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Obama upbeat on climate, report shows worse crisis

by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) Nov 24, 2009
US President Barack Obama sought Tuesday to boost hopes of a landmark deal at the Copenhagen climate summit, as a new report showed the crisis facing the planet is deeper than previously thought.

Obama said the world was "one step closer to a successful outcome in Copenhagen," as he hosted key developing nation India at the White House a week after returning from top global polluter China.

"It's also essential that all countries do what is necessary to reach a strong operational agreement that will confront the threat of climate change while serving as a stepping-stone to a legally binding treaty," he added at a joint news conference with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

His comments came as scientists warned the planet could be getting much hotter, much faster than anticipated only two years ago, according to a review drawn up ahead of the December 7-18 UN climate conference.

The 68-page report suggests that many of the estimates in a report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2007 were too low.

The planet could now warm by 10.8 degrees Fahrenheit (seven degrees Celsius) and sea levels could rise by 3.25 feet (over a meter) by 2100, scenarios that seemed improbable just two years ago.

"This is a final scientific call for climate negotiators from 192 countries who must embark on the climate protection train in Copenhagen," said Hans Schellnhuber, director of Germany's Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), which oversaw the paper.

"They need to know the stark truth about global warming and the unprecedented risks involved."

While the United States, whose stance is regarded as crucial at the global warming summit, raised hopes that major powers were moving towards a deal, experts cautioned that uncertainty remains over Washington's stance.

The United States has yet to announce concrete targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions, although the Obama administration plans to do so in the coming days.

China has put the issue on the agenda of a meeting with the European Union next week and leaders of the 53 members of the Commonwealth, representing around two billion people, are set to address it at their weekend gathering in Trinidad.

Australia, the world's heaviest per capita polluter, is attempting to rush legislation through parliament curbing emissions ahead of the Copenhagen talks, which aim to clinch a global treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol before it expires in 2012.

"Just as we partnered with each other in the shaping of the knowledge economy, we have the opportunity today to become partners in developing the green economy of the future," Singh told reporters at the White House.

India, China and other developing nations have been pressing for Western nations to offer technology and other support to help them reduce the intensity of emissions blamed for global warming.

But the emerging economies have resisted legally binding requirements, saying that wealthy nations, not them, bear the historic responsibility for carbon emissions.

"The key issue here at the moment is the United States," the world's number two polluter and wealthiest country, said United Nations climate chief Yvo de Boer.

"My sense is Obama will be in a position to come to Copenhagen with a target and a financial contribution," he said in Brussels on Monday.

A senior Obama administration official said the US targets would not differ much from levels set out in legislation before Congress.

A US House of Representatives bill, passed in June, calls for cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent from 2005 levels by 2020 and by 83 percent by 2050. A version before the Senate includes a 20 percent reduction from 2005 levels by 2020.

The European Union has vowed to reduce its emissions by 20 percent from 1990 levels before 2020, raising the target to 30 percent in the event of an international agreement. Japan has offered 25 percent, but attached conditions.

In order to limit warming to two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), a threshold widely adopted as safe, scientists say emissions by industrialized nations must fall by 25-40 percent by 2020 over 1990 levels.

The United States was the world's biggest carbon emitter until it was overtaken by China in 2006, according to the Global Carbon Project, a consortium of leading climate scientists.

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US to present emissions target before Copenhagen
Washington (AFP) Nov 23, 2009
The United States will announce a target for reducing its greenhouse gas emissions before the UN climate conference in Copenhagen, removing a major obstacle to a deal, a senior official said Monday. The official refused to be drawn on specific numbers but the announcement was expected to be in line with legislation being debated in the US Senate that envisages a reduction of up to 20 percent ... read more

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