Palaces For The People
Sunday, October 12, 2003
Billion dollar budget to beat flood-prone Chinese river. 12/10/2003. ABC News Online: "Billion dollar budget to beat flood-prone Chinese river
China will spend nearly $US5 billion on harnessing the Huai river, which has been a centuries-old scourge for the local population.
State media reports some of the 38 billion yuan allocated to the five-year project will be earmarked for resuming water control projects abandoned for half a century because of financial difficulties.
The bulk of the money will be spent on projects preventing waterlogging, drainage of the main river and its tributaries, and relocation of people living in known disaster areas.
State media reported recently that 300,000 people living in flood-prone areas in central China's Anhui province would be moved permanently from their dwellings.
The sudden surge in money allocated to the Huai river, where 300 serious floods have been recorded over the past five centuries, has become possible as work on the Yangtze and Yellow rivers has progressed markedly. " - news: "China farmers' choice: suicide or financial ruin
Corruption: A government program hatched in far-away Beijing drove impoverished farmers to take their own lives.

By Gady Epstein
Sun Foreign Staff
Originally published October 12, 2003

YONGQUAN VILLAGE, China - In a place where peasants grow just enough food to get by, the mulberry saplings beginning to take root in the mountain slopes of this farming village have become an issue of life and death.
The saplings were planted to firm the ground and, ultimately, help curb the landslides and floods that have visited misery on farmers for centuries, from here to the Yangtze River. But the trees have disturbed the order of life so delicately balanced on this shifting soil.
In the span of just five days this summer in this village of about 1,000 people, three farmers attempted suicide, two of them successfully, becoming casualties of Beijing's reforestation program and of the local officials who brought it here.
The farmland-to-forest program looked to be a fair deal for farmers: It promised them modest grants of food and money for planting trees instead of crops on the steepest slopes, where farming is most difficult and the danger of erosion highest.
But in this village nearly 600 miles southwest of Beijing, high in the Qinling Mountains of Shaanxi Province, one of China's poorest, things didn't work out as planned.
Li Liwen, too hungry to pull all his crops from between the trees and too poor to pay a $65 fine, bought 18 cents worth of pesticide on credit so he could try poisoning himself to death. Li Xiang, a village official, drank enough pesticide to put an end to the financial and political pressures he endured because of the tree-planting program.
And Chen Yingfu"
Nation feels sudden chill: "Nation feels sudden chill
( 2003-10-13 08:05) (China Daily)

Strong cold air from Siberia has swept across China and caused temperatures to drop as much as 10 C in some regions, as early snow has dusted the Great Wall and area mountaintops.
The good news is that State Meteorologic Observatory forecasters said cold front has passed by North China and temperatures will warm up on Wednesday across most of the nation.

rare autumnal snowfall at the Badaling section of the Great Wall in Beijing
Statistics from the municipal meteorologic observatory showed rain has lingered for 50 hours in and around Beijing since Friday, rare in the history of the capital throughout the same calendar period over time.
And Beijing residents found the temperature drop over the weekend even sharper than some locales, with temperature down to 3 C yesterday morning said Li Yanxiang, a State Meteorological Observatory expert. Even the afternoon high reached just 12 C yesterday, Li said.
Snowfall has been seen on some mountains, including the Western Hills and Badaling.
The cold brought more business to the capital's hot pot eateries, area restaurateurs said.
At Beijing Jinshancheng Hot Pot Restaurant, a larger than normal crowd jammed tables over the weekend, an employee told China Daily.
In Shenyang, the capital of Liaoning Province in Northeast China, snow fell in the wee hours yesterday after some 30 hours of rainfall, the Xinhua News Agency reported.
Local meteorologists said the snow is half a month earlier than normal. "
ENN Affiliate News - Record Heat Wave in Europe Takes 35,000 Lives: "Record Heat Wave in Europe Takes 35,000 Lives

From Earth Policy Institute
Friday, October 10, 2003

by Janet Larsen
Far Greater Losses May Lie Ahead

A record heat wave scorched Europe in August 2003, claiming an estimated 35,000 lives. In France alone, 14,802 people died from the searing temperatures--more than 19 times the death toll from the SARS epidemic worldwide. In the worst heat spell in decades, temperatures in France soared to 104 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius) and remained unusually high for two weeks.

This summer's high temperatures also hit other European countries. Germany saw some 7,000 people die from the heat. Spain and Italy each suffered heat-related losses of nearly 4,200 lives. The heat wave claimed at least 1,300 lives in Portugal and up to 1,400 lives in the Netherlands. "
Droughts and killer storms are worsening as temperatures worldwide rise and energy use increases.

We can do something about fierce weather
Climate: Droughts and killer storms are worsening as temperatures worldwide rise and energy use increases.

By Dr. Cindy Parker and Mike Tidwell
Special To The Sun
Originally published October 12, 2003

Here's truth No. 1: Our weather in the Baltimore-D.C. region has been amazingly odd recently, generating endless conversation - much of it over the backyard fences of powerless homes - and ceaseless media stories. Reporters use such adjectives as "freaky," "anomalous" and "unprecedented" to describe the seemingly endless storms and wacky jet stream and gray skies. Some people are even calling the weather a "hex."

And no wonder. In the past 15 months alone this area has seen intense heat, drought and record "Code Red" smog days in Washington. Then came last winter's record snowfall - 5 feet in some places in this region. May brought a record-shattering 562 tornadoes nationwide and a spring of locally endless rainy days and weeks without sunshine.

Two powerful August storms knocked out power to hundreds of thousands of people.

Then Hurricane Isabel brought 3 million outages across the East and a record surge tide to the Chesapeake Bay and Potomac River. Baltimore and eastern Baltimore County were flooded. Days later, a non-hurricane storm caused intense flooding - 6.5 inches in Leesburg, Va. - and knocked out power to 100,000 people. (That's four major outages in six weeks. A first, utilities say.)

Here's truth No. 2: The world's climate is rapidly changing. Mean temperatures continue to rise across the planet, driven by the phenomenon of global warming, itself driven by the worldwide combustion of fossil fuels. This is not the idle claim of wacko environmentalists. It is the firm consensus of an overwhelming majority of the world's leading climate scientists. Even the Bush administration, not given to eco-alarmism, has confirmed in two major reports that global warming is well under way and will accelerate significantly in coming decades.

The continuing impacts of global climate change are enormous and observable worldwide. Glaciers are vanishing, coral reefs are bleaching, and sea levels are rising. In Maryland, a sea-level rise of more than 1 foot caused watermen to abandon entire Chesapeake islands in the 20th century. The rise also helped destroy one-third of the marshes at the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, drowning important grasses.

Question: Is the weird weather in our region of late also an expression of global warming?

According to the highly respected World Meteorological Organization in Geneva, the weather has been measurably strange in many parts of the world recently, not just here. While August storms were wrecking our power lines, a record heat wave was killing 15,000 people in France and destroying wheat crops across Europe equal to half of U.S. production. Heat and intense storms took more than 1,000 lives in India and Sri Lanka; land-based temperatures worldwide in May were the highest ever recorded.

Scientists, of course, are careful to stress that no individual weather event can be positively linked to global warming. But amid this year's rash of extremes, the WMO felt compelled in July to warn the world that scientific studies do show an increase in extreme weather events at the same time global temperatures are rising. In North America, for example, intense precipitation events (large amounts of rain falling in short time intervals) rose significantly during the 20th century, including across the mid-Atlantic region.

More significant, scientists say that future global warming - projected between 3 and 10 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100 - is likely to directly trigger more intense and more frequent droughts, storms and flooding worldwide. Simply put, a warmed atmosphere holds more moisture and more energy, giving the weather more intense characteristics.

And another question: Can we do anything about the changing climate? Whether global warming is responsible for our recent weird weather is perhaps less important than the lesson learned over the past few months: that weather can be very, very painful. And with projections that rising global temperatures will bring a future full of weather havoc, it's clearly in our best interest to keep global temperatures down as much as possible.

But to slow global warming and restabilize the climate will require a rapid worldwide cut in fossil fuel use of perhaps 60 percent to 80 percent, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a body of thousands of scientists from around the world.

Thankfully, America is blessed with abundant potential for wind power, solar energy and biomass energy. Maryland and Virginia, for example, could get between 10 percent and 20 percent of their current electricity loads from land-based wind farms, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. More could come from offshore windmills.

And potential gains in energy efficiency - in cars, appliances, manufacturing equipment - are nearly boundless. Europeans, with comparable per capita income, use one-third less energy per capita than Americans. Clearly we can do better.

Here's another truth: The recent images of mangled power lines and undrinkable water and kayakers paddling through downtown Annapolis need not be harbingers of worse weather havoc. But we don't have much time left to protect ourselves. The sooner we turn into reality the clean-energy potential all around us, the sooner we'll guarantee - here and across the globe - a climate safe for agriculture, commerce, ecosystems and our children's future.

Cindy Parker, M.D., is a research scientist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore. Mike Tidwell is director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network in Takoma Park.

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