All Eyes On Scientists As Climate Summit Opens
Paris (AFP) Jan 29, 2007
With a mountain of data in front of them and demands for action coming from behind, the world's top climate experts launched a massive review here Monday of the evidence for global warming. On Friday, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will release its first assessment since 2001, in a document likely to have far-reaching political and economic repercussions.
"Concerns about climate change and public awareness of the subject are at an all-time high," noted Rajendra Pachauri, the IPCC's chairman.
"At no time in the past has there been a greater global appetite for knowledge on any subject than there is today on the scientific facts underlying the reality of global climate change."
Christian Brodhag, representing the French hosts, said "the fight against climate change" had become cemented into national and European policy.
Brodhag said that the 2003 heatwave in France, which killed an estimated 15,000 people, mainly the elderly, had awoken his country to the danger. "This is why our fellow citizens no longer question climate change."
But one delegate told AFP that many at the conference feared the draft report poorly reflected a sense of urgency, especially about mounting damage to Earth's ice cover and polar caps.
New figures released Monday showed that 30 reference glaciers monitored by the Swiss-based World Glacier Monitoring Service lost about 66 centimetres (two feet) in thickness on average in 2005, bringing the loss to about 10.5 metres (34.6 feet) on average since 1980.
"The new data confirms the trend in accelerated loss during the past two and half decades," the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) said.
As the scientists met, climbers for the environment group Greenpeace scaled the Eiffel Tower nearby to hang a protest banner of a thermometer, representing the threat of global warming.
The report will be the fourth since the IPCC was launched. The panel is highly regarded for its neutrality and caution, and wields a big influence over government policies, corporate strategies and even individual decision-making.
In 2001, the IPCC declared that carbon pollution from burning oil, gas and coal had helped drive atmospheric levels of CO2 to their highest in 420,000 years.
CO2 is the principal "greenhouse gas," a term that applies to half a dozen gases that linger invisibly in the atmosphere, trapping the Sun's heat instead of letting it bounce back into space.
In 2001, the IPCC predicted that by 2100, the global atmospheric temperature will have risen between 1.4 and 5.8 C (2.52-10.4 F) and sea levels by 0.09 to 0.88 metres (3.5-35 inches) compared to their 1990 level, depending on how much greenhouse gas is emitted.
In Jakarta, Yvo de Boer, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), said climate change was already happening and the developing world was bearing the brunt.
Weather-related disasters killed almost 3,000 people and caused 27 billion dollars in damage in China last year, he said, while the retreat of Himalayan glaciers was affecting water supplies in India and China.
"Over recent years the level of Lake Victoria in Africa has dropped by about 30 percent, affecting the livelihoods of 30 million people in one of the most unstable regions of the world who live around that lake," he said.
"What you see around the world is that the countries least able to respond to the consequences of climate change, least able to act to defend themselves against climate change are experiencing the greatest impacts," de Boer said.
Pachauri said climate science had leapt ahead since 2001, and the report would eliminate some important areas of uncertainty.
A flurry of studies has highlighted damage to the climate system, including shrinking glaciers and snow cover in high mountains, a retreat of the North Pole's sea ice in summer and acidification of the seas caused by absorption of atmospheric CO2.
The draft report is agreed by consensus among the some 500 scientists and government representatives in the IPCC's Working Group 1.
Two other volumes will be issued in April in what will be the fourth assessment report on climate change by the IPCC since it was established in 1988. The two others will focus on the impacts of climate change and on the social-economic costs of reducing greenhouse gases.
Source: Agence France-Presse
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Melting Glaciers Show Climate Change Speeding Up
Geneva (AFP) Jan 29, 2007
New data released Monday shows that the melting of mountain glaciers worldwide is accelerating, a clear sign that climate change is also picking up, the UN environmental agency and scientists said. Thirty reference glaciers monitored by the Swiss-based World Glacier Monitoring Service lost about 66 centimetres (two feet) in thickness on average in 2005, the UN Environment Programme said in a statement.
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