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. For US Global Warming Is Now Hot

"The new sense of urgency comes with the Kyoto treaty, the world's first serious attempt to combat the problem, expiring in 2012. Bush refused to adopt Kyoto, which excluded China, India and other big emerging economies. And for proponents of action, every day of inaction now takes the world closer to a "tipping point" when the effects of climate change will become a runaway disaster."
by Jitendra Joshi
Washington (AFP) Feb 18, 2007
It was once exiled to the chilly wastes of fringe discourse, but now global warming is taking on a new urgency for politicians, businesses and campaigners in the world's biggest economy. Climate change has zoomed up the Washington agenda since the Democrats retook control of Congress last month, with a flurry of committee hearings last week and several bills now in the legislative pipeline.

A decade ago, the Senate voted unanimously against any action by the United States without equal action by major developing economies. But now the Democrats are promising a grand law by Independence Day, July 4.

Even the Republican administration of President George W. Bush is sounding less reticent. Bush used the high-profile stage of his State of the Union address in January to call climate change a "serious challenge."

"There is no doubt that all recent scientific evidence confirms that the Earth's climate is changing and that most of those changes are due to human activity," the World Bank's chief scientist, Robert Watson, told AFP.

"The fact that there is draft legislation in Congress, action by a number of states and the private sector, and recognition of the ethical issues associated with climate change by a number of evangelical leaders, is very significant," he said.

Under one bill co-sponsored by a Republican presidential hopeful, Senator John McCain, the United States would introduce a mandatory market to "cap and trade" emissions of greenhouse gases by industry.

Under this system pioneered by the European Union, companies trade excess emissions of gases like carbon dioxide among themselves with the aim of slashing overall levels.

Such a scheme is already being used experimentally by California and northeastern US states, while pressure for change is coming also from US Christian elders who argue that God entrusted the Earth to man's stewardship.

"The debate is over, my friends. The question is, what do we do," McCain told a forum of global legislators held at the US Senate last week.

McCain's bill is supported by the leading Democratic presidential runners, senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

Backed by industry, many US politicians now argue that the costs of inaction would far outweigh the economic downside of capping emissions of gases that scientists say are smothering the Earth's atmosphere in a blanket of heat.

Heavyweight US companies are demanding a national cap and trade system, which could generate large profits for those firms that can slash their own emissions, and also give major investment opportunities in new technology.

Alcoa, General Electric, DuPont and other corporate giants have launched the United States Climate Action Partnership (USCAP), demanding enforced change at the federal level.

USCAP includes environmental groups like the Natural Resources Defense Council, which have not normally been comfortable bedfellows of big business. Such groups have long been pushing for change at the grassroots level.

Former vice president Al Gore, an Oscar nominee for his climate-change documentary "An Inconvenient Truth," plans a concert on July 7 featuring acts such as the Red Hot Chili Peppers to promote action on the issue.

The new sense of urgency comes with the Kyoto treaty, the world's first serious attempt to combat the problem, expiring in 2012. Bush refused to adopt Kyoto, which excluded China, India and other big emerging economies.

And for proponents of action, every day of inaction now takes the world closer to a "tipping point" when the effects of climate change will become a runaway disaster.

Fossil fuel pollution will raise temperatures this century, worsen floods, droughts and hurricanes, melt polar ice and damage the climate system for a thousand years to come, the UN's top panel on climate change said this month.

"Arguments that used to be academic are now shifting to the political stage and to US industry," said Bryan Mignone, a specialist in climate issues at Washington's Brookings Institution think-tank.

"The US has the best chance of anyone to capitalize on the international response. Everything's falling on us to take a lead," he said.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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Scientists Convert Heat To Power Using Organic Molecules
Berkeley CA (SPX) Feb 20, 2007
Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, have successfully generated electricity from heat by trapping organic molecules between metal nanoparticles, an achievement that could pave the way toward the development of a new source for energy. The discovery, described in a study published today (Thursday, Feb. 15) in Science Express, an electronic publication of the journal Science, is a milestone in the quest for efficient ways to directly convert heat into electricity.

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