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Rachel's Democracy and Health News

Rachel's Democracy & Health News #924 "Environment, health, jobs and justice--Who gets to decide?" Thursday, September 13, 2007printer-friendly version

Featured stories in this issue...

Toxic Chemicals Blamed for the Disappearance of Arctic Boys
Twice as many girls as boys are being born in remote communities north of the Arctic Circle. And across much of the northern hemisphere, particularly in the US and Japan, the gender ratio has skewed towards girls for the first time.
Study Suggests Fewer Gray Whales Means Ocean Itself Is Failing
Now the remaining gray whale population faces a new threat, scientists say: The changing seabed of the Pacific Ocean can barely support a small fraction of their original numbers as the climate warms.
Antarctic Penguin Colony Nears Extinction
The Adelies penguin population has shrunk by 80 percent since 1974, and scientists expect the knee-high birds to be extinct in eight years. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is considering listing 10 other species of penguins as possibly facing extinction.
Threatened Species List Shows Escalating 'Global Extinction Crisis'
More than 180 species have been added since 2006 to the ranks of those classified as endangered, critically endangered or vulnerable. "We're at code red," said Dr. Mark Wright. "The plight of the world's species is a mirror on the state of the planet."
Global Warming Imperils France's Vineyards
Throughout the wine-producing world, from France to South Africa to California, vintners are in the vanguard of confronting the impact of climate change. Rising temperatures are forcing unprecedented early harvests, changing the tastes of the best-known varieties of wine and threatening the survival of centuries-old wine-growing regions.
Climate Change Brings Grim Forecast
As the climate turns warmer, food production may decline 30 to 40% in India and across many parts of Africa.
Global Warming Impact Like 'Nuclear War': Report
Climate change could have global security implications on a par with nuclear war unless urgent action is taken, according to a new study of global security.


From: The Independent (London, England)
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By Daniel Howden in Nuuk, Greenland

Twice as many girls as boys are being born in remote communities north of the Arctic Circle. Across much of the northern hemisphere, particularly in the US and Japan, the gender ratio has skewed towards girls for the first time.

Now scientists working with Inuit villages in Arctic Russia and Greenland have found the first direct evidence that this trend is linked to widespread chemical pollutants. Despite the Arctic's pristine environment, the area functions as a pollution sink for much of the industrialised world. Winds and rivers deliver a toxic tide from the northern hemisphere into the polar food chain.

Scientists have traced flame-retardant chemicals used in everything from industrial products to furniture, phones and laptops to the food chain, finding high levels of these pollutants in seabirds, seals and polar bears. The Inuit have traditionally relied on a hunter- gatherer's diet almost exclusively made up of marine animals, making them especially vulnerable to toxic pollutants.

Historically in large populations, it is considered normal for the number of baby boys slightly to outnumber girls in a trend believed to compensate naturally for greater male mortality rates.

But a peer-reviewed US study found an unexpected drop in the proportion of boys born in much of the northern hemisphere. The missing boys would number more than 250,000 in the US and Japan, using the gender ratio at the levels recorded up until 1970.

The researchers suspected that this linked widespread exposure among pregnant women to hormone-mimicking pollutants. But Danish scientists examined 480 families in the Russian Arctic and found high levels of the hormone-mimicking pollutants in the blood of pregnant women, and twice as many girls being born as boys.

They are now studying similar communities in Greenland and Canada and although full results will be published next year, their initial findings exactly match those in Russia.

Lars Otto Riersen, a marine biologist, pollution expert and an executive with the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (Amap), says: "When you see such things happening in the Arctic, it may happen here first, in the same way as climate change did."

Although the nature of the Inuit diet is believed to have triggered the disturbing ratios in the Arctic, a similar pattern may be emerging further south. Until now, the only evidence of the impact of these toxins was circumstantial. The most skewed ratio had been in Canada, where a First Nation community in Sarnia lives amid Ontario's petrochemical industry, and the number of boys born has plunged since the 1990s. The fallout from the toxic cloud in Seveso in Italy in 1976 allowed scientists to monitor dramatic impacts on both the gender ratios and numbers of babies born.

Every year in the industrialised world, household fires cause billions of pounds worth of damage, and chemical flame retardants designed to curb this are big business. They contain a host of chemicals some of which mimic human hormones. These chemicals became notorious in the 1960s and a worldwide ban on one category, PCBs, was introduced after tests showed they had entered the food chain with potentially lethal consequences for humans and animals. But the chemicals industry continues to produce variations of the retardants, which scientists claim are not subject to the long-range testing required.

Dr Jens Hansen, leader of Amap research, said they were finding incredibly high levels of banned PCBs among a cocktail of other hormone-mimicking chemicals in pre-natal mothers. Pregnant mothers, he said were ingesting these hormone-mimicking chemicals in their diet and passing them through the placenta where they influenced the gender of the foetus or killed male foetuses.

Aleqa Hammond, Greenland's Foreign Minister, says: "We heard from scientists four years ago that our heavy metal consumption is dangerous." She adds wryly: "If you ate me, you would die."

Aqqaluk Lynge, head of the Inuit Circumpolar Council, said they were trying to raise the alarm internationally but nobody was listening. "People don't want to talk about such a critical question. We are talking about our people's survival which is very alarming."

Greenland, the world's largest island and still a dependency of Denmark, now has the highest proportion of women in the world.

Copyright 2007 Independent News and Media Limited

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From: San Francisco Chronicle (pg. A18)
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By David Perlman, Chronicle Science Editor

Gray whales, the massive mammals that migrate each year offshore along the California coast, once flourished in the tens of thousands before commercial whaling drove them nearly to extinction.

Now what remains of the whale population faces another threat, scientists say: The changing seabed of the Pacific Ocean can barely support a small fraction of their original numbers as the climate warms.

Recent gray whale counts indicate that about 22,000 of the gentle creatures now migrate along the coast. Until recently, scientists had assumed that the whales had fully recovered from their near extinction, and that the current number represented the entire population of Pacific gray whales that existed before the whale hunting era.

Not at all, according to a tricky DNA study by S. Elizabeth Alter and Stephen Palumbi of Stanford University's Hopkins Marine Station -- and there's a take-home lesson here, they say: Alter and Palumbi calculate there must have been about 100,000 gray whales along the Pacific coast before the whalers came. So if the ocean could once provide ample food for that many whales, but can't nourish the 22,000 or so that remain, then the changing ocean itself must be in trouble, too, they reason.

"Our chain of evidence tells us that if the ocean could once support 100,000 whales, then we need to ask ourselves why it can't support 20,000 now -- that's our worry for the state of the ocean," Palumbi said.

Climate change caused by global warming is most likely responsible, but other influences, such as pollution that degrades the sediments on the ocean bottom where the whales feed, or overfishing that alters the entire ocean ecology, could also play a role, the scientists say.

But as Alter said Monday in a telephone interview from New York, where she is working temporarily at the American Museum of Natural History, "It means we really must pay more attention to everything that impacts the ocean -- whether it's climate or shipping or fishing practices."

A report by Alter and Palumbi on the new evidence for population changes in the Pacific gray whales is being published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Other scientists have long been aware that the world's oceans have grown warmer in recent decades. They have documented the northward movement of organisms like crabs, shrimp and mollusks as they seek the colder water temperatures they need to thrive. Meanwhile, organisms that require warm environments are also spreading up from farther south to find new habitats that suit them.

"As we're watching the slow creep northward of the organisms on which the whales feed," Alter said, "it seems likely that the whales' lives are changing, too."

According to Palumbi, calving rates in the lagoons of Baja California have diminished in recent years, while adults are showing up thinner and even malnourished -- evidence that they are not getting enough nourishment from the sediments of the northern ocean.

"This is evidence that the whole ecosystem of the Bering Sea is changing," he said, "and that's reason for real concern."

The population estimates by Alter and Palumbi are based on their study of genetic diversity in 42 gray whales whose DNA provided a record of their original numbers. In small populations of animals, there's more inbreeding and less genetic variation, Palumbi explained, while larger populations mean greater genetic diversity -- "so the record of their numbers in the past is written in their DNA today," Palumbi said in an interview.

"This is a brilliant application of a powerful technique that tells us the estimates of pre-whaling gray whale populations were quite likely a serious underestimate," said Jane Lubchenco, a noted marine biologist at Oregon State University who was not involved in the Hopkins research but is an expert on ocean ecology.

"These findings challenge the current assessment that gray whales have more or less recovered from the (earlier) impacts of whaling."

Whale watchers along California's coast are delighted every autumn when they spot the huge animals heading south, and just as delighted again in the spring, when the whales -- including mothers with their newborn calves swimming alongside -- head for the far north, a round- trip journey of at least 12,000 miles.

The toothless gray whales are bottom feeders -- they scoop up sediment from the ocean floor and strain out crustaceans, mollusks and other organisms through the baleen plates that act like combs of thick hair attached to their upper jaws while the sediment returns to the seabed - "they're like marine bulldozers," as Palumbi said.

E-mail David Perlman at dperlman@sfchronicle.com.

Copyright 2007 Hearst Communications Inc.

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By Daniel Grossman

PALMER STATION, Antarctica -- William Fraser remembers when the ice floes and rocky outcrops near this U.S. outpost were thick with Adelie penguins and the constant, almost deafening roar of their calls made it impossible to hold a conversation.

"You could not go anywhere without seeing hundreds to thousands of Adelies," says the ecologist.

Today, the Adelies outnumber people in this icy patch of the world by 100 to 1. The ratio sounds impressive until Fraser notes that the penguin population has shrunk by 80 percent since he began studying it in 1974, and that he expects the knee-high birds to be extinct in eight years.

What's to blame? Fraser, president of the Polar Ocean Research Group, says global warming is part of the problem because it has made it harder for the penguins to forage and breed.

When he first arrived at Palmer Station, Fraser says, the climate was cold and relatively dry. Now it is warmer and wet, "a bit like southeast Alaska," he says. "That environment did not exist at Palmer 30 years ago."

Peninsula problem

Palmer Station, the smallest of three permanent U.S. research bases on the continent, is near the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula, a finger-like piece of land that points at South America.

The region is warming faster than anywhere else on Earth. Winter temperatures have risen by between 9 and 11 degrees Fahrenheit since recordkeeping began about 50 years ago, and the annual sea ice that covers the ocean near Palmer Station lasts 25 percent to 30 percent fewer days than it did in the 1970s.

Adelie penguins spend 90 percent of their lives at sea, swimming or huddled on ice floes in one of the world's harshest climates.

In 1974, about 15,200 breeding pairs nested each summer on a handful of windswept islands near Palmer Station.

In 2003, there were 5,635 breeding pairs. "Right now, you can walk on some of these islands and it is completely silent," Fraser said at the time. "It's sad."

During the 2005 breeding season, Fraser could find no breeding pairs on a rocky outcrop called Litchfield Island. It marked the first time in at least 700 years that, according to paleontological evidence from an excavation, Adelie penguins hadn't nested there.

The latest breeding season ended early this year. Speaking from his home in Montana, Fraser said his team counted only 3,393 pairs of Adelies.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said in July that it is considering listing 10 species of penguins as possibly facing extinction, also citing global warming as part of the problem. Adelie penguins are not on the agency's list, however, because large colonies in other parts of Antarctica are thriving.

Fraser says the birds near Palmer Station are struggling to have families.

Adelies arrive at the islands in the area each October, soon after the snow melts during the southern hemisphere's spring. They build pebble nests big enough to cradle a basketball in colonies with up to several thousand adults.

But there is evidence that snowfall is increasing on the Antarctic Peninsula, which in the past was almost desert-like. The cause is believed to be warmer air, which is able to hold more moisture, and reduced sea ice, which permits more ocean water to evaporate.

More winter precipitation means the islands around Palmer Station don't become snow-free until later in the spring. But Adelies can't build nests and lay viable eggs until their gravel breeding ground is bare.

Time pressure to feed

If the penguins wait too long to lay eggs, there won't be enough time to raise chicks before the area's krill season ends and the penguins are forced to move for the winter.

When they do depart, the Adelies rely on ice floes, which act like moving sidewalks, helping to carry the birds to their winter feeding grounds hundreds of miles south of Palmer Station. But sea ice is shrinking, Fraser says, and the penguins don't always make it to the best places to feast on the shrimp-like krill that sustain them.

As a human being, Fraser says it is troubling to see the birds he's studied his whole professional life disappear. But as a scientist, he watches the rapid-fire changes taking place at Palmer Station with fascination.

"At one time we were getting glimpses of these changes," he says. "Right now they're so obvious it's quite remarkable."

Copyright 2007 by MSNBC.com

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From: The Guardian (Manchester, UK)
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By Alison Benjamin

Corals and seaweed have joined the ranks of threatened species, and more apes and reptiles are now facing extinction according to the World Conservation Union, which warns of a "global extinction crisis".

The conservation group's annual Red List of threatened species, published today, found that the extinction crisis had escalated in the last year with 16,306 species now at the highest levels of extinction threat, equivalent to almost 40% of all species in the survey.

A quarter of all mammals, a third of all amphibians and one in eight birds on the 2007 IUCN Red List are in jeopardy.

More than 180 species have been added since 2006 to the ranks of those classified as endangered, critically endangered or vulnerable.

IUCN director general Julia Marton-Lefevre warned that this year's list showed how efforts to protect species were inadequate and that a concerted effort by all levels of society was needed to prevent their widespread extinction.

"The rate of biodiversity loss is increasing and we need to act now to significantly reduce it and stave off this global extinction crisis," she said.

Despite reports of its demise, the Yangtze river dolphin is classified as critically endangered (possibly extinct). Although the last documented sighting of the dolphin was in 2002, further surveys are needed before it can be definitively classified as extinct, said the IUCN. A possible sighting last month is being investigated by Chinese scientists.

The IUCN report had just one success story. Mauritius Echo Parakeets have been downlisted from the "critically endangered" category to "endangered" after conservation measures led to 139 birds bred in captivity being successfully released into the wild.

Deputy head of IUCN's species programme, Jean-Christophe Vie, said an improvement for only one species was "really worrying" in the light of government commitments such as the 2010 target to slow down the rate of biodiversity loss.

Corals were assessed and added to the Red List for the first time, and two corals found in the Galapagos have entered the list in the "critically endangered" category and one in the "vulnerable" category. The rise in sea temperature caused by the effects of El Nino and climate change are identified as the main threats.

Ocean warming also threatens seaweeds around the islands, with 10 classified as critically endangered, six of which are highlighted as "possibly extinct".

The seaweeds are also affected by overfishing which removes predators from the food chain, resulting in an increase in sea urchins, which overgraze the algae.

Gorillas and orangutans face a particularly grim future after the discovery that more than 60% of Western Lowland Gorillas in Africa have been wiped out by the Ebola virus and the commercial bushmeat trade, and forest clearance for oil palm plantations, along with illegal logging, continue to seriously threaten the survival of orangutans in Sumatra and Borneo.

The Gharial crocodile has been uplisted from "endangered" to "critically endangered" following the discovery that there are less than 200 breeding adults left in the wild. The report said that excessive irreversible habitat loss in Nepal and India following the construction of dams and irrigation canals had wiped out more than half the crocodile's population in the last decade.

Other particularly threatened animals include the Eastern Chimpanzee, found in central and east Africa, which faces habitat loss, poaching and disease, and Speke's Gazelle whose numbers have been decimated by hunting, drought and overgrazing across the grasslands of Somalia and Ethiopia.

Two Mexican freshwater turtle species and a rattlesnake species are among the 700 reptiles added to the list this year after a major assessment in Mexico and North America. The Santa Catalina Island Rattlesnake, caught by illegal collectors and eaten by feral cats, is the most endangered new entry.

The brightly-coloured Banggai Cardinalfish, collected for the international aquarium trade, is one of 1,200 endangered fish on the list.

Vultures in Africa and Asia are among the most endangered birds with five s pecies, including the Red-headed Vulture and the Egyptian Vulture, reclassified this year. Lack of food, due to habitat loss, a reduction in grazing mammals and the increasing use of drugs to treat livestock are to blame for the vultures' rapid decline.

The Red List examines just over 40,000 species, around 12% of the 15m species in the world.

Around 70% of the world's assessed plants are on the 2007 Red List.

The Woolly-stalked Begonia, a Malaysian herb, was the only species declared extinct this year bringing the total number of extinct species to 785. A further 65 species now exist only in captivity.

Chair of the IUCN's species survival commission, Holly Dublin, said it showed how environmentalists alone could not save endangered animals and plants.

"The challenge of the extinction crisis also requires attention and action from the general public, the private sector, governments and policy makers to ensure that global biodiversity remains intact for generations to come," she said.

The IUCN report stressed how the rapid disappearance of species had a direct impact on people's lives. Declining freshwater fish, for example, deprived rural poor communities of their major source of food and their livelihoods.

Jane Smart, head of the IUCN's species programme, said: "Our lives are inextricably linked with biodiversity and ultimately its protection is essential for our very survival." Conservation charity, WWF, said the increasing number of threatened species on the IUCN Red List demonstrated how the planet was being pushed to its limits.

"We're at code red," said Dr Mark Wright, chief scientist at WWF-UK.

"The plight of the world's species is a mirror on the state of the planet.

Species are under enormous pressure as we systematically destroy their habitat or overexploit them for our increasingly demanding lifestyles.

"We urgently need to reverse this trend and start living within the planet's natural resources -- not just for the wellbeing of these threatened species but also for our own."

Copyright 2007 The Guardian

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From: Minneapolis Star Tribune
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By Molly Moore, Washington Post

ROUFFACH, France -- On a cobweb-encrusted rafter above his giant steel grape pressers, Rene Mure is charting one of the world's most tangible barometers of global warming.

The evidence, scrawled in black ink, is the first day of the annual grape harvest for the past three decades. In 1978, it was Oct. 16. In 1998, the date was Sept. 14. This year, harvesting started Aug. 24 -- the earliest ever recorded, not only in Mure's vineyards, but also in the entire Alsace wine district of northeastern France.

"I noticed the harvest was getting earlier before anybody had a name for it," said Mure, 59, the 11th generation of his family to produce wine from the clay and limestone slopes of the Vosges Mountains near the German border. "When I was young, we were harvesting in October with snow on the mountaintops. Today, we're harvesting in August."

Throughout the wine-producing world, from France to South Africa to California, vintners are in the vanguard of confronting the impact of climate change. Rising temperatures are forcing unprecedented early harvests, changing the tastes of the best-known varieties of wine and threatening the survival of centuries-old wine-growing regions.

In the hot Mediterranean vineyards -- the first to feel the effects of longer, drier summers -- vintners are harvesting grapes at night to protect the fragile fruit at the critical picking stage. Growers in Spain, Italy and southern France are buying land at higher terrains for future vineyards.

Wine comes back in England

Some champagne producers in northern France -- whose grapes were ready for harvest in August, earlier than in any year on record -- are eyeing properties in southern England, the current beneficiary of planet warming. The British wine industry is reemerging for the first time in the 500 years since a mini-ice age cooled Europe.

While Provence and other southern regions of France have suffered through debilitating droughts and high temperatures for several seasons, scientists and growers have been stunned by the dramatic evolutions in the northernmost regions of Alsace and Champagne, long considered less susceptible to global warming.

"Usually Alsace is one of the last regions to harvest in France, and this year we were the first ones," said Gerard Boesch, president of the Alsace Wine Association. "That's astonishing. Vintners wonder how all this will turn out in a few years."

In a chain reaction of nature, climate change is also sending new insects and diseases north. The leafhopper is migrating north with warmer weather, spreading yellow-leaf disease in Alsace vineyards for the first time, according to a regional research institute.

Scientists and vintners say wine grapes are the best agricultural measure of climate change because of their extraordinary sensitivity to weather and the meticulous data that have been kept concerning the long-lived vines.

"The link of wine to global warming is unique because the quality of wine is very dependent on the climate," said Bernard Seguin, an authority on the impact of global warming and viniculture at the French National Agronomy Institute. "For me, it is the ultimate expression of the consequences of climate change."

Nowhere is the impact more acute or better documented than in France. Here, the $13 billion wine industry is not only crucial to the economy but also more inextricably entwined in the culture and heritage of the people than in any other wine-producing country on earth.

For centuries, the "vendange," or annual grape harvest, has been treated as a near-religious ritual, with parish churches maintaining meticulous records in dusty, crumbling ledgers.

French regulations are strict

In France, winegrowers are subject to the world's most rigid cultivation restrictions: Vintners can grow only varieties authorized for their region, harvests are tightly regulated and, until this year, no irrigation was allowed. Year after year, the climate is the single greatest variable in France's wine production, making its vineyards the perfect climate-change laboratory for scientists.

Rene Mure's family has been growing grapes and producing wine in the hills surrounding the picturesque village of Rouffach since 1648. The family tree, with its 12 generations of wine growers -- Rene's children, Veronique, 31, and Thomas, 27, are the newest Mure vintners -- is tacked to a wall in his cellars, which produce 350,000 bottles of wine a year.

In 1932, his grandfather bought the 37.5-acre Domaine du Clos St Landelin, named for the abbey whose monks tilled the vineyards in the 8th century. Its sunny, southern exposure on the steep mountain flanks made it one of the choicest vineyards in the area, and it produced the Mure family's finest wines.

Mure and other French vintners have detected global warming's influence in their wines for the past three decades. Their red pinot noirs have become more aromatic, and their white Gewurztraminers are sweeter with fragrances of litchi and roses.

Adding sugar isn't needed

All over France, vintners have abandoned their forefathers' practice of adding sugar to the wine vats to improve flavors and increase alcohol content. The sun and warmer summers are doing the job for them. Through the 1980s and 1990s, French wines won higher and higher ratings from domestic and international wine critics, many of whom tend to give high ratings to wines from grapes that have fully ripened.

But the climate warming has accelerated faster than vintners or French scientists anticipated. Higher temperatures throughout the growing season have pushed up sugar levels, and consequently alcohol levels, in the wines. Some producers in Provence are adding acidic compounds to their wines in an effort to keep them from becoming too sweet and undrinkable.

Vintners in Alsace are now facing similar problems. The average temperature in Alsace, which is bordered by the Rhine River and Germany, has risen 3.5 degrees in the past 30 years -- a dramatic increase for sensitive grapevines.

"For 10 years, our problem has been to preserve the acidity," keeping it from being overpowered by alcohol and sugar, Mure said. "Wines need to be balanced to have fresh, crisp flavor."

Mure already has started changing the way he cultivates his grapes, growing some vines closer to the ground with fewer leaves in the style of southern grape growers, giving his vines less exposure to the sun.

He wants to experiment with growing warm-climate Syrah grapes in Alsace. The way Mure sees it, if the southern climate is moving north, he should be prepared to grow grapes that can take the heat.

"We have to stay in contact with the climate and the 'terroir,' " said Mure, referring to the soil, slope, climate and locality that give wine from each vineyard its unique flavor and aroma. "We have to adapt. It's a question of survival."

But Mure is discovering that the regimentation of the French wine- production system, which has allowed climate change to be documented so accurately, is now threatening to undermine the very industry it was designed to protect.

Before he can experiment with plantings of Syrah grapes, Mure must obtain the permission of the Alsace Wine Association, watchdog of the region's viniculture reputation and tradition. Without its approval, said his daughter, Veronique, planting different grapes would be "as illegal as planting marijuana."

'We have to adapt'

"Of course, we have to adapt to climate changes," said Boesch, the association president and a winegrower. But, he added, "We have to preserve our identity. Our identity is not Syrah, it's Riesling," the grape that produces Alsase's white wines.

Scientists warn that climate change is advancing so rapidly that it threatens to overwhelm the cumbersome French wine bureaucracy.

"Some vintners, like the Mures, are ahead of others," said Philippe Kuntzmann, a grapevine specialist at Interprofessional Technical Center for Vines and Wine in the Alsace regional capital of Colmar. "Others are more traditional; they want to wait and see. If you wait too long, it will be too late."

Rene Mure's daughter, who studied agronomy and biology in college, said she sees change as the only way to pass the family heritage on to her 2�-year-old daughter, Margaux, and the son she is expecting to deliver in November.

"Yes, it's a radical idea," she said. "We don't say that tomorrow we'll get rid of pinot noir [for the family's red wines] and replace it with Syrah. It takes years and years to see the results in winemaking. We think it will be investing in the future to have this experiment."

Copyright 2007 Star Tribune.

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From: The New York Times (pg. A6)
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By Celia W. Dugger

A new study by the economist William Cline quantifies sharp reductions in agricultural productivity in many of Africa's poorest countries by the 2080s if greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase.

Such declines are particularly grave in Africa, where most people still depend on farming.

Mr. Cline, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development and the Peterson Institute for International Economics, projects that Sudan and Senegal could see agricultural production fall by more than half, while it would decline by 30 to 40 percent in other parts of Africa. South Asia would also suffer, with declines of 38 percent in India and 22 percent in Bangladesh.

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From: Washington Post
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By Jeremy Lovell, Reuters

The International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) security think-tank said global warming would hit crop yields and water availability everywhere, causing great human suffering and leading to regional strife.

While everyone had now started to recognize the threat posed by climate change, no one was taking effective leadership to tackle it and no one could tell precisely when and where it would hit hardest, it added.

"The most recent international moves towards combating global warming represent a recognition... that if the emission of greenhouse gases ... is allowed to continue unchecked, the effects will be catastrophic -- on the level of nuclear war," the IISS report said.

"Even if the international community succeeds in adopting comprehensive and effective measures to mitigate climate change, there will still be unavoidable impacts from global warming on the environment, economies and human security," it added.

Scientists say global average temperatures will rise by between 1.8 and 4.0 degrees Celsius this century due to burning fossil fuels for power and transport.

The IISS report said the effects would cause a host of problems including rising sea levels, forced migration, freak storms, droughts, floods, extinctions, wildfires, disease epidemics, crop failures and famines.

The impact was already being felt -- particularly in conflicts in Kenya and Sudan -- and more was expected in places from Asia to Latin America as dwindling resources led to competition between haves and have nots.

"We can all see that climate change is a threat to global security, and you can judge some of the more obvious causes and areas," said IISS transnational threat specialist Nigel Inkster. "What is much harder to do is see how to cope with them."

The report, an annual survey of the impact of world events on global security, said conflicts and state collapses due to climate change would reduce the world's ability to tackle the causes and to reduce the effects of global warming.

State failures would increase the gap between rich and poor and heighten racial and ethnic tensions which in turn would produce fertile breeding grounds for more conflict.

Urban areas would not be exempt from the fallout as falling crop yields due to reduced water and rising temperatures would push food prices higher, IISS said.

Overall, it said 65 countries were likely to lose over 15 percent of their agricultural output by 2100 at a time when the world's population was expected to head from six billion now to nine billion people.

"Fundamental environmental issues of food, water and energy security ultimately lie behind many present security concerns, and climate change will magnify all three," it added.

Copyright 2007 Reuters

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