Today’s Climate: January 2, 2009

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Tests Show High Levels of Arsenic from Coal Ash Spill (Knoxville News Sentinel)

A coalition of environmental groups said yesterday that water quality tests near the spot where 1.1 billion gallons of coal fly ash spilled into Tennessee’s Emory River have turned up levels of heavy metals up to 300 times higher than regulatory limits.

NASA Climate Expert Makes Personal Appeal to Obama (Guardian)

NASA climate scientist James Hansen has written a new year appeal to Barack and Michelle Obama, warning of the "profound disconnect" between public policy on climate change and the magnitude of the problem.

Czechs Take Presidency of Europe (Reuters)

The Czech Republic has assumed the rotating presidency of the EU. Member nations have expressed concerns over how well its president, Vaclav Klaus, could follow France’s tenure, in which Pres. Sarkozy tackled a wide array of issues, including climate change.

Coral Growth in Decline at Great Barrier Reef (MSNBC)

The rate at which corals absorb calcium from seawater to calcify their hard skeletons — and thus grow — has declined dramatically in the last 20 years. Signs point to climate change as the culprit, according to a study of samples from Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.

Maryland Utilities to Add Conservation Fees (Baltimore Sun)

Maryland consumers will begin paying small monthly fees on electric bills this year to subsidize an ambitious energy-efficiency initiative, under plans approved by regulators this week.

Canada’s Forests Now Contribute to Climate Change (Chicago Tribune)

Canada’s 1.2 million square miles of forests, once seen as some of the world’s most dependable carbon sinks, are now pumping out more climate-changing CO2 than they are sequestering.

Beijing’s Ban on High-Emission Vehicles Begins (Ecoworldly)

On January 1, Beijing launched its ban of hundreds and thousands of vehicles with high emissions from the city center. One in ten cars and trucks in Beijing will be subject to the ban, accounting for 50% of the city’s bad auto pollution.