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AmeriScan: September 20, 2002

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Climate Doomed to Warm, At Least a Little

WASHINGTON, DC, September 20, 2002 (ENS) - The world's climate will warm over the next 50 years regardless of whether or not nations curb their greenhouse gas emissions soon, a new computer climate model predicts.

A report on the model, using data from the last 50 years to forecast the next half century, finds that if no emission reductions are made and they continue to increase at the current rate, global temperatures may increase by one to two degrees Celsius (two to four degrees Fahrenheit). But if the growth rate of carbon dioxide does not exceed its current rate and if the growth of true air pollutants - substances that are harmful to human health - is reversed, temperatures may rise by only 0.75 degrees Celsius (1.4 degrees Fahrenheit).

"Some continued global warming will occur, probably about 0.5 degrees Celsius (0.9 degrees Fahrenheit) even if the greenhouse gases in the air do not increase further, but the warming could be much less than the worst case scenarios," said James Hansen, lead researcher on the study at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS).

The research was a collaborative effort among 19 institutions, including seven universities, federal agencies, private industry and other NASA centers. A report on the research appears this month in the "Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres," published by the American Geophysical Union.

The GISS SI2000 climate model provided a convincing demonstration that the global temperature change of the past half century was a response to the release climate changing greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide and methane, which trap the Earth's heat radiation as a blanket traps body heat, the researchers said.

The computer model's ability to simulate the past 50 years of global temperature change demonstrated its value. The model's predictions about the period from 1951-2000 are in close agreement with real, observed changes: the surface has warmed by about 0.5 degrees Celsius (0.9 degrees Fahrenheit), while the upper atmosphere has cooled by about one degree Celsius (two degrees Fahrenheit).

The climate model then simulated global temperature change during the next 50 years, under two different assumptions about future releases of greenhouse gases. The "business as usual" scenario, in which greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase, leads to an accelerating rate of global warming, raising global temperature to levels that have not existed during the past several hundred thousand years.

In the "alternative" scenario, in which air pollution is decreased and fossil fuel carbon dioxide emissions are stabilized, further global warming is limited to 0.75 degrees Celsius (1.4 degrees Fahrenheit) over the next 50 years.

Hansen cautioned that the alternative scenario would not be easy to achieve. It requires that the world begin to reverse emissions of air pollutants such as soot, methane and carbon dioxide.

"Decision makers, including the public, may need to consider all of these options as climate change becomes more apparent and as our understanding of the climate forcing agents improves," Hansen said. "Halting and reversing the growth of air pollution is possible with existing and developing technologies. It would have other benefits, especially for human health and agricultural productivity."

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Reviews of International Projects Blocked

WASHINGTON, DC, September 20, 2002 (ENS) - U.S. Treasury Department officials are blocking Congressionally mandated environmental reviews of projects financed by multinational banks, according to documents released by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

PEER, a national alliance of local state and federal resource professionals, says that as a result of the Treasury Department's actions, destructive projects in Asia, Africa and South America are receiving improper U.S. support in obtaining loans from institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

"The Bush Administration is giving short shrift not only to environmental protections but also to safeguards against rank corruption and disruption of native peoples," said PEER executive director Jeff Ruch. "While a domestic project like oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge receives extensive study and debate, each year the U.S. is financing scores of projects in developing countries, each with potentially far greater impact, with little or no environmental review."

Under a statute called the Pelosi Amendment, named after its author, California Democratic Representative Nancy Pelosi, the U.S. delegations to international lending institutions, such as the World Bank, are forbidden from supporting any financial aid to projects that have not undergone environmental review. The agency charged with monitoring compliance with review requirements is the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

Interagency correspondence obtained by PEER shows that the Treasury Department has directed USAID to exclude from its reports to Congress that:

  • Almost half the money loaned by multilateral development banks has received no environmental review at all
  • Many of the reviews are incomplete and do not meet the law's standards. For example, the Chad-Cameroon oil pipeline - the biggest development project in Africa - lacks plans for dealing with oil spills, invasive species from tanker ballast and other foreign commerce and the absence of support infrastructure for large scale petroleum operations
  • Reviews are often completed after the fact, with little consideration of alternatives and are not readily available to outside groups or native populations

One memo from Treasury Department international economist Gretchen Biery, sent to acting USAID assistant administrator Robert Lester in March 2001 details information that the Treasury Department wanted omitted from USAID's report to Congress entitled "Multilateral Development Bank Loans that Raise Environmental Concerns."

The memo recommends that USAID delete references or quotes pertaining to critics of international financial institutions, including multilateral development banks (MDBs), that have not been analyzed by the federal government. USAID was also asked to remove "recommendations on and analysis of broad MDB policies," including energy policies, lending practices and whether environmental assessments are a "fiduciary duty" of MDBs.

PEER charges that, in addition to violating the Pelosi Amendment, suppression of the environmental reviews also means that environmental problems do not get analyzed until much later in the process, sometimes after international financing has already been committed or spent.

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Washington State Agencies Seek Sustainability

SEATTLE, Washington, September 20, 2002 (ENS) - Washington Governor Gary Locke has issued an executive order calling for sustainable environmental practices for all state agencies.

The goal of the order is to use human, environmental and economic resources "more wisely," including the use of energy efficient products, recycled materials and conservation programs, Locke said.

The executive order is intended to guide Washington state government's long term sustainability practices and strengthen the state's economic and environmental vitality. This includes using the state's $1 billion in purchasing power for environmental products and conservation.

Locke signed the executive order following the first meeting of the Governor's Sustainable Washington Advisory Panel. The advisory panel consists of representatives from the public and private sector who will focus on developing an action plan for a "sustainable Washington."

"We're committed to strengthening the health of Washington's economy, environment and communities," Locke said. "Employing sustainable practices enables us to address our current needs without sacrificing the needs of future generations. We, as a state, should serve as a model and contribute positively to the long term protection and enhancement of our quality of life."

In February, after receiving an award from the Resource Renewal Institute, Locke pledged to create a working interagency group to pursue sustainable strategies and charged them with developing an executive order.

The resulting executive order directs state agencies to establish sustainability objectives that reduce the impacts of the operations on human health and the environment, and to prepare a biennial sustainability plan to modify their practices. Sustainability plans prepared by state agencies should help to minimize energy and water use, promote clean energy sources for facilities and vehicles, use non-toxic, recycled and remanufactured materials in purchasing and construction, and reduce or eliminate waste.

The order also calls for the state Office of Financial Management to designate a person to assist state agencies in meeting their goals, and establishes an advisory council to advise state agencies on how to apply sustainability measures to government operations.

"The state has already made efforts to promote sustainability, including purchasing hybrid gas electric vehicles for statewide use and setting environmentally progressive provisions for buying carpeting, lamps and office furniture in state buildings," Locke said. "But there is more that we can do to close the gap between production and consumption."

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New York City Protects Community Gardens

NEW YORK, New York, September 20, 2002 (ENS) - After years of controversy over the future of community gardens built on city owned vacant lots, New York City has agreed to protect almost 500 community gardens

Mayor Michael Bloomberg and state attorney general Eliot Spitzer have announced an agreement that will enable the city to proceed with plans for the construction of more than 3,000 units of affordable housing, while preserving almost 200 GreenThumb gardens and increasing the protection of almost 200 gardens. The agreement raises the number of protected gardens in the city to almost 500.

The process will ensure that existing gardens are considered in city land use decisions and that gardens on property being developed will be offered alternate gardening space, where available. The agreement resolves a three year old lawsuit over the development of city owned property containing community gardens.

"This comprehensive agreement benefits all New York City residents," said Mayor Bloomberg. "It allows much needed affordable housing development to move forward - providing construction jobs and a boost to our City's economy."

"In addition, we are providing permanent protection to hundreds of community gardens throughout New York City, and establishing a fair process for reviewing future proposals to develop other garden properties," Bloomberg added. "I think this agreement strikes the right balance between building for the future and preserving precious open space."

Under the agreement, the city can move forward with the development of 2,319 units of affordable housing, and plans for an additional 710 units can proceed. A total of 153 GreenThumb garden sites may be returned to residential use. In exchange, the city will offer 198 sites to the Parks Department and/or to not for profit land trust organizations for preservation as community gardens or as open space. Another 197 gardens that were already preserved will be granted additional protection, and the city will not seek to develop 100 gardens maintained by the Department of Education, raising the number of preserved gardens to 495.

The agreement establishes a garden review process that will provide detailed information about each garden planned for development during the public review process for the proposed development. The agreement also provides for the relocation of a garden to an alternate site if available when a garden is developed.

Gardeners will be offered licenses to operate gardens, and the GreenThumb Program will be continued. Established in 1978, GreenThumb is the nation's largest urban gardening program, assisting neighborhood groups in the creation and maintenance of community gardens.

Since the inception of the program, 86 gardens have been preserved through formal acquisition by the Parks Department while the city has sought to develop other gardens for housing.

A lawsuit was filed in May 1999 by the state attorney general to stop the auctioning of community gardens to developers. An earlier settlement resulted in the purchase and preservation of 111 gardens by the Trust for Public Land and actress Bette Midler's New York Restoration Project.

In February 2000, the Attorney General obtained a further injunction preventing the city from selling or developing 351 GreenThumb gardens. That order remained in effect until this week's settlement.

"Since the day this lawsuit was filed, I have asserted that New York City residents need affordable housing and community gardens, and this settlement proves that they can indeed have both," said Attorney General Spitzer. "We need to preserve as much green space as possible, while at the same time allowing for development where appropriate. I applaud Mayor Bloomberg for recognizing that these two goals are not mutually exclusive, and for saving so many community gardens, which are a vibrant part of the city's neighborhoods."

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Awards Honor Successful Mine Reclamation

WASHINGTON, DC, September 20, 2002 (ENS) - The Interior Department has issued special awards for what it calls the three most outstanding examples of coal mine reclamation since the Surface Mining Law was enacted in 1977.

The winners of the Special 25th Anniversary Awards for Excellence in Surface Coal Mine Reclamation since 1977 include:

  • Gold Award - Solar Sources, Inc., restored the Sky-Point Mine in Indiana to farmland, which is now producing a variety of crops, including hay, soybeans and wheat.
  • Silver Award - The Bellaire Corporation reclaimed the site of the Indian Head Mine in North Dakota into cropland and native grassland for cattle grazing.
  • Bronze Award - Trapper Mining, Inc. reclaimed the Trapper Mine in Colorado, and controlled sedimentation from the project to recreate habitat for deer and elk on the mine's 10,000 acre permit area.

"The projects and winners of these awards are a true testament to the great strides and achievement the coal industry has made toward stewardship and protection of the environment during the 25 years since the Surface Mining Law was passed," Norton said.

The Interior Department's Office of Surface Mining (OSM), the agency responsible for regulating the environmental impacts of coal production, was created by the 1977 law and sponsors the awards each year.

"For 25 years the coal mining industry has been regulated under the federal Surface Mining Law, and the improvements are dramatic," Norton said.

Norton also announced that coal mine operators in Arizona, Illinois, Louisiana, New Mexico, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia, are winners of this year's Excellence in Surface Mining Reclamation Awards. Among the projects recognized by the award are efforts to protect archeological and historic resources at the Falkirk Mine in North Dakota and the Kayenta Mine in Arizona.

The Consolidation Coal Company Burning Star No. 4 Mine in Illinois was recognized for the successful restoration of two major streams, including streambanks, wetlands and upland wildlife habitats. About 350,000 trees were planted in association with the stream restoration.

At the Signor Brothers Babb Creek Operation in Pennsylvania, company workers removed 22,000 tons of century old coal refuse without harming Babb Creek. And the 11,000 acres of the Arch of Illinois, Inc. Captain and Denmark Mines have been added to Pyramid State Park, making it the largest state park in Illinois.

More information is available at: http://www.osmre.gov/awards.htm

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Saturday is International Coastal Cleanup Day

WASHINGTON, DC, September 20, 2002 (ENS) - Saturday marks the 17th annual International Coastal Cleanup, which will involve volunteers in 55 U.S. states and territories.

Each year, millions of tons of trash wash up onto America's coasts. Much of the trash consists of regular household waste - bottles, cans, cigarette butts, balloons and fishing line. This coastal debris is dangerous to coastal wildlife, threatens water quality and reduces safe recreational use of shores and waterways.

According to the Ocean Conservancy, which coordinates U.S. cleanup efforts, marine debris is one of the most pervasive pollution problems affecting the nation's oceans and inland waterways. The conservation group offers links to cleanup coordinators across the nation, and around the world, at: http://coastalcleanup.org/participate.cfm

Federal Sea Grant programs around the nation have partnered with other community groups to assist in the coastal cleanup. Residents of New Hampshire, Minnesota, South Carolina, Hawaii, Florida, Rhode Island and New York can join their state Sea Grant programs in clearing trash from local beaches.

With the exception of New Hampshire, which held its clean up last week, the cleanups will take place this Saturday from 9 am to noon local time.

In South Florida, participants can clean one of several area beaches through the "Keep Miami and South Florida Beautiful," program. More information is available at: http://keepmiamibeautiful.org

Hawaii's "Get the Drift and Bag It!" program will collect derelict fishing gear that can harm marine mammals. Discarded gear also impacts marine ecosystems by abrading reef corals as wave motion scrubs the gear and broken coral heads back and forth over fragile reefs. For more information, visit: http://www.soest.hawaii.edu/SEAGRANT/GDBI2002.pdf

The Minnesota Sea Grant is cosponsoring the Great Lakes Beach Sweep at several locations around Lake Superior. For more information, visit the Great Lakes Aquarium website at: http://www.glaquarium.org/beach02.html

New York State's two coasts - along Long Island Sound and the Atlantic Ocean, and Lake Ontario, offer plenty of room for participants to pick up garbage, learn about marine pollution and find out how to solve the problem of floating debris. Upstate participants in the Buffalo area will include students from the State University of New York at Buffalo, who will focus on the campus's Lake LaSalle and nearby creek as part of the Great Lakes Beach Sweep.

In Rhode Island, the state's "Bag It!" program will take place at 55 locations, where participants will receive bags, t-shirts, paper and pencils for joining the effort. The trash collected will be recorded to form a snapshot of the waste along Rhode Island's coast.

The cleanup, sponsored by the Audubon Society, is part of a "Coastweeks Calendar" created by Rhode Island Sea Grant. The calendar's events include tours, lectures, displays and more, all meant to celebrate the coast. For more information, visit: http://seagrant.gso.uri.edu/Coastweeks

South Carolina Sea Grant's Beach Sweep/River Sweep is the state's largest one day volunteer effort of its kind, involving the efforts of more than 7,000 people. Participants not only collect coastal debris, but make an inland effort as well, cleaning riverbanks, lakes, marshes and swamps. For more information, visit: http://www.scseagrant.org/education/education_bsrs.htm

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Green Advisor Offers Environmental Lifestyle Tips

NEW YORK, New York, September 20, 2002 (ENS) - A new website compiles advice from a variety of environmental groups on ways for people to save money while living a more environmentally friendly lifestyle.

The new site from Environmental Defense, Green Adviser (http://www.greenadviser.org), debuted this week. Green Adviser features links to articles, interactive tools and databases that help consumers make smarter, healthier choices.

The site's tips show how simple changes in daily activities, such as shopping or driving, can save money while saving the planet. In addition, a recipe section offers suggestions on maintaining a more healthful diet.

"Simple changes in day to day activities can have a beneficial environmental effect," said Environmental Defense's director of Internet and media services Joyce Newman. "Green Adviser helps those seeking practical advice with new tips every week on positive lifestyle changes."

Created and maintained by Environmental Defense, the non-commercial site offers advice on everything from buying environmentally friendly products to learning how to enjoy nature without leaving more than footprints behind. It features links to the best advice available from web sites representing regional and national green groups, health programs, conservation associations and other environmentally conscious organizations dedicated to promoting a healthier lifestyle.

Green Adviser includes advice and tips on green products, such as the least polluting automobiles and energy efficient appliances, and suggestions on how to shop online for green items. Green diet tips include how to read the labels of organic or natural foods, health news and a selection of recipes from celebrity chefs.

The Green Places section offers advice on exploring the great outdoors or creating a green spot in your own backyard, and the recycling section includes information on how to reduce waste, eliminate junk mail and shop for products that contain post consumer recycled materials.

Green Adviser also showcases a "Green Link of the Week" and links to interactive tools for consumers, like Environmental Defense's Seafood Selector, which suggests eco-friendly fish choices, and Tailpipe Tally, which helps consumers choose less polluting cars and trucks.

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Organic Agriculture Rally Held in Manhattan

NEW YORK, New York, September 20, 2002 (ENS) - Dozens of environmental and community activists gathered in New York City on Thursday to call on parents and other concerned citizens to protect children by supporting organic agriculture and the new organic standards that go into effect nationwide on October 21st.

"For children, being born into a healthy Earth is a fundamental right. Yet their vulnerable bodies are repeatedly exposed to pesticides, chemicals, hormones and other persistent and dangerous chemicals," said Raffi, renowned children's songwriter and ecology advocate. "Alternatives like organic farming do exist and it is time they received society's full support. If children had a say, they'd vote organic."

Raffi was joined at the Children's Museum of Manhattan, by fourth graders from P.S. 87 in singing "Naturally," his ballad about growing tasty foods in pure, healthy soil.

Dr. Sandra Steingraber, ecologist, cancer survivor and author of "Having Faith: An Ecologist's Journey to Motherhood," shared her decision as a mother to buy organic groceries for her two young children.

"Buying organic is a way of redirecting our food dollars to support non-toxic agricultural practices and, as such, protects not only our own children's health, but the health of farmers' children who suffer from higher rates of cancer than average," Steingraber said. "Choosing to buy organic is one of the few lifestyle changes we can make that actually has profound social and political implications as well."

Katherine DiMatteo, the executive director of the Organic Trade Association's 12 year effort to win passage of the organic standards, compared choosing organic products to wearing a bicycle helmet or using a car seat: a simple choice to protect children.

"Organic agriculture minimizes children's exposure to toxic and persistent pesticides in the foods they eat - as well as in the soil in which they play, the air they breathe and the water they drink," DiMatteo said.

Certified organic crops must be grown on certified farmland that has not been treated with synthetic fertilizers, pesticides or other prohibited substances for at least three years. Certified organic farmland is kept healthy through regular crop rotation to maintain natural soil health and eliminate the need for toxic and persistent pesticides and fertilizers.

The organic standards prohibit the use of genetic engineering, ionizing radiation, sewage sludge, antibiotics and growth hormones, and control labeling of organic food and agricultural fibers.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) approved four categories of organic labels, based on the percentage of organic content:

  1. 100 Percent Organic - all of a product's content is certified organic
  2. Organic - at least 95 percent is certified organic
  3. Made with Organic - at least 70 percent is organic
  4. Less than 70 - products with less than 70 percent organic content may identify organic content only on the product label's ingredient list.

The USDA's organic seal may only be displayed on products with at least 95 percent certified organic content. Consumers will start seeing the labels on organic products on October 21st.

"Buying organic doesn't require a big lifestyle change. The aim is progress, not perfection," said DiMatteo, grandmother of two. "Families can start by picking one organic item a week. Start with organic apples, then try organic yogurt or milk the next time you shop. All it takes is one new organic item a week!"

The Organic Trade Association has drawn up a guide entitled "Seven Tips for Buying Organic Foods," available on The O'Mama Report, its consumer website: http://www.theorganicreport.org



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