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Item #d97may1

Two related items in Nature, 386(6626), Apr. 17, 1997:

"Increased Plant Growth in the Northern High Latitudes from 1981 to 1991," R.B. Myneni (Dept. Geog., Boston Univ., Commonwealth Ave., Boston MA 02215; e-mail:, C.D. Keeling et al., 698-702. Satellite data show that the photosynthetic activity of terrestrial vegetation increased from 1981 to 1991 in a manner that suggests an increase in plant growth associated with a lengthening of the active growing season. The effect is most prominent in the middle northern latitudes, where marked warming has occurred in spring due to early disappearance of snow. This result is consistent with previously determined changes in the seasonal cycle of atmospheric CO2. Both indicate that the global carbon cycle has responded to interannual fluctuations in surface air temperature which, although small at the global scale, are regionally highly significant.

"A Greener North," I. Fung (School Earth & Ocean Sci., Univ. Victoria, POB 3055, Victoria BC V8W 3P6, Can.), 659-660. Discusses the previous paper, which provides the first direct observation of the biosphere that photosynthesis has increased on such a broad scale for such a long time. The EOS instruments scheduled for launch in 1998 should provide some interesting new insights.

Item #d97may2

"Consumption: Challenge to Sustainable Development..." (N. Meyers, Green Coll., Oxford Univ., Oxford, U.K.) "...or Distraction?" J.R. Vincent (Harvard Inst. for Intl. Development, 1 Eliot St., Cambridge MA 02138; e-mail:, T. Panayotou, Science, 276(5309), 53-57, Apr. 4, 1997.

In this debate, Myers argues that present excessive, wasteful global consumption cannot be sustained by rich nations. Using global warming as a prime example, he discusses policy options and the role of science. In response, Vincent and Panayotou review information on the links between consumption and sustainable development, concluding that the problem is not consumption levels, but rather consumption patterns; what is needed are policies to overcome market and policy failures, not a cap on global consumption.

Item #d97may3

Two related items in Nature, 385(6618), Feb. 20, 1997:

"Cool Tropical Punch of the Ice Ages," C. Charles (Scripps Inst. Oceanog., La Jolla CA 92093; e-mail:, 681-683. Discusses the following article (and two others in this issue), which bear on the sensitivity of the Earth's climate system to any perturbation, including possible future anthropogenic effects.

"Influence of Ocean Heat Transport on the Climate of the Last Glacial Maximum," R.S. Webb (NOAA/NGDC, Paleoclim. Prog., 325 Broadway, Boulder CO 80303; e-mail:, D.H. Rind et al., 695-699. (Model results are available at Climate simulations using an atmospheric general circulation model show that the tropical climate may have cooled significantly during the ice ages. This result implies that the expected warming in the future from doubling of atmospheric CO2 may be closer to 4 C, rather than the IPCC's "best estimate" of 2.5 C.

Item #d97may4

"Assessing the Health Impacts of Climate Change," H. Dowlatabadi (Dept. Eng. & Public Policy, Carnegie Mellon Univ., Pittsburgh PA 15213), Clim. Change, 35(2), 137-144, Feb. 1997.

An essay emphasizing that the literature on health impacts of climate change must be interpreted in the broader context of public health issues in a challenging global environment. This broader interpretation does not always support intervention to halt or reverse climate change. For example, we should be helping less industrialized nations to gain access to basic public health, to improve patient care, to engage in activities which do not expose them to disease vectors, and to develop institutions which can ameliorate the ravages of climate extremes.

Item #d97may5

"A University Perspective on Global Climate Modeling," D.A. Randall (Dept. Atmos. Sci., Colorado State Univ., Fort Collins CO 80523), Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc., 77(11), 2685-2690, Nov. 1996.

Analyzes the roughly two dozen global modeling groups in the U.S., dividing them into four categories: laboratories and universities, and development and applications. Most groups are focusing on applications rather than development, contrary to the early days of modeling, especially in universities. A key role of university groups is to train new model developers. Outlines a simple but functional conceptual organization of U.S. modeling groups to promote model development and meet the needs of policy makers.

Item #d97may6

"Locked on Course: Hydro Quebec's Commitment to Mega-Projects," J. Maxwell (Ctr. Intl. Affairs, E38-270, Mass. Inst. Technol., 292 Main St., Cambridge MA 02139), J. Lee et al., Environ. Impact Assess. Rev., 17(1), 19-38, Jan. 1, 1997.

Large organizations often escalate commitments to mega-projects despite evidence of adverse environmental or economic consequences. Analyzes Hydro-Quebec's Great Whale project as an example and suggests ways to break such commitments.

Item #d97may7

"Conflicting Beliefs: National Implementation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change," G.C. Sewell (Dept. Urban Studies & Planning, Rm. 3-411, Mass. Inst. Technol., 77 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge MA 02139), ibid., 16(3), 137-150, May 1996.

Presents a detailed analysis of the development of climate change policy in the U.S., as seen in terms of the interplay of "precautionary" and "economic growth" coalitions, and how this interplay relates to the international level.

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