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Major economies to delve into climate impasse

Climate change 'a global security threat'
London (UPI) Apr 16, 2010 - Climate change is a global security threat that affluent nations as well as poor states need to confront at whatever cost to head off a catastrophic chain of events, the London International Institute for Strategic Studies said in a new study. The IISS announced the new study as European air transport was hit by a volcanic eruption in Iceland that unleashed a huge pall of ash over the continent. Airports shut and people reported breathing difficulties in some areas amid scientific predictions the volcano under the Eyjafjallajokull glacier in Iceland could continue to spew lava for months. The IISS said, "Climate change has been a key factor in the rise and fall of societies and states from prehistory to the recent fighting in the Sudanese state of Darfur."

The institute said climate change "drives instability, conflict and collapse but also expansion and reorganization. "The ways cultures have met the climate challenge provide object lessons for how the modern world can handle the new security threats posed by unprecedented global warming." The IISS publication, "Climate Conflict: how global warming threatens security and what to do about it," was written by Jeffrey Mazo, managing editor of the institute's journal, Survival, and a research fellow for environmental security and science policy at the IISS. The study looks at historical precedents and combines them with current thinking on state stability, internal conflict and state failure. The approach, said the IISS, "suggests that overcoming cultural, social, political and economic barriers to successful adaptation to a changing climate is the most important factor in avoiding instability in a warming world."

It said, "The countries which will face increased risk are not necessarily the most fragile, nor those which will suffer the greatest physical effects of climate change." The global security threat posed by fragile and failing states is well known, said the IISS. "It is in the interest of the world's more affluent countries to take measures both to reduce the degree of global warming and climate change and to cushion the impact in those parts of the world where climate change will increase that threat," the IISS said. "Neither course of action will be cheap, but inaction will be costlier." Providing the right kind of assistance to the people and places where it is most needed was one way of reducing the cost. "Understanding how and why different societies respond to climate change is one way of making that possible," said the institute.
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) April 18, 2010
Representatives from the world's leading economies were to meet here Sunday to see if they can find common ground on climate change, as wide gaps divide the United States, China and other key nations.

The US-led Major Economies Forum includes 17 countries responsible for the bulk of global emissions -- and excludes smaller nations such as Sudan whose firebrand negotiators held up sessions at December's much criticized Copenhagen summit.

Most European delegations, who were to have been represented by their environment ministers and climate negotiators, now will be represented by their ambassadors in Washington because of the flight disruption in Europe due to ash from an Icelandic volcano, a French embassy source told AFP.

The United States hopes that the closed-door talks, which start with a dinner, will let key nations quietly assess what, if anything, they can achieve heading into the next major climate summit in December in Cancun, Mexico.

"Clearly, there is still a gap between the views of the developing and developed world," State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said. "We're going to see if we can, through the course of this discussion, narrow that down."

White House aide Michael Froman and US climate negotiator Todd Stern sent participants a set of questions for the discussions, starting simply with, "What is the outcome we are all seeking in Cancun?"

Alden Meyer, director of strategy and policy at the Union of Concerned Scientists, which supports action against climate change, said it was "very difficult to close the deep gaps between countries such as the US and China."

The Washington talks offer a chance to "see if there is any convergence on what these key countries want, because if there is, that will give us a sense that there might be some way forward to get progress in Cancun," Meyer said.

China has surpassed the United States as the world's top emitter of carbon, which UN scientists say is causing global warming that could put entire species at risk if unchecked.

China has announced plans to reduce the intensity of carbon emissions.

But China, India and other developing nations have resisted a legally binding climate treaty, arguing that wealthy nations bear primary responsibility for climate change.

The United States was the only major country to reject the Kyoto Protocol, whose obligations expire at the end of 2012, calling it unfair because it made no demands of emerging economies.

President Barack Obama is pushing for the first-ever nationwide plan to curb US emissions, with senators set to present long-delayed legislation later this month.

In a recent interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corp., Obama said that while the United States needed to act on climate change, China and other emerging countries should not wait until their living standards improve as it was "not a sustainable, practical approach."

But Ben Lieberman, an expert at the conservative Heritage Foundation, doubted that the talks in Washington could bridge the divide, pointing to China's heavy reliance on coal to power its economy.

"They get a lot of positive press about the wind power and solar power that they have and that they export, but that's a trickle compared with their coal-fire generation," Lieberman said.

"They've made it very clear they're not going to jeopardize economic growth for global warming," Lieberman said. "And even if they were to focus on the environment, they have more pressing problems."

Still, some China watchers say that climate change could mark a turning point in the nation's global role. Beijing, long a champion of the developing world, faced criticism both in wealthier and poorer nations for its position.

"Copenhagen, in this respect, may have been a watershed event," said Elizabeth Economy, director of Asia studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

"For many developing countries, climate change has revealed China as less and less 'one of us' and more and more 'one of them.'"

The Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate (MEF) was launched in March 2009 with the purpose of facilitating dialogue among major developed and developing economies.

The 17 participants include Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, the European Union, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

The forum has held five meetings thus far. The most recent took place in London last October.

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Iceland volcano unlikely to slow global warming: scientists
Paris (AFP) April 16, 2010
Big volcanic eruptions have had a cooling effect on Earth's climate, but the Icelandic event is too small to provide any such respite from manmade global warming, scientists said on Friday. The benchmark cooling event of the past 20 years was in 1991, when Mount Pinatubo erupted in the Philippines. It cooled Earth's surface by 0.5 degrees Celsius (0.9 degrees Fahrenheit) over the next ye ... read more

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