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Climate skeptics exploiting scandal: US envoy

A 194-nation UN-led summit in Copenhagen in December pledged to limit global warming to two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) along with billions of dollars in financing. It gave countries until January 31 to sign on. Photo courtesy AFP.
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) Feb 16, 2010
The US pointman on climate change on Tuesday accused vested interests of exploiting scientific scandals and pledged to act even if China and India balk at the controversial Copenhagen accord.

Todd Stern, the US special envoy on climate issues, downplayed recent revelations about a landmark 2007 study by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that warned of dire consequences from global warming.

"What you do see sometimes is that people who have an agenda that is directed toward undermining action on climate change grab whatever tidbit they can find," Stern told reporters.

"What should not happen is that any individual mistakes, typos, whatever they might be, be taken to undermine the very fundamental record that exists from scientists all over the world and from observed data from all over the world that this is a quite serious and growing problem," he said.

The IPCC, which shared the Nobel Peace Prize with former US vice president Al Gore, admitted in January it could not substantiate one assertion from its 2007 report -- that global warming could melt Himalayan glaciers by 2035.

Leaked emails from scientists also appeared to show attempts to hide doubts about some of the research.

Stern is leading the US side in negotiations to draft a successor to the Kyoto Protocol, whose obligations for wealthy nations to cut carbon emissions blamed for global warming run out at the end of 2012.

President Barack Obama sharply changed US policy when he took over in January 2009 by supporting action by the world's largest economy on climate change.

But many lawmakers from former president George W. Bush's Republican Party oppose a US proposal to force emissions cuts, arguing it will cost jobs and disputing Obama's assertions it will help start a new green economy.

Bush said that the Kyoto Protocol was unfair to the United States by making no demands of fast-growing economies such as China, whose emissions are rising even if wealthy nations are responsible for past climate change.

A 194-nation UN-led summit in Copenhagen in December pledged to limit global warming to two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) along with billions of dollars in financing. It gave countries until January 31 to sign on.

China and India submitted documents showing their actions against climate change but said they were voluntary and did not explicitly endorse the Copenhagen agreement.

Stern said that the United States stood by its commitment to the Copenhagen accord and would not pull out even if China and India do not sign on to it.

"I don't think it's a question of the US saying 'nevermind,'" Stern said. "That's not the plan."

But Stern voiced confidence that the Asian powers would fully endorse the agreement.

"China and India have conveyed something which is not entirely clear. I think that'll get clarified, though... my guess over the course of the next few days," he said.

The Copenhagen accord has come under fire from all sides, with environmentalists charging that it is toothless.

Obama, who joined other leaders in personally negotiating the deal, has himself said that the agreement did not go far enough but stressed it was preferable to a collapse of talks.

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