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La Nina returns, bringing more severe weather: US
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) Sept 8, 2011

The weather phenomenon known as La Nina is returning for another season, likely bringing more drought, heavy rains and severe weather to some parts of the world, US forecasters said Thursday.

Experts at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center upgraded last month's La Nina Watch to a La Nina Advisory, the agency said in a statement.

The back-to-back emergence of the trend -- which causes cooler than average temperatures in the Pacific Ocean -- is not unheard of and happens about half the time, NOAA said.

"La Nina, which contributed to extreme weather around the globe during the first half of 2011, has re-emerged in the tropical Pacific Ocean and is forecast to gradually strengthen and continue into winter," it said.

The June 2010 to May 2011 La Nina "contributed to record winter snowfall, spring flooding and drought across the United States, as well as other extreme weather events throughout the world, such as heavy rain in Australia and an extremely dry equatorial eastern Africa."

Over 12 million people across the Horn of Africa are reeling from the region's worst drought in decades, which led the United Nations in July to declare the first famine this century.

The weather pattern was blamed for extremely heavy downpours in Australia, Southeast Asia and South America over late 2010 and early 2011.

"This means drought is likely to continue in the drought-stricken states of Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico," said Mike Halpert, deputy director of the Climate Prediction Center.

The northwestern United States can brace for a colder winter than usual while southern US states should see a warming trend, he said.

Pacific summit sounds alarm on climate change
Auckland (AFP) Sept 8, 2011 - Pacific leaders identified climate change as the greatest threat to the region Thursday, ordering officials to start work on plans to help people forced to relocate by rising sea levels.

The 16-nation Pacific Islands Forum said the impact of climate change was already apparent in countries such as Kiribati, where some villagers have had to abandon their homes as the seas rise, and finance was needed to help them.

"Climate change remains the single greatest threat to the livelihoods, security and well-being of the peoples of the Pacific," said a communique issued by the regional grouping after a two-day summit in Auckland.

The communique, which also raised concerns about human rights in Fiji, thanked UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for travelling to Auckland this week to highlight the threat posed by climate change.

During his visit, the UN leader said he had seen the effect of global warming first-hand during a visit to Kiribati and it had reinforced his belief that climate change was a reality.

"Climate change is not about tomorrow," he said during his Auckland visit. "It is lapping at our feet -- quite literally in Kiribati and elsewhere."

The PIF leaders ordered a report into how relocation options could be financed in a region where many island nations rely heavily on foreign aid, taking into account "the specific capacities and needs of respective countries".

They said there was a "critical and urgent need" for finance to help Pacific countries "in particular those already suffering, (who) are displaced or are being displaced as a result of the detrimental impacts of climate change".

During the summit, Kiribati President Anote Tong revealed that his low-lying nation was considering radical solutions to deal with rising seas, such as moving its 100,000-strong population onto man-made floating islands.

He estimated that the plan, which would see Kiribati residents relocated to structures resembling oil rigs, would cost $2 billion.

The PIF report into how to pay for relocation options is scheduled for completion in the first quarter of next year.

On Fiji, which was expelled from the PIF two years ago after its military regime reneged on plans to hold elections in the wake of a 2006 coup, the PIF countries reiterated the need for a return to democracy.

"(PIF leaders) expressed their continuing deep concern at the deteriorating human rights situation and serious political and economic challenges facing the people of Fiji," the communique said.

However, earlier on Thursday, European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso, who also visited Auckland for the summit, said he saw few signs the regime was easing its grip on power.

"Today we see little, if any, positive developments (in Fiji). The repressive regime remains in place, the socio-economic situation has worsened," he said in a speech at Auckland University.

"Against this background there is an evident need for supporting the Fijian people but keeping the pressure on the regime.

"That is why we will continue our search for a solution that returns democracy to the people of Fiji."

While the PIF meeting formally ended with the release of the communique, high-level talks will continue Friday when member nations hold bilateral talks with VIP guests in Auckland for the gathering.

US Deputy Secretary of State Tom Nides arrived with a 50-strong delegation Thursday, saying President Barack Obama had personally ensured that Washington had top-level representation at the meeting.

"Without question, the President is very much focused on what we're doing in this region and more importantly showing our deep and everlasting friendship with our friends in New Zealand," he told reporters.

Other high-profile dignitaries in Auckland include French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe, Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma and China's Vice Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai.

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Climate change 'greatest threat' to Pacific: regional forum
Auckland (AFP) Sept 8, 2011 - Climate change represents the greatest threat to the of the people of the Pacific region, a communique issued at the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) in Auckland said Thursday.

The 16-nation grouping said there was a urgent need to look at financing for Pacific nations where people may need to abandon their homes due to the impact of global warming.

"Climate change remains the single greatest threat to the livelihoods, security and well-being of the peoples of the Pacific," the communique said.

Villagers in some Pacific countries, such as Kiribati, have already had to relocate due to rising sea levels and the forum said practical steps needed to be taken to look at the issue of helping displaced people.

It ordered the PIF secretariat to examine how relocation options could be financed, taking into account "the specific capacities and needs of respective countries".

The communique also called for a return to democracy in Fiji, which was expelled from the PIF in 2009 after its military regime reneged on plans to hold elections in the wake of a 2006 coup.

"(Forum countries) expressed their continuing deep concern at the deteriorating human rights situation and serious political and economic challenges facing the people of Fiji," it said.

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Pacific summit faces Fiji, climate change hurdles
Auckland (AFP) Sept 7, 2011
The Pacific Islands Forum opened Wednesday with a passionate plea from Kiribati for help staving off rising seas caused by climate change, while discontent festered over Fiji's ban from the summit. Kiribati President Anote Tong said his low-lying nation was being engulfed as global warming lifted sea levels, forcing it to consider radical solutions such as moving its 100,000-strong populatio ... read more

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