30 June 2006

Social Entrepreneurs: New Squidoo Lens Created for Changemakers

I've just created a Squidoo lens called Changemakers. It is designed to be a resource to social entrepreneurs, their fans, and for anyone seeking to apply business principles and acumen to making social change happen.

Take a look, rate it, comment, give me feedback, help me raise money for the Acumen Fund (100% of proceeds generated by this lens goes to the fund!) and maybe create your own lens.

Check it out: Changemakers

And don't forget to join our conversation on gather.com: changemakers.gather.com

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Climate Change: Northeast US Floods Stir Global Warming Debate

BOSTON - Images of swamped homes in the US Northeast deepened suspicions over global warming, giving ammunition to scientists and others who say greenhouse gas-spewing cars and factories are fueling extreme weather, as reported in Reuters/Planet Ark this morning.

Meteorologists cautioned that no one should read too much into one storm. But the Atlantic Ocean is unusually warm for this time of year, they said, creating excess moisture in the atmosphere that can swiftly build a powerful rainstorm.
Paul Epstein, associate director of Harvard Medical School's Center for Health and the Global Environment, said the Atlantic is warming faster than scientists projected even a decade ago, and he expects such storms as the one seen this week from Virginia to New York to become common.

"Scientists and climatologists are looking at one another and we're just stunned because no one, even in the 1990s, projected the magnitude of the storms and degree of warming in the Arctic that we are seeing," he said.

Epstein sees a clear pattern: rain has increased in the United States by 7 percent in three decades; heavy rain events of more than 2 inches (5 cm) a day are up 14 percent and storms dumping more than 4 inches (10 cm) a day rose 20 percent.

Read the full article here: Floods
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Climate Change: Northeast US Floods Stir Global Warming Debate

BOSTON - Images of swamped homes in the US Northeast deepened suspicions over global warming, giving ammunition to scientists and others who say greenhouse gas-spewing cars and factories are fueling extreme weather, as reported in Reuters/Planet Ark this morning.

Meteorologists cautioned that no one should read too much into one storm. But the Atlantic Ocean is unusually warm for this time of year, they said, creating excess moisture in the atmosphere that can swiftly build a powerful rainstorm.
Paul Epstein, associate director of Harvard Medical School's Center for Health and the Global Environment, said the Atlantic is warming faster than scientists projected even a decade ago, and he expects such storms as the one seen this week from Virginia to New York to become common.

"Scientists and climatologists are looking at one another and we're just stunned because no one, even in the 1990s, projected the magnitude of the storms and degree of warming in the Arctic that we are seeing," he said.

Epstein sees a clear pattern: rain has increased in the United States by 7 percent in three decades; heavy rain events of more than 2 inches (5 cm) a day are up 14 percent and storms dumping more than 4 inches (10 cm) a day rose 20 percent.

Read the full article here: Floods
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28 June 2006

Media: Video Games that Change the World

NEW YORK (Reuters) -- Parents may worry that violent video games are bad for their children, but the technology can help save the world by raising awareness of the world's downtrodden, a group of socially conscious game designers say.

The creators of free educational games such as "Darfur is Dying" and "PeaceMaker" met with humanitarian activists at The New School University in New York on Tuesday for the third annual Games for Change conference.

The idea is to use video games to educate youth about real-world issues -- fighting poverty, surviving in war-torn Sudan and negotiating Middle East peace.

Read the full story at CNN

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Biodiversity & Poverty: Africa Validates "Natural Wealth" Connection

NAIROBI - Africa must harness its teeming mineral, freshwater, tourism and land resources to help fight poverty, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) said on Tuesday, as reported in Reuters/Planet Ark.

From the northernmost point of Morocco to the tip of South Africa, the continent is only realising a fraction of the economic potential tied up in its forests, lakes, mines and coastlines, UNEP said in a report titled "Our Environment, Our Wealth".
"The report challenges the myth that Africa is poor. Indeed, it points out that its vast natural wealth can ... be the basis for an African renaissance," said UNEP's new executive director Achim Steiner.

"The economic importance of the environment is increasingly recognised by Africa's leaders as an instrument for development, for livelihoods, for peace and stability," Steiner added.

But he warned that without changes in policy or sufficient funding "Africa may take a far more unsustainable track that would see an erosion of its nature-based wealth and a slide into ever deeper poverty".

Read the full story: Africa

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27 June 2006

Climate Change: Supreme Court to Rule on Auto Emissions

WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court said Monday it would decide whether a dozen states, three cities and a number of environmental groups can force the US government to regulate car and truck emissions that contribute to global warming, according to Reuters/Planet Ark news service:

In one of the most important environmental cases in decades, the justices agreed to review an appeals court ruling that the Environmental Protection Agency does not have to regulate the vehicle emissions blamed by most scientists for climate change.
The EPA said in 2003 that global warming has risks but it could not regulate greenhouse gas emissions because Congress had not granted it authority to do so under the Clean Air Act.

In their appeal, the states, cities and green groups said the issues raised by the case merited Supreme Court review and go to the heart of the EPA's legal responsibilities "to address the most pressing environmental challenge of our time."

They argued that the head of the EPA does have the authority to regulate carbon dioxide and other air pollutants associated with climate change.

Read the full article: Supreme Emissions.

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26 June 2006

Climate Change: World Bank & World Cup

From GreenBiz.com's GreenBuzz newsletter this morning:

First the World Bank, now the World Cup: From finance to futbol, climate management continues to draw the global spotlight this summer. In the world of business, two new reports made headlines last week. The World Resources Institute joined forces with Citigroup to identify 12 major companies set to benefit financially from their long-standing climate policies. WRI (keeping busy, apparently) also put out a new guide showing how workers in the service sector can dramatically cut climate emissions through a series of simple energy-efficiency measures.

As an aside, of my two teams in the World Cup, my adopted country, Ecuador, and my ancestral home, Portugal, one remains. Go Seleção!

Obtain a copy of Citigroup/WRI's report here.

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25 June 2006

Climate Change: ABC News Wants to Hear from You

ABC News has put out an all points bulletin for a developing report on global warming:

Witnessing the impact of global warming in your life?

ABC News wants to hear from you. We're currently producing a report on the increasing changes in our physical environment, and are looking for interesting examples of people coping with the differences in their daily lives. Has your life been directly affected by global warming?

We want to hear and see your stories. Have you noticed changes in your own backyard or hometown? The differences can be large or small — altered blooming schedules, unusual animals that have arrived in your community, higher water levels encroaching on your property.

Show us what you've seen. You can include video material of the environmental change, or simply tell your story via webcam. Please fill out the form below, and be sure to include captions or other descriptive information if you're sending video. We hope to hear from you. Thank you.

No video? Share your story in words here.

See Also an earlier ABC News story on "Reducing Your Carbon Footprint."

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24 June 2006

Climate Change: PARADE Cover Story

Tomorrow's issue of PARADE Magazine features a cover story on Climate Change. PARADE, a weekly news magazine circulated in newspapers around the US, is the latest in a string of mainstream media outlets to give climate change a prominent placement.

Eugene Linden, author of The Winds of Change: Climate, Weather, and the Destruction of Civilizations, writes about changes happening right now, including increasing storms, drought in the west, increasing pests, and focuses on the financial impacts. He cites insurance rate increases and the affect of drought on hydropower and housing prices as potential financial impacts, concluding that "For America's workers, climate change will feel like an enormous tax, stripping savings and imposing costs ranging from disrupted jobs to a rash of health threats."

He also raises concerns about climate change impacts on earlier civilizations, such as the Mayans in the Yucatan and Akkadians of Mesopotamia, claiming that "Past civilizations had no way to know that climates could change. We do. But if we are to avert disaster, we have to act on our knowledge, and we haven't done that yet."

In a sidebar, PARADE offers some ideas about what ordinary citizens can do and features 25 Ways to Curb Climate Change on its website.

Read the feature: PARADE Cover Story

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23 June 2006

Climate Change: International Energy Agency Warns of Emissions

According to a report in Reuters/Planet Ark, "Emissions of climate-changing carbon dioxide could more than double by 2050 if unchecked, the International Energy Agency (IEA)warned on Thursday, ahead of an energy-focussed meeting of G8 world leaders in July."

The Paris-based IEA, adviser to 26 industrialised nations, said in a report that it was possible for the world to emit less carbon dioxide (CO2) in 2050 than today while also increasing energy production.
But it warned that in the absence of new policies, global energy demand and CO2 emissions would more than double by 2050 to 58,000 billion tonnes. "We can find a sustainable energy future but it's not the case with the current trends. We're very far from that," IEA executive director Claude Mandil told a news conference.

The report, that draws different scenarios to 2050, is part of the Agency's response to the call from G8 leaders at the Geneagles summit in July 2005 for the IEA to advise on scenarios and strategies aimed at a clean and competitive future.

Get the full story: IEA Emissions Report

Read: IEA's press release

Get the report: Scenarios & Strategies for 2050

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22 June 2006

Ocean Conservation: Less than 2% of Coral Reefs Protected

According to a report on Reuters/Planet Ark, "less than 2 percent of the world's tropical coral reefs are properly protected from illegal fishing, mining or pollution despite government promises of wider safeguards."

"The figures are depressing," said Camilo Mora, a scientist at Dalhousie University in Canada and lead author of the study, carried out in New Zealand by researchers from seven nations.

"Many countries create marine protected areas and then forget about them," he told Reuters of the findings, published in the journal Science.

Lack of protection may mean a further shrinking of reefs worldwide, from the Caribbean to the Indian Ocean. Reefs are key spawning grounds, are home to species from clown fish to sharks, protect coasts from erosion and also draw scuba-diving tourists.

Read the article: Coral Reefs

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19 June 2006

Social Entrepreneurs: Gathering on gather.com

I've created a group on gather.com to pursue our conversation about social change makers.

It is intended as a space for those interested in exploring solutions to conservation, poverty alleviation, and economic development in developing countries around the world.

Check it out and please join the dialogue:


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18 June 2006

New Economy: UNEP's Steiner Debunks Myth of Environment vs. Economy

According to a Reuters/Planet Ark interview, Achim Steiner, the new head of the UN Environment Program, wants to see better links between economy and environment:

OSLO - The world must lay to rest a "myth" that protecting the environment harms economic growth, the new head of the UN Environment Programme said on Thursday.

Achim Steiner, a 45-year-old German, said he would seek to involve consumers, governments, businesses and activists in developing new economic mechanisms to protect the planet from threats ranging from climate change to pollution.

"Care for the environment is often portrayed as detrimental to economic growth," he told on his first day as head of the United Nations' top environment body.

"We hope to lay that myth to rest in the 21st century," he said by telephone from UNEP headquarters in Nairobi, setting out priorities for a four-year term.

Read the full interview here: Planet Ark

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14 June 2006

Climate Change: Pew Report on State Renewable Portfolios

A growing portion of U.S. states' electricity is being provided by renewable energy, according to a report released today by the Pew Center on Global Climate Change. States are using increasingly aggressive and ambitious Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) in order to spur economic development and create a reliable and diversified supply of electricity, as well as to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and conventional pollutants.

The Pew Center report, "Race To The Top: The Expanding Role of U.S. State Renewable Portfolio Standards", authored by Barry Rabe of the University of Michigan, builds on earlier Pew Center analyses of the state role in climate policy development. In addition to examining challenges and opportunities inherent in policy design and implementation, the report includes case studies of five states - Texas, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Massachusetts, and Nevada.

Read the press release:
Pew Center Release

Read the report:
Pew Center Report

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Energy: Uniting for Energy Independence

PNNOnline reported yesterday that "two leading organizations in the fight to reduce America's dependence on imported oil are joining forces. Americans for Energy Independence, a non-profit group dedicated to raising public awareness of this issue, has joined The Set America Free Coalition, a group of prominent individuals and non-profit organizations concerned with the security and economic implications of the nation's dependence on oil imports."

Americans for Energy Independence's mission is to use mass media -- including newspapers, billboards, radio and the Internet -- to focus national attention on the importance of achieving energy independence. The group will use its resources and capabilities to advance Set America Free's agenda of concrete, measurable action toward reducing U.S. oil dependency.

"We are delighted to join such a prestigious group," affirms Chris Wolfe, president of Americans for Energy Independence. "Even as rising gas prices, the ongoing conflict in the Middle East, and President Bush's admission of our 'addiction to foreign oil' make the public increasingly aware of the need for energy independence, this alliance empowers us more than ever to keep Americans engaged with this critical issue."

"We are very pleased that Americans for Energy Independence has joined The Set America Free Coalition," says Anne Korin, chair of Set America Free. "They have done a great job proliferating the grassroots message of the drastic need to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, and we are looking forward to working with them."

Wolfe warns that America's foreign oil reliance has dire national and international consequences. "We spend more than $250 billion a year on imported oil," he observes. "Oil price volatility and availability dictate the value of our stock markets and the strength of our economy. And every time we fill up our cars, we transfer a greater part of our wealth to questionable governments."

The Set America Free Coalition promotes a "Blueprint for Energy Security" that spells out practical ways in which progress toward energy security can be made over the next several years. The Blueprint's recommendations match those of "Toward Energy Independence by 2025," a study by UC Berkley's Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory, funded by Americans for Energy Independence. The documents are available at each of the organizations' websites.

The Set America Free Coalition brings together prominent individuals and non-profit organizations concerned about the security and economic implications of America's growing dependence on foreign oil. The coalition, organized by the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security (IAGS), includes Senator Tom Daschle, former U.S. Secretary of Energy Admiral James D. Watkins, and former National Security Advisor Robert C. McFarlane, among many other politicians, scientific experts and social leaders.

Americans for Energy Independence, Inc. is a non-profit California corporation based in Studio City, California. Its mission is to utilize the mass media to alert Americans to current and potential dangers of the country's dependence on foreign oil to meet its national energy needs, to raise awareness of the benefits of becoming energy independent, and to propose and encourage solutions, strategies and citizen action that can lead to a future of American energy independence.
--from PNNOnline

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12 June 2006

Social Entrepreneurs: Moving from Dialogue to Action, Part 2

A friend and colleague said to me the other day, "Transformation is upon us, but what are we transforming into? How do we have more influence over the future direction?"

This can be about our organizations, our communities, or our larger world. Transformation is transformation.

What are the values we share and that can be brought to flower in a world of need? What are the critical issues, local, global or, to use Tom Friedman's term, glocal, that need to be addressed in the world?

And what is the intersection between our values, the community's needs, and the potential to transform life on Earth as we know it?

Three things are at the top of my list of concerns these days:

1. Mitigating and adapting to Climate Change if we can't stop it (we can't);
2. Improving the lives of the poorest of the poor by increasing their access to markets and ensuring the safety net of ecosystem services upon which they depend; and
3. Connecting people with on-the-ground solutions with investors who can make it happen.

If you're reading this post, chances are you know I have been writing about much of this on this blog for the past year and a half, and I've featured some fine examples of how good work is getting done. Amazing people are doing amazing things out there.

I have also talked with a number of people who want to take action but don't quite know how. All of which leaves me pondering: What is it that will make it all come together? What can I do to make a difference?

I am an action-oriented person. Conversation is fine up to a point. After a time, however, I get itchy for action. Sound familiar to you?

So my questions are: How can we get from dialogue to action? What do we need to do to clarify shared values, bring people together, and inspire action? And how can we make this transformation happen now?

What novel approaches are being deployed by the folks William Easterly, in his critique of foreign aid solutions, White Man's Burden, calls "Searchers"? How do we share this knowledge so it can be reapplied to other localities, to solve other local problems that may add up to addressing a global issue?

What are the feedback mechanisms we need to employ to ensure that we get feedback to people who need it and to inform refinement of both process and action?

With that in mind, I have a proposition to make:

I'm looking for a few searchers or "scouts" to help mark the path into a transformational future.

Our collective efforts at a local or regional level will provide insights that can be shared as part of a larger learning process that begins with dialogue, moves to action, returns to dialogue, and turns back into action.

My action is to help extend the lessons learned from those searchers or scouts who are taking action to a larger community and to deepen our dialogue.

Therefore, I pledge to provide a platform for such ideas here on The Green Skeptic and, if the groundswell grows, perhaps we can co-create another blog.

As my friend suggested, and I paraphrase, sharing learning from the hundreds, if not thousands of "glocal" efforts out there can provide the means for more rapid adaptation.

Like a living organism, we can take feedback from our environment and change to meet the challenges we face. In this way, we actually become the transformation we seek.

Let's start a dialogue. Please comment if you have something to contribute. And let's move from dialogue to action.

Read the first part of this post: Part One

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Climate Change: What Price Carbon Emissions?

From GreenBiz.com this morning:
What price carbon emissions? Seems that companies of all types are now wrestling with that question -- and deciding that it’s in their best interests to reduce, trade, or offset their emissions rather than fall back on business as usual. For starters, the financial powerhouse World Bank Group announced last week it was going carbon-neutral, offsetting its emissions from travel and commuting. Over in the entertainment sector, Berkeley’s Greek Theatre became the first major concert venue to offset emissions from an entire season’s worth of concerts. And as you’ll see in this week’s feature, Japanese shipper Sagawa Express is taking an impressive lead in greening the transportation sector, one truck at a time.

So what’s in it for you? The World Resource Institute’s just-released Carbon Value Analysis Tool can help you quantify the financial benefits of reducing your company’s carbon footprint.

For more on the business case for climate management, visit ClimateBiz.com.

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09 June 2006

Climate Change: An Unfortunate Messenger - Al Gore's film debut

I just saw the Al Gore global warming film An Inconvenient Truth. Gore makes some compelling points, many of which echo thoughts about global warming and climate change with which readers of this blog will be familiar: there is consensus in the scientific community that global warming is real; that we have the technology and wherewithal to address the issue now and make a real difference; and that there is huge economic potential in taking action now.

I came away from the film, even more than Gore's slideshow, which forms the film's core, thinking that Al Gore is the wrong messenger for the message.

Sure, he comes off as passionate about the issue. He's even less wooden than he was during his political life; approachable, even likable.

And yet, what strikes an unfortunate chord in "An Inconvenient Truth," is that it seems too much like a campaign video. There are too many shots of pensive Al, contemplating landscapes and computer screens, too many attempts to show that Al Gore was ahead of everyone else on this issue and that it is time the rest of us caught up. Even, perhaps, one too many swipes at his 2000 opponent and his administration, to the point where he turns the issue into a political issue.

Whether it is or is not a political issue is beside the point; an Al Gore is not going to win any converts from among the skeptics or fence-sitters, let alone those who stand in opposition. An audience of the choir is all who will hear his hymn.

It's too bad, really, because Al Gore has spent a long time considering this issue and his arguments and points are simple, direct, at times eloquent. But are such messages effective if they only reach those -- like those in the progressive theater in which I sat -- who nod and cheer and laugh at all the right moments, as if playing the role of a canned studio audience?

I wish someone from the other side of the issue or political spectrum, a former oil executive or a Hank Paulson, was the messenger carrying this important message. It may be lost otherwise.

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Climate Change: Al Gore's Penguin Army

Spoofs of Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth are finding their way to many sites on the web and some of them are really quite enjoyable. You Tube features one of the best examples, called "Al Gore's Penguin Army" posted by toutsmith

You have to see it to believe it! See it at You Tube.

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08 June 2006

Social Entrepreneurs: Moving from Dialogue to Action, Part One

"Don't you ever get tired of just reading about things," Violet Bicks asks George Bailey in the film It’s a Wonderful Life. He's on his way to the library to read about the world outside the small town in which he feels stuck. He's at a crossroads in his life. He dreams of breaking out, seeing the world, and creating big things. He dreams of creating lasting, transformational change.

Through much of the film, George is oblivious to the real impact he is having, because he is too busy dreaming about what could have been. The story unfolds until, of course, an angel comes to reveal his true impact by showing what life would have been like without him.

I am thinking about my own work, my writing here on "The Green Skeptic," and the conversations I've been having over the past several months with social entrepreneurs, marketing gurus, management consultants, colleagues, friends, and just plain folk. I have come to the conclusion that there are countless people out there like me, who dream of transformational change. Maybe you are one of us too?

We are CEOs and former CEOs, entrepreneurs and investment bankers, fundraisers and conservationists, poets and pundits, software engineers and soft-ice cream purveyors, mothers, fathers, fourth-graders, and celebrities. Many of us have made a success of something, our own businesses or the businesses of others, and now we want to extend the transformation. But how?

In my professional life, I've worked with many people over the past 15 years, helping match their philanthropic visions with conservation actions. Now I am on the marketing side and am trying to articulate the connections between the great global issues of the day and the real work being done locally and regionally on the ground every day. How can I use these skills to help bring together people who share values and a desire to transform the world?

I'm thinking out loud here. A friend and colleague asked me yesterday, "How do we move from discussion to action?" I get the feeling his real question was more akin to Violet Bicks's query of George Bailey, "Don't you ever get tired of just reading about things?"

George's response in the film is to implore Violet to set off on the adventure. I guess I'm asking the same: let's climb to the top of Mt. Bedford and take some action. What might such action look like? I'll explore that in subsequent posts.

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06 June 2006

China: Renewable Energy in its Future?

China, the world’s second-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, surprisingly has emerged as a powerhouse in renewable energy, according to US News & World Report this week:

By 2020, China's government pledges, 10 percent of its gross energy consumption will be renewable -- a huge increase from the current 1 percent. (New law took effect Jan. 1, 2006.)

China's renewable energy market is expected to grow to $100 billion over the next 15 years.

Solar panels dot Beijing rooftops and Summer Olympics 2008 may be the greenest games ever.

“While China is most commonly known as a voracious consumer of energy…[it] is quietly becoming a world leader in developing renewable energy sources and technology,” according to the article by reporter Bay Fang.

Read the full story at USNews.com

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05 June 2006

Climate Change: Coming to a Backyard Near You

The New York Times reported this weekend on a new study linking climate change to increases in some of the most common summertime backyard pests: poison ivy, mosquitoes, Japanese beetles, and ticks.

According to the Times, "Duke researchers," including Dr. William H. Schlesinger, a Duke professor, "discovered that when exposed to higher levels of CO2, the greenhouse gas released in ever-increasing quantities from human activity, poison ivy goes haywire...The plant also produced a more noxious form of its rash-causing chemical: a more poisonous poison ivy."

Not all the increases in plant growth from additional carbon dioxide are undesirable, however. Dr. Schlesinger noted increases in growth of many tree species, including some that are beneficial. "If you're a timber products company, you look at that favorably," he said in a quote.

There are related issues with increased plant growth, which anyone who suffers from seasonal allergies can tell you. Already there have been increases in asthma cases related to higher levels of allergens such as pollen from ragweeds and pine cones. The Duke study "showed that both plants produced more pollen under higher levels of CO2."

The Times article concludes, that "while much of the discussion of climate change focuses on the big picture of rising sea levels and increasing global air and ocean temperatures, the Duke finding helps explain the smaller picture. Climate change may be a real nuisance in the backyard."

(On a related note: The toxic chemicals of poison ivy appear so strong that, after reading the article, I developed a p-i rash on both arms. Get the Calamine!)

Read more at: New York Times

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02 June 2006

Climate Change: Even USA Today Gets in the Act

Climate Change continues to surface in the mainstream media this week. Today's USA Today has a feature on celebrities involved in climate change, including our friend Laurie David, the doyenne of global warming, and Al Gore, who invented global warming, er, well, who started this media blitz with his conniving truth slide show. Some of the celebs "uncovered" in the face of global warming:

Brad Pitt will narrate Design: e2, a series about environmentally friendly architecture. The series is scheduled to air in June on PBS.

• Keanu Reeves and singer Alanis Morrissette narrate The Great Warming, a climate documentary that had its U.S. premiere in April.

• On his website, Leonardo DiCaprio narrates a short global-warming primer. The actor is working on his own environmental documentary, called 11th Hour, according to the site.

• Oscar winner Joanne Woodward, a longtime supporter of The Nature Conservancy, spoke out on Earth Day, calling for action.

But even better, is the timeline to "See how the Earth's surface temperature has changed over the past 2,000 years; as well as "A Look Ahead: The USA in 2100," an interactive map that shows temps, rain and snowfall, changes to frost days, and a heat index. There’s also a fairly innocuous quiz that tests your knowledge about global warming.

Check it out: USA Today Climate Change Coverage

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