep.)

At the top of the Antarctic food chain, Adelie penguins are suffering where warming is most pronounced. Not only is their winter feeding platform - sea ice - shrinking. But the main components of their diet - Antarctic krill and Antarctic silverfish, both of which are ice-dependent - are in shorter supply. As a result, Adelie penguin populations in the northwestern Antarctic Peninsula have plummeted by 75 percent and more. Ice-avoiding species, such as gentoo and chinstrap penguins, are moving in.

"We are seeing the creation of a new ecosystem for which there is no precedent," said Hugh Ducklow, a phytoplankton specialist at The Ecosystems Center at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Mass. and head of a major long-term climate change study along the western Antarctic Peninsula. "There is an entire, distinct ecosystem just living in and on the ice. So as sea ice begins to decline and then fails to form, as is now happening very rapidly, all these organisms that depend on the timing and the existence and extent of sea ice for their successful feeding and breeding will be high and dry. If the warming continues, we are eventually going to get to the point where sea ice won't form anymore, and
that would be catastrophic to the system."

Not only are air temperatures rising. Changing atmospheric and oceanic circulation patterns around Antarctica have caused the deep, Antarctic Circumpolar Current to be funneled up onto the continental shelf in western Antarctica. In winter, that water can be as warm as 37 degres F, which sounds cold, but in fact is considerably warmer than the surface water - which hovers around 32 degrees F - and vastly warmer than air temperatures, especially in winter. This huge volume of relatively warm water on the continental shelf is having an enormous impact, since water holds 1,000 times more heat than air.

"This Circumpolar Current water is just blisteringly hot," said Martinson, speaking in relative terms. "The penguins down there will have to put on baggies and sunglasses!" In Martinson's mind, rising ocean temperatures have played the key role in the warming of the Antarctic Peninsula and the melting of ice shelves, glaciers, and sea ice.

Of particular concern to scientists is the effect of this warmer water on the Pine Island and Thwaites glaciers, located at 75 degrees South, below the Antarctic Peninsula. Robert Bindschadler, a senior fellow at the Goddard Space Flight Center and an expert on Antarctic ice, believes that the warmer waters are melting the submerged undersides of the ice shelves attached to these glaciers, causing them to grow thinner; in places, the Pine Island Ice Shelf is thinning at a rate of 160 feet a year, and the melting is effectively loosening the grip of the Pine Island Glacier on the sea floor, causing the vast river of ice behind it to accelerate into the sea. The Pine Island Glacier is now charging into the Amundsen Sea at a rate of about two miles a year.

Bindshcadler said that if all the ice from the ice streams feeding the Pine Island and Thwaites glaciers were to flow into the Southern Ocean, global sea levels could increase by five feet, inundating low-lying coastal areas from Florida to Bangladesh. Such an event, he said, could happen in the next half-century. Should the ice from the far-larger Western Antarctic Ice Sheet eventually melt, global sea levels could rise by 16 to 20 feet, according to Bindschadler and other researchers.

The biggest repository of Antarctic ice is on the polar plateau and the enormous ice sheets of East Antarctica. Although some studies have shown that most of Antarctica is cooling slightly, the most comprehensive survey to date - published last year in Nature - showed that Antarctica overall warmed 1 degree F between 1957 and 2007. Some inland areas in West Antarctica have warmed by 2.7 degrees F. That warming has extended to the Transantarctic Mountains, just several hundred miles from the South Pole.

The changing atmospheric circulation patterns around Antarctica have, in places, dragged more frigid air off the polar plateau and cooled some parts of the continent. One portion of the Ross Sea, for example, is colder and has actually seen sea ice grow in recent years.

But Antarctic climate experts say the long-term temperature trend in Antarctica is almost certainly heading straight up, which is bad news for the continent's two ice-dependent penguin species - the Adelie and the far-larger emperor, featured in the movie "March of the Penguins."

One of Antarctica's premier penguin researchers, David Ainley, and two colleagues recently forecast the impact on these two polar penguin species if global temperatures rise 2 degrees C - 3.6 degrees F - above pre-industrial levels, something that almost certainly will occur this century. They concluded that Adelie and emperor penguin colonies north of 70 degrees South - comprising half of Antarctica's 348,000 pairs of emperor penguins and three-quarters of the continent's 2.5 million pairs of Adelies - "are in jeopardy of marked decline or disappearance, largely because of severe decreases in pack-ice coverage and, particularly for emperors, ice thickness."

Bill Fraser, who has devoted three decades of his life to studying penguins and other seabirds on the northwestern Antarctic Peninsula, has seen populations of Adelie penguins in his study area fall from more than 30,000 breeding pairs in 1975 to 5,600 pairs today. He expects Adelies to disappear in the region in his lifetime.

"They're on a decline," he said, "that has no recovery."
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Fox News boss told staff to cast doubt on climate change PostWed Dec 15, 2010 6:19 pm  Reply with quote

In leaked e-mail, Fox News boss told staff to cast doubt on climate change

By David Edwards

For the second time in less than a week, the Fox News Washington managing editor has been caught trying to "slant" the news.

In an e-mail obtained by liberal watchdog group Media Matters, Bill Sammon told his staff to downplay the importance of climate science that showed the world was getting warmer.

"Given the controversy over the veracity of climate change data... we should refrain from asserting that the planet has warmed (or cooled) in any given period without IMMEDIATELY pointing out that such theories are based upon data that critics have called into question," Sammon wrote.

Sammon issued the instructions less than 15 minutes after Fox News correspondent Wendell Goler noted that the United Nations' World Meteorological Organization announced that 2000-2009 was "on track to be the warmest [decade] on record."

"2000 to 2009 [is] expected to turn out to be the warmest decade on record," Goler reported during the 2009 Copenhagen climate change summit. "2009 itself was about the fifth warmest year. There was extreme drought in Africa, extreme heat in India and northern China."

"But it's the decade trend that has scientists concerned because 2000 to 2009 [is] warmer than the 1990s, warmer than the 1980s," he said.

Only last week, Media Matters published another e-mail where Sammon asked his news department to refer to the health care reform public option as the "government run option."

Sammon sent the request after Republican pollster Frank Luntz said that polls showed the "government option" was opposed by the public.

According to the report at Media Matters, in August of 2009 after Fox News' Sean Hannity used the term "public option," Luntz encouraged him to say "government option" instead.

"If you call it a 'public option,' the American people are split," Luntz said. "If you call it the 'government option,' the public is overwhelmingly against it."

In October, sources told Media Matters that since joining Fox News, Sammon's pressure to "distort" and "slant news" had made some in the newsroom uncomfortable.

"Since Bill Sammon assumed the role of Washington managing editor and vice president of news at the beginning of the Obama Administration, pressure from Fox management to produce stories that lean toward a conservative agenda, and distort news in some cases, has found its way into coverage," the sources said.

The text of Sammon's email follows:


From: Sammon, Bill
To: 169 -SPECIAL REPORT; 036 -FOX.WHU; 054 -FNSunday; 030 -Root (FoxNews.Com); 050 -Senior Producers; 051 -Producers; 069 -Politics; 005 -Washington
Cc: Clemente, Michael; Stack, John; Wallace, Jay; Smith, Sean
Sent: Tue Dec 08 12:49:51 2009
Subject: Given the controversy over the veracity of climate change data...

...we should refrain from asserting that the planet has warmed (or cooled) in any given period without IMMEDIATELY pointing out that such theories are based upon data that critics have called into question. It is not our place as journalists to assert such notions as facts, especially as this debate intensifies.

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