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Three stories

Boreal Disaster

The Chicago Tribune has a look at how Canada’s forest are dying because of climate change… Another ticking time bomb.

As relentlessly bad as the news about global warming seems to be, with ice at the poles melting faster than scientists had predicted and world temperatures rising higher than expected, there was at least a reservoir of hope stored here in Canada’s vast forests.

The country’s 1.2 million square miles of trees have been dubbed the “lungs of the planet” by ecologists because they account for more than 7 percent of Earth’s total forest lands. They could always be depended upon to suck in vast quantities of carbon dioxide, naturally cleansing the world of much of the harmful heat-trapping gas.

But not anymore.

In an alarming yet little-noticed series of recent studies, scientists have concluded that Canada’s precious forests, stressed from damage caused by global warming, insect infestations and persistent fires, have crossed an ominous line and are now pumping out more climate-changing carbon dioxide than they are sequestering.

EPA is sued

But the news cycle has a little more ying and yang these days, with a dynamic new US president waiting in the wings. If you’ve paid attention over the last six weeks, you know that President Saruman the White has been trying to preserve his legacy as a usurper and destroyer — can you tell that I watched The Two Towers recently — of the natural world.

President Saruman Bush passed last minute regs which allow the coal industry to dispose of toxic ash in nearby streams. And that’s why the heroes of our story — the modern-day Ents, including The Sierra Club, Earthjustice, Waterkeeper Alliance — are taking the EPA to court. Climate Biz picks up the story…

Coal waste ash is the second largest industrial waste stream in the country and contains heavy metals, such as lead, cadmium, chromion, arsenic and mercury, but is not considered a hazardous material. The environmental groups say coal ash has polluted water in 23 states. Environmental groups have long lobbied for tighter restrictions on coal waste.

In an unrelated story, more than a billion gallons of water and coal fly ash, a byproduct of burning coal, broke through a retention pond last week in eastern Tennessee and flooded nearby houses, according to the Knoxville News Sentinel. The EPA detected high levels of arsenic in water from the affected area near TVA Kingston Steam power plant, which is run by the nation’s largest public utility.

This is just heartbreaking.

2009: Buy your SPF 200 suntan lotion now!

The Met Office Hadley Centre, one of the most authoritative climate science institutions in the world, is warning that 2009 will likely be one of the five warmest years ever recorded, as Planet Earth gets ready to set record after record over the next dozen years.

What’s so amazing about this prediction is that the weather patterns are still being influenced by a mild La Niña, an oceanic phenomenon that has always worked to depress global temperatures. So we’re setting records in what would have been a frightfully cold year just one generation ago.

During La Niña, cold waters rise to the surface to cool the ocean and land surface temperatures. The 2009 forecast includes an updated decadal forecast using a Met Office climate model. This indicates a rapid return of global temperature to the long-term warming trend, with an increasing probability of record temperatures after 2009.

Professor Chris Folland from the Met Office Hadley Centre said: “Phenomena such as El Niño and La Niña have a significant influence on global surface temperature. Warmer conditions in 2009 are expected because the strong cooling influence of the recent powerful La Niña has given way to a weaker La Niña. Further warming to record levels is likely once a moderate El Niño develops.”

Get ready this year for more record ice melts in Greenland and the Acrtic.

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