Washington Post:

On Friday night, the compact but deadly tropical storm Washi swept across the central and southern Philippines killing hundreds. According to CNN, death toll counts range from 713 to 927. In addition, scores of people are unaccounted for and thousands homeless.

Although Washi was not an especially intense storm with peak winds of just 45-55 mph, the torrential rains and resulting mudslides caught the especially vulnerable region offguard, as Wunderground’s Jeff Masters explains:

…since the rains fell on regions where the natural forest had been illegally logged or converted to pineapple plantations, the heavy rains were able to run off quickly on the relatively barren soils and create devastating flash floods. Since the storm hit in the middle of the night, and affected an unprepared population that had no flood warning system in place, the death toll was tragically high.

The Inquirer:

The tragedy that struck the cities of Cagayan de Oro and Iligan was an event waiting to happen. It was foretold three years ago, but was dismissed by lawmakers as “too alarmist.”

Jose Ma. Lorenzo Tan, chief executive of the World Wide Fund for Nature-Philippines (WWF), said Monday the events in Northern Mindanao over the weekend mirrored the prediction. “It was an exact fit,” Tan said.

Environmentalists said a simulation of the effects of extreme weather events from climate change such as saltwater intrusion, sea level rise and intense tropical cyclones, showed that major Philippine cities, including Cagayan de Oro and Iligan, were at risk of massive flooding.

The simulation of the effects of extreme weather phenomena was drafted in 2009 by the Philippine Imperative for Climate Change (PICC), WWF and Filipino scientists.

“At best, this might provide a very rough indicator of areas that may be more vulnerable to sea level rise, storm surge, saltwater intrusion or a combination thereof,” the group’s presentation said.

Nereus Acosta, who headed the PICC and currently serves as the presidential adviser for environment, said the simulation showed that the coastal cities of Cagayan de Oro and Iligan in Northern Mindanao would be ravaged by massive floods from the overflow of river basins and sea level increase.

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Activist Crashes Petro-Party

December 21, 2011

Greenpeace USA:

Recently, Greenpeace got a rare look behind the curtain at how Big Oil stages citizen support for huge oil companies, when activists got inside a TV commercial shoot in Washington DC. TheAmerican Petroleum Institute (API), and their PR firm Edelman, were filming a new series of TV commercials that we learned API plans to air nationally on CNN starting in January. The ads, aimed at the 2012 elections, will aim to demonstrate authentic citizen support for the oil industry’s agenda.

Greenpeace disrupted API’s astroturf commercial plans by not following instructions and going off script, declaring support for a clean energy future and demanding an end political interference by the oil industry’s lobbyists and PR firms.

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Cameras vs Keystone

December 21, 2011

Wonder why Canada has pulled out of the international climate process and is heading toward global carbon pariah status?

Of course you don’t. It’s all about the Tar Sands.

A number of journalists and film makers have turned their lenses on this problem in the remote reaches of the northern boreal forest – now becoming the “new Saudi Arabia” – the mother of all exotic fossil fuel schemes.

Good mini-seminar on the problem.
You watch youtube, you learn something.

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Guest post from Michael Halpern, Union of Concerned Scientists:

When a hacker (or hackers) released a second batch of emails stolen from scientists last month, the immediate question that sprang to my mind was, “Why haven’t we found them yet?” And now, after months of apparent inactivity, it seems that British authorities are taking a renewed interest in tracking down the criminals who are responsible, and the United States Department of Justice is also getting involved.

Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) originally put it quite nicely in a statement: “If this happened surrounding nuclear arms talks, we would have the full force of the western world’s intelligence community pursuing the perpetrators. And yet, with the stability of our climate hanging in the balance with these international climate treaty negotiations, these hackers and their supporters are still on the loose. It is time to bring them to justice.”

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The Production Tax Credit for wind energy will expire at the end of 2012.

The Tax credit is designed to level the playing field between important renewable energy sources, and the overwhelming government subsidies that have flowed to obsolete and poisonous forms power for more than a century.

The PTC is getting a lot of support from both sides of the aisle, despite the best efforts of the Tea Party troglodytes to undercut the technologies that can save the planet. It’s up to us to let our reps know about the importance of wind in maintaining our competitiveness, creating good jobs and strong communities, and preserving a liveable planet for our children.

The movie trailer above previews a new examination of the Tobacco industry’s push to addict young people around the world to poison.

One of the vital untold stories of the anti-science movement is the Tobacco industry’s involvement at the roots of climate denial. It happened in the course of funding initiatives originally designed to fend off anti-smoking legislation.  The industry decided that the best way to set up phony “grass roots” groups to support them was to avoid being too transparent.

George Monbiot

..what I have discovered while researching this issue is that the corporate funding of lobby groups denying that manmade climate change is taking place was initiated not by Exxon, or by any other firm directly involved in the fossil fuel industry. It was started by the tobacco company Philip Morris.

In December 1992, the US Environmental Protection Agency published a 500-page report called Respiratory Health Effects of Passive Smoking. It found that “the widespread exposure to environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) in the United States presents a serious and substantial public health impact. In adults: ETS is a human lung carcinogen, responsible for approximately 3,000 lung cancer deaths annually in US non-smokers. In children: ETS exposure is causally associated with an increased risk of lower respiratory tract infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia. This report estimates that 150,000 to 300,000 cases annually in infants and young children up to 18 months of age are attributable to ETS.”

Had it not been for the settlement of a major class action against the tobacco companies in the US, we would never have been able to see what happened next. But in 1998 they were forced to publish their internal documents and post them on the internet.

Within two months of its publication, Philip Morris, the world’s biggest tobacco firm, had devised a strategy for dealing with the passive-smoking report. In February 1993 Ellen Merlo, its senior vice-president of corporate affairs, sent a letter to William I Campbell, Philip Morris’s chief executive officer and president, explaining her intentions: “Our overriding objective is to discredit the EPA report … Concurrently, it is our objective to prevent states and cities, as well as businesses, from passive-smoking bans.”

To this end, she had hired a public relations company called APCO. She had attached the advice it had given her. APCO warned that: “No matter how strong the arguments, industry spokespeople are, in and of themselves, not always credible or appropriate messengers.”

So the fight against a ban on passive smoking had to be associated with other people and other issues. Philip Morris, APCO said, needed to create the impression of a “grassroots” movement – one that had been formed spontaneously by concerned citizens to fight “overregulation”. It should portray the danger of tobacco smoke as just one “unfounded fear” among others, such as concerns about pesticides and cellphones. APCO proposed to set up “a national coalition intended to educate the media, public officials and the public about the dangers of ‘junk science’. Coalition will address credibility of government’s scientific studies, risk-assessment techniques and misuse of tax dollars … Upon formation of Coalition, key leaders will begin media outreach, eg editorial board tours, opinion articles, and brief elected officials in selected states.”

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