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December, 2007:

Climate Change Remains Hotly Contested

Dec 14, 2007 – SCMP

I am writing regarding the article (“Alarmism is not the way to tackle climate change”, December 10), by Kendra Okonski, of the International Policy Network (IPN). Finding the article lacking balance, I did some research and found the IPN had received more than US$390,000 from ExxonMobil – an infamous supporter of global warming sceptics.

Given this, Ms Okonski’s claim of “biases” – towards global warming “alarmism” – resulting from funding by “powerful interest groups” is ludicrous.

It’s immensely deceptive to claim “the science of climate change remains hotly contested”.

It does not; witness the standpoints of august bodies such as the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Britain’s Royal Society, and our own Hong Kong Observatory.

Among all but a tiny minority of scientists there is no longer debate over whether warming due to greenhouse gases is real – instead, any debates are now about just how severe it will be and what measures are needed to ensure we don’t devastate the world as we know it.

Ms Okonski appears oblivious to the fact some observed changes – such as melting of Arctic ice, and expansion of the tropics – have proceeded more swiftly than even some of the more alarming forecasts.

While noting the number of people killed by weather disasters has fallen since good records began, Ms Okonski fails to mention vastly improved warning systems and Oxfam’s report that the number of natural disasters has increased fourfold since two decades ago.

With no scientific foundation she claims the best thing to do about climate change is adapting, while helping people create wealth. Here, she is seemingly blinded to the obvious: if the worst of climate change predictions come true adaptation will prove impossible for countless people and there will be widespread economic reversals. Overall, it seems Ms Okonski’s piece stems from fear of doing the right thing and adopting measures that economists have suggested could cost 1 per cent of world income. With climate change real, the outcome is uncertain yet potentially devastating, it is alarming to read calls for yet more procrastination.

Dr Martin Williams, director, Hong Kong Outdoors

Air Pollution Causing Health Problems: Survey

Pollution causing health problems: survey

2007-12-12 HKT 04:12 RTHK

Sixty percent of respondents to a survey say they’ve suffered very serious health problems because of Hong Kong’s polluted air. And almost eight out of 10 say they’re dissatisfied with government action to tackle the problem. Almost all of the 1,000 people questioned by the WWF also expressed concern about climate change.

Bad Press for Hong Kong Pollution

Bad press for HK pollution

Updated on Dec 11, 2007

Attending an Islamic banking conference in Bahrain, I noticed a report in the Bahrain Tribune about pollution in Hong Kong.

It was embarrassing to have to try and defend the quality of life we know we should have in Hong Kong against comments condemning Hong Kong as “a filthy place to want to live or visit”.

Given the conference is attended by some of the leading figures of Islamic financing, an area our hapless government seeks closer ties with, it is time for Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen to do something to stop Hong Kong being condemned internationally as an unfit place to work.

Mark Peaker, The Peak

UN to Slow Global Warming Beyond 2012

Published in SCMP:

The United States urged a UN climate meeting yesterday to drop a 2020 target for deep cuts in emissions of greenhouse gases by rich nations from guidelines for a new pact to slow global warming beyond 2012.

The comments by chief US negotiator Harlan Watson came as former US vice-president Al Gore warned that the US and China – the world’s biggest carbon emitters – needed to take action on climate change or “stand accountable before history for their failure to act” as he accepted his Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo.

The UN wants the talks, which began on Monday last week, to end on Friday with an agreement to start negotiations on a new global climate treaty to be adopted at a meeting in Copenhagen at the end of 2009.

“It’s prejudging what the outcome should be,” Dr Watson said of a draft text suggesting that developed nations should aim to axe emissions of heat-trapping gases by between 25 and 40 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020.

“We don’t want to start out with numbers,” Dr Watson said.

A new pact would widen the UN’s Kyoto Protocol, which binds 36 industrial nations to cut emissions, mainly from burning fossil fuels, by 5 per cent below 1990 levels by 2012.

Delegates said Washington and Tokyo argued strongly in meetings against mention of a range for long-term emissions cuts in a draft text, which lays out the guidelines for future talks. The draft also refers to scientific evidence that world emissions will have to be cut by at least 50 per cent below 2000 levels by 2050 to avert the worst impacts of global warming.

Poor nations want the rich to commit to the deepest cuts.

“The numbers are still in the text. There has been a lot of pressure to take them out,” one delegate with intimate knowledge of the draft negotiations said. He corrected an earlier statement that they had been cut out.

“This is unacceptable,” Hans Verolme, of the WWF environmental group, said of efforts to cut out goals. He noted the UN climate panel – on whose work the 25 to 40 per cent range was based – collected the Nobel Peace Prize along with Mr Gore yesterday.

“Our opinion about Kyoto has not changed,” Dr Watson said.

President George W. Bush opposes the Kyoto accord, saying it would damage the US economy and wrongly excludes 2008-2012 goals for developing nations such as China, India and Brazil. Mr Bush says the US will join a new global pact.

Mr Gore – defeated by Mr Bush for the presidency in the 2000 election – urged nations to impose a carbon tax, and called for a moratorium on the building of new coal plants without the capacity to trap carbon. He directed attention to the US and China.

“While India is also growing fast in importance, it should be absolutely clear that it is the two largest carbon dioxide emitters – and most of all, my own country – that will need to make the boldest moves or stand accountable before history for their failure to act.”

Air Pollution Index Sets Record High

Bad-air days leave critics choking mad

Activists attack government’s ‘go-slow’ policy as pollution index sets record for year

Mary Ann Benitez
Updated on Dec 08, 2007

Critics rounded on the government over bad-air days as the air-pollution index hit a year’s record high of 151 yesterday, with the situation expected to continue this weekend.

Air-quality activists blamed the “go-slow” policy of the government on air pollution, and others said that based on international standards, air pollution was actually worse than local readings indicated.

Readings touched or exceeded 100 at some time during the day at nine out of 11 general stations, and all three roadside stations in Causeway Bay, Central and Mong Kok exceeded 100.

Today the highest roadside API [Air Pollutant Index] was 151, which is also the highest this year up to today, followed by 147 on October 7,” a spokeswoman from the Environmental Protection Department said yesterday.

“We expect the current episode will last for a couple of days until we have fresh wind with greater wind speed to help disperse the pollutant over the territories.”

The department’s principal environmental protection officer, Dave Ho Tak-yin, told RTHK the very high API readings were caused by “trappings of air pollutants under light winds coupled with the influence of regional air pollution”.

But Anthony Hedley, chairman of the University of Hong Kong’s Department of Community Medicine, said the API readings were misleading because they were based on 20-year-old air-quality objectives.

What we need to do is to resolve that by adopting the World Health Organisation air-quality guidelines. If we use those as standards, then we will have a realistic estimate of the risk,” he said.

Hong Kong’s air-quality objective for particulates, for example, is 180, but the WHO guideline is 50.

So the actual readings “would be very much higher”, Professor Hedley said.

The EPD spokeswoman said Hong Kong’s API systems were “similar to the air-pollution [indices] and reporting systems currently used by most places in Asia such as Singapore, Taipei, Bangkok and Indonesia”.

Christian Masset, chairman of Clear the Air, said the episodes of severely polluted air were “the result of the government’s go-slow approach”, which he called ” “bad for the people and for the image of Hong Kong”.

He said the occasional improvement of air quality was due to meteorological conditions and had nothing to do with government.

Alvin Chan Yee-shing, council member of the Hong Kong Medical Association, said a 150 reading was not only bad for the sick, it was bad for every citizen’s health.

Elderly patients who would benefit from a walk in the park or doing tai chi outdoors were being put at a disadvantage, he said.

Alfred Tam Yat-cheung, vice-chairman of the Hong Kong Asthma Society, said: “There is every reason to warn people to be careful, to limit outdoor activity. Don’t stay on the roadside, because that is the most polluted place in the whole territory, and go to the doctor when you have respiratory complaints.

The Department of Health said parainfluenza was “the dominant flu-like symptoms that were spotted in patients recently”.

Hong Kong Issues Warning On Pollution

Reuters – Published: December 7, 2007

HONG KONG: People with heart or lung problems were warned Friday to avoid outdoor activities in Hong Kong as it experienced one of its most polluted days of the year, with the hills across the harbor almost invisible.

Pollution monitoring stations registered “very high” readings in several spots and the Environmental Protection Department said the poor air was expected to continue.

Hong Kong’s air has become increasingly clogged with pollutants from cars, ships, power plants and a booming manufacturing sector across the border in China’s Guangdong province.

Air Pollution Index readings surpassed 101, entering a zone that the Environmental Protection Department considers “very high,” at several sites.

They included the Central business district, which hit 150 by mid-afternoon.

Central Worst Affected As Pollution Soars

Central worst affected as pollution soars

Regina Leung SCMP

Updated on Dec 07, 2007

Pollution, trapped by light winds and hot weather, is expected to remain until wind speeds pick up later in the week.

Smoggy weather and light wind ushered the air pollution index (API) to over 100 in several areas of Hong Kong on Friday, including Central, Causeway Bay and Mong Kok.

Based on roadside station readings, Central recorded the highest API level of 145, compared to 133 in Causeway Bay and 122 in Mongkok.

In the general station readings, Yuen Long, Tung Chung, Tai Po, Central and Western districts also recorded API levels over 100.

Pollutants are trapped under the light wind, and the smoggy conditions favour the photo-chemical formation of ozone in the region, resulting in elevated ozone levels, a spokesman at the environmental department said.

When the level passes 100, the environmental department says people with heart or respiratory illnesses should avoid prolonged stays in areas with heavy traffic. Those who must travel to such congested areas are advised to reduce physical activity.

Environmental Protection Department Emission Figures

 This letter was sent to the Environmental Protection Department (EPD) by Jim Middleton, a member of Clear The Air, in relation to the misleading figures quoted on the EPD website regarding per capita CO2 emissions. The letter was sent on the 7th of December.

Dear [EPD],

The Environmental Protection Department (EPD) chooses to disguise emission figures by using a per capita emission for CO2 and then comparing the rest of the world to show Hong Kong in favorable light.

That is ridiculous.

The Hong Kong population has a cocoon of only 154.4 m2 of space each in which to breathe the C02 and pollutants emitted. The above site shows Greenhouse weighted emissions at 6.5 tonnes per capita of Hong Kong population in 2006.

That is 42 kgs emissions per m2 per Hong Kong person per year.

You state Hong Kong emissions are lower than those developed countries shown below.

The EPD report below lists Australia at 27 tonnes emissions per capita.

In Australia each person has 374,800m2 of space compared to Hong Kong’s 154.4 m2 each.

That is 0.072 kgs emissions per m2 per Australian person per year.

I suggest the Government gets real on this misleading method of presenting Hong Kong’s greenhouse emissions.


James Middleton

HSBC Climate Partnership Programme Launched in China

December 05, 2007

A climate change programme for China was launched in Beijing today by HSBC, the world’s first carbon neutral bank, together with four global environmental organisations – The °Climate Group, Earthwatch Institute, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) and Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF). The climate change programme in China forms part of the HSBC Climate Partnership – a five year US$100 million programme to respond to the urgent threat of climate change worldwide with the same four partners – launched in May 2007.

Through its partners HSBC will reinforce the Chinese government’s efforts in energy conservation and emission reduction, working together with research institutions, businesses and individuals to combat the impact of climate change on forests, freshwater, cities and people. Based on an investment of US$21.7 million, the HSBC Climate Partnership China programme expects to achieve the following results in China by 2011…

See the full story here: HSBC Climate Partnership Programme Launched in China