Antarctic ice riddle keeps sea-level secrets: A deep freeze holding 90 percent of the world’s ice, Antarctica is one of the biggest puzzles in debate on global warming with risks that any thaw could raise sea levels faster than U.N. projections. Even if a fraction melted, Antarctica could damage nations from Bangladesh to Tuvalu in the Pacific and cities from Shanghai to New York. It has enough ice to raise sea levels by 57 metres (187 ft) if it melted, over thousands of years. A year after the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) projected sea level rises by 2100 of about 20 to 80 cms (8-32 inches), a Reuters poll of 10 of the world’s top climatologists showed none think that range is alarmist. Reuters

UN: Climate change may cost $20 trillion: Global warming could cost the world up to $20 trillion over two decades for cleaner energy sources and do the most harm to people who can least afford to adapt, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warns in a new report. Ban’s report provides an overview of U.N. climate efforts to help the 192-nation General Assembly prepare for a key two-day climate debate in mid-February. That debate is intended to shape overall U.N. policy on climate change, including how nations can adapt to a warmer world and ways of supporting the U.N.-led negotiations toward a new climate treaty by 2009, U.N. officials said Wednesday. The treaty, replacing the Kyoto Protocol when it expires in 2012, could shape the course of climate change for decades to come. The Kyoto pact requires 37 industrial nations to reduce greenhouse gases by a relatively modest 5 percent on average. AP

Big firms lack climate change plans: Less than 3% of major Australian firms have implemented a climate change plan even though the Federal Government intends to bring in new carbon emission laws by 2010, a survey shows. Less than one in five firms see climate change as a present risk. The PricewaterhouseCoopers survey of CEOs and chief financial officers of 303 Australian companies with a turnover of more than $150 million, found that 67% of firms were unsure about their compliance obligations on climate change.  Some 78% of firms polled had not taken any action and 98% had not implemented a strategic response to address climate change risks.

EU bid to freeze out patio heaters: They have only been popular in the UK for little more than a decade, but patio heaters could become history if MEPs vote to ban them today. The EU parliament is expected to back a resolution requiring the use of appliances with low energy efficiency to be phased out.  Patio heaters are specifically targeted in the motion, which calls on the EU to act urgently and introduce minimum standards for energy efficiency on such appliances as air-conditioning, television “decoder” boxes and light bulbs. It also calls for the abolition of stand-by mode on electrical appliances. Guardian

Scientists suggest new geological epoch: ours: It would be called the Anthropocene. The word was coined by chemist and Nobel Prize winner Paul Crutzen at a conference in 2000. It denotes a new geological epoch, beginning about 200 years ago at the time of the Industrial Revolution, when our planet’s systems were increasingly affected by our species. While the term Anthropocene has been used informally for years, a recent peer-reviewed British paper argues that it is now time to officially accept Anthropocene as a distinct era and to leave the Holocene to the pre-Industrial past.  Monga Bay