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Energy and Global Warming News for August 6th: Climate change could destroy 80% of rainforest by 2100

Scientist: “Conservation of the world’s biota, as we know it, will depend upon rapid, steep declines in greenhouse gas emissions.”

Climate change could destroy 80 per cent of rainforest by next century: Fewer than one in five of the plants and animals which currently live in the world’s rainforests will still be here in 90 years time, a study predicts.

Rainforests currently hold more than half of all the plant and animal species on Earth.

However, scientists say the combined effects of climate change and deforestation may force them to adapt, move, or die.

By 2100, this could have altered two-thirds of the rainforests in Central and South America, about 70 per cent in Africa.

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The Amazon Basin alone could see changes in biodiversity for 80 per cent of the region.

Greg Asner, of the Carnegie Institution’s Department of Global Ecology in California, who led the research, said it was the first study yet to show the world’s natural ecosystems will undergo profound changes.

He explained: “This is the first global compilation of projected ecosystem impacts for humid tropical forests affected by these combined forces.

“For those areas of the globe projected to suffer most from climate change, land managers could focus their efforts on reducing the pressure from deforestation, thereby helping species adjust to climate change, or enhancing their ability to move in time to keep pace with it.

“On the flip side, regions of the world where deforestation is projected to have fewer effects from climate change could be targeted for restoration.”

Asner and his team made their findings by looking at global deforestation and logging maps from satellite imagery, and high-resolution data from 16 climate-change projections worldwide.

They then ran scenarios on how different types of species could be geographically reshuffled by 2100.

The results showed only 18 per cent- less than a fifth — to 45 per cent — less than half- of the plants and animals making up ecosystems in tropical rainforests may remain as we known them today.

Daniel Nepstad, senior scientist at the Woods Hole Research Center, which studies climate change in Massachusetts, said: “This study is the strongest evidence yet that the world’s natural ecosystems will undergo profound changes including severe alterations in their species composition through the combined influence of climate change and land use.

“Conservation of the world’s biota, as we know it, will depend upon rapid, steep declines in greenhouse gas emissions.”

The study was published in the journal Conservation Letters.

Corporation or consumer: Who’s driving us toward sustainability?

As a consumer, it’s nice to think that you’re in the driver’s seat. Each dollar you spend goes to this retailer, then to that supplier and on to such-and-such manufacturer, quite often ending up at so-and-so corporation and/or global conglomerate. Where and on what you spend that dollar determines which companies earn profit and influences how other companies make products as they try to compete on the open market. That is the win-win scenario often outlined by “free market” proponents, is it not?

Of course, there are other variables, such as the limited knowledge consumers have of any given product beyond store shelves. How many of us really know (or want to know) where that t-shirt, canned corn or package of steak came from? That has led to some of the so-called “greenwashing” problems the natural foods industry has experienced, leaving catchphrases like “all-natural” essentially meaningless. It is also why we have USDA Organic and other eco-labeling organizations that vet products and companies claiming to be “green.”

Clean-coal project advances with $1 billion in funding

The Obama administration Thursday awarded $1 billion to an Illinois project that aims to sharply reduce greenhouse-gas emissions from coal-fired power plants, the latest in a long-running saga aimed at proving coal’s viability amid widespread pressure to combat climate change.

The new project, known as “FutureGen 2.0,” replaces an earlier plan to build a first-of-a kind, “clean coal” power plant in Illinois using a different technology. Supporters of the latest version say it will create jobs and reduce greenhouse-gas pollution. Opponents contend it is a waste of money and thinly veiled reward for President Barack Obama’s home state.

The move is the latest development in the roller-coaster history of the concept, part of a controversial effort by Washington and the coal industry to prove that coal can be burned without releasing heat-trapping gasses into the atmosphere. The George W. Bush administration launched the first incarnation of FutureGen in 2003, only to cancel it five years later, citing cost overruns.

The project got a new shot last year with the inauguration of Mr. Obama, who supported the venture as an Illinois senator and vowed repeatedly on the campaign stump to support “clean-coal” projects.

Change in Ontario’s FIT program: New price for ground-mounted solar

Since passing the Green Energy Act last year, Ontario has tried to position itself as the leader for clean energy in Canada, North America, and around the world. One of the highlights of the Green Energy Act is the feed-in-tariff (FIT) program, which allows clean energy developers to create renewable energy projects and sell the electricity back to the grid. Ontario’s current FIT prices are the highest in Canada and among the highest in the world, providing anywhere between 44.3 and 80.2 cents per kWh for solar PV projects, depending on the size. All FIT prices are available online.

The FIT program has been relatively successful in boosting Canada’s green energy market. Solar PV projects are particularly popular with 700 solar rooftop projects approved in all areas of Ontario, including in Windsor, Toronto, and Thunder Bay. Ground-mounted projects are even more popular. More than 16,000 applications have been submitted for solar PV projects, with the lion’s share going to ground-mounted solar systems.

Scion iQ to hit dealerships in March 2011

We’ve all heard the rhetoric about how small cars are primed to be big sellers over the next few years, and nobody seems to be responding to that direction sooner than Toyota. The Japanese automaker is getting ready to challenge the diminutive Smart Fortwo here in the United States with the Scion iQ, and we’ve just been told by Toyota representatives to expect it to hit dealer showrooms around March of next year.

Unlike its main competitor, the iQ sports a unique 3+1 seating arrangement that will allow three real-sized human beings to fit in the car with an extra spot for a munchkin or car seat. Scion also promises that its micro car will boast real storage capacity, which is an important factor if people have any inkling to use their urban runabout as a second car. Expect a price somewhere in the vicinity of the Fortwo when the iQ hits the streets early next year.

On our radar: Russia warns of climate change

During an unparalleled heat wave, President Dmitri Medvedev of Russia steps up his climate warnings. “Everyone is talking about climate change now. Unfortunately, what is happening now in our central regions is evidence of this global climate change, because we have never in our history faced such weather conditions in the past,” he says. “This means that we need to change the way we work, change the methods that we used in the past.” [Kremlin]