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. In Chilly Washington Global Warming Gets New Airing

Marine One blows up a cloud of snow on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, DC as it arrived to pick up US President George W. Bush. Photo courtesy AFP.
by Jitendra Joshi
Washington (AFP) Feb 14, 2007
Global legislators met in snowbound Washington Wednesday to debate a new pact against catastrophic climate change and find ways of luring laggards like the United States and China on board. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, addressing the forum at the US Senate in a recorded video message, said she was determined to bring about breakthroughs on global warming during her tenure this year as Group of Eight chair.

The Washington gathering, she said, presented a "unique forum" to address the problem through talks among lawmakers from the G8 powers plus five major developing economies -- Brazil, China, India, Mexico and South Africa.

The legislators aim to craft a consensus position on climate change to present to the German leader Thursday.

Merkel said the scientific evidence now leaves "no room for doubt" that climate change is real, is man-made, and risks becoming an irreversible disaster without action now.

Many of the forum delegates noted the alarming conclusions of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change delivered at a Paris conference this month.

The UN body said fossil fuel pollution would raise temperatures this century, worsen floods, droughts and hurricanes, melt polar ice and damage the climate system for a thousand years to come.

Following an inaugural meeting in Brussels in mid-2006, the Washington forum is the second informal attempt by legislators to try to craft the outlines of a global-warming pact to succeed the Kyoto treaty, which expires in 2012.

The Republican administration of US President George W. Bush refused to adopt Kyoto, arguing the economic costs would be crippling and the science remained unclear.

The treaty also left out emerging nations like India and China, which is building a new coal-fired power plant at the rate of one a week to sustain its stunning economic transformation.

But a bevy of influential US senators including Republican presidential hopeful John McCain lined up to insist that change is coming in the world's largest economy and its heaviest polluter.

"The debate is over, my friends. The question is, what do we do," said McCain, who with former Democratic vice presidential candidate Joe Lieberman has introduced a bill to enforce a "cap and trade" system for US industry.

Under this system pioneered by the European Union, companies trade excess emissions of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide among themselves with the aim of slashing overall levels.

Such schemes are already being used experimentally by California and northeast US states, while pressure for change is coming also from evangelical leaders who argue that God entrusted the Earth to man's stewardship.

Republican Senator Olympia Snowe noted the irony that the legislators' forum had coincided with Washington's biggest snowstorm of this winter.

But she stressed: "I want to assure you that the bipartisan mood in Congress is moving in the right direction."

Ye Rutang, former Chinese minister for urban and rural construction, said that Beijing has given "serious priority" to the issue "in line with its sustainable development strategy."

The world's most populous nation is developing new energy technologies, and is rapidly planting new forests, he stressed.

With the US Congress now under Democratic control, ideas like cap and trade carbon markets are getting a new hearing in Washington.

And even Bush has been sounding less skeptical about the issue, mentioning global warming as a man-made problem in his State of the Union speech to Congress last month.

Among the hard-nosed US business community, many are looking to the potential investment boom that could come from building up efficient and renewable energy sources to tackle climate change.

"We believe that the time has come for America to adopt a market-based approach. We believe that cap and trade is just that," said Rick Lazio, a former Congressman who is now a top Wall Street executive at JPMorgan Chase.

earlier related report
Washington skids on ice as US northeast braces for more snow
Washington (AFP) Feb 14 - The US capital awoke Wednesday to an icy mix of snow and sleet that closed airports and slowed the federal government as a storm that had already killed three passed over the East Coast.

As the layer of ice on Washington streets was covered with snow, roads became treacherous and bus routes were cancelled, stalling commuters. In a pre-dawn announcement Wednesday, the US government said employees in the Washington area could arrive up to two hours late.

Most schools were closed and service shuttered at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and Dulles International Airport.

A regional "significant" winter storm packing snow, sleet and freezing rain was moving north up the eastern seabord, the National Weather Service (NWS) said.

Travel was "treacherous" on the slippery roads as heavy ice downed trees and power lines, the service said. Wind gusts of up to 40 miles (64 kilometers) an hour were forecast for Wednesday afternoon. More snow and ice could cause severe power outages, it warned.

Along the Atlantic seabord, in portions of Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland and New Jersey, snow accumulations were expected to reach six to 10 inches (15-25 centimeters).

In New York City, meteorologists warned of freezing rain and sleet, with snow accumulating one to three inches (2.5-7.5 centimeters).

The weather also played havoc with the heating-up 2008 presidential race.

Republican contender Mitt Romney, who announced his bid for his party's nomination Tuesday, was forced to cancel a campaign stop in the northeastern state of New Hampshire.

On Tuesday, a snow plow operator in Missouri was killed, as were two people in Nebraska, the National Weather Service reported.

People still struggling to dig out from the 10 to 12 feet (3.05 to 3.66 meters) of snow dumped on New York state in the past week were expected to see another foot (30 centimeters) of it by Wednesday, weather service meteorologist Dennis Feltgen told AFP.

earlier related report
Winter's biggest snowstorm chills Valentine's Day in US
Washington (AFP) Feb 14 - The most powerful snowstorm of the winter pummeled the eastern United States and parts of Canada Wednesday, sticking an icy dagger into the heart of Valentine's Day.

"If you need an excuse to stay inside and be a good valentine, this is your day," Dennis Feltgen, a meterologist at the National Weather Service, told AFP.

A massive weather system that started in the US southwest, swept through the Midwest, regained strength off the Virginia coast and was lumbering up the east coast, he said.

The low pressure center behind the storm that was climbing up the eastern US seaboard was expected to hit Cape Cod, Massachusetts late Wednesday, and reach Canada's maritime provinces late Thursday.

"Things will get worse today before they get better," said Feltgen.

Blizzard warnings were out in the northeastern US as heavy snows and high winds were expected to cut visibility to near zero, the NWS said, amid warnings that with the wind chill factor temperatures on Thursday could drop below minus 20 Fahrenheit (-29 Celsius) in New York state and Vermont.

In Washington, the US capital awoke Wednesday to an icy mix of snow and sleet that closed airports and slowed the federal government.

As snow covered the layer of ice on Washington streets, roads became treacherous and bus routes were cancelled, stalling commuters.

In a pre-dawn announcement Wednesday, the US government said employees in the Washington area could arrive up to two hours late.

Most schools were closed and service shuttered at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and Dulles International Airport.

Travel was "treacherous" on the slippery roads as heavy ice downed trees and power lines, the service said. Wind gusts of up to 40 miles (64 kilometers) an hour were forecast for Wednesday afternoon. More snow and ice could cause severe power outages, it warned.

Along the Atlantic seabord, in portions of Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland and New Jersey, snow accumulations were expected to reach six to 10 inches (15-25 centimeters).

In New York City, meteorologists warned of freezing rain and sleet, with snow accumulating one to three inches (2.5-7.5 centimeters).

The weather also played havoc with the heating-up 2008 presidential race.

Republican contender Mitt Romney, who announced his bid for his party's nomination Tuesday, was forced to cancel a campaign stop in the northeastern state of New Hampshire.

Three weather-related deaths were reported by the NWS on Tuesday: a snow-plow operator in Missouri was killed and two people died in Nebraska.

Meanwhile, Canada's worst snowstorm of the season blanketed southern Ontario Wednesday, forcing several flight cancellations and school closures, and tormenting drivers as it swept eastward.

In Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa, dozens of flights, mostly to large US cities, were cancelled, according to airport authorities.

Several cars slipped off icy roads in Ontario and Quebec provinces, where visibility was poor, as strong winds kicked up swirls of snow, transport officials said.

"It's the first big storm of the year. It's not commonplace, but at the same time, it's not the end of the world," Denis Heroux, an Environment Canada meteorologist at Montreal airport, told AFP.

Almost 25 centimeters (10 inches) of snow was expected to fall in Montreal Wednesday, and up to 40 centimeters (16 inches) was likely in southern Quebec, along the Canada-US border.

"It's almost as much snow in one day as has fallen since the beginning of winter," said Heroux, noting that Montreal received only 70 centimeters (27.5 inches) of snow this year, half the normal snowfall.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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Blair Wants New Climate Change Deal Before Exit
Berlin (AFP) Feb 13, 2007
British Prime Minister Tony Blair said here on Tuesday he was staking his remaining months in office on reaching a new international agreement on climate change. After talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Blair said he hoped to help thrash out compromises on a new accord to succeed the Kyoto Protocol governing reductions in greenhouse gases which expires in 2012.

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