by Agence France-Presse –
LONDON (July 28, 2003) AFP — Human induced global climate change is a weapon of mass destruction at least as dangerous as nuclear, chemical or biological arms, a leading British climate scientist warned.
John Houghton, a former key member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said Monday that the impacts of global warming are such that “I have no hesitation in describing it as a weapon of mass destruction.” He said the United States, in an “epic” abandonment of leadership, was largely responsible for the threat.
“Like terrorism, this weapon knows no boundaries,” Houghton said. “It can strike anywhere, in any form — a heatwave in one place, a drought or a flood or a storm surge in another”
The US mainland was struck by 562 tornados in May, killing 41 people, he said, but the developing world was hit even harder. For example, pre-monsoon temperatures this year in India reached a blistering 49C (120F), 5C (9F) above normal. “Once this killer heatwave began to abate, 1,500 people lay dead — half the number killed outright in the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Centre,” Houghton said.
He said British Prime Minister Tony Blair begun to face up to this, rhetorically at least, but “nowadays everyone knows that the US is the world’s biggest polluter, and that with only one 20th of the world’s population it produces a quarter of its greenhouse gas emissions.”
“But the US government, in an abdication of leadership of epic proportions, is refusing to take the problem seriously — and Britain, presumably because Blair wishes not to offend George Bush — is beginning to fall behind too,” Houghton said.
Apart from being co-chairman of the scientific assessment group of the climate change panel, Houghton is also the former chief executive of the British Meteorological Office.
Europe Blisters under Heatwave
PARIS (July 16, 2003) Herald Sun — Rome is considering water rations. London will reward anyone who can invent an air conditioning system for the sweltering Tube. In Paris, the city’s fountains have become wading pools. Summer has arrived with a vengeance in parts of Europe, forcing dehydrated tourists to run for cover as officials from England to Romania scramble to limit the damage from drought and high heat.
In Paris, where the mercury rose to an almost Australian 33 degrees Celsius (91 F) today, water vendors were out in force, ice cream parlours did brisk business and weary tourists took refuge in just about every place the could.
Places like England, Berlin and some Baltic countries were basking in uncommonly balmy climes more reminiscent of summer in the Mediterranean. Belgian daily De Morgen ran a front-page photo of a man in a bathing suit sunning himself in the town of Oostende under the headline: “Belgium is becoming a tropical paradise”.
Scorching temperatures in Italy today prompted authorities to discuss whether to declare a state of emergency in the country’s north due to a weeks-long drought. Rome officials spoke about rationing water in dozens of the capital’s districts and Italian newspapers warned that fruit and vegetable prices could rise by 30 percent because output from parched fields was shrinking.
Italy was hit by power blackouts late last month when citizens overloaded the system during a heatwave. Big power plants on the River Po – at its lowest level in decades – lacked the water needed to cool their turbines.
Meteorologists in Italy predicted the searing temperatures and lack of rain in the country’s battered north would continue into August. Some experts blamed global warming.”Temperatures are increasing all over the world and in Italy specifically, 0.5 degrees (Celsius/ .9 F) in the last 30 years,” geologist Mario Tozzi said.The result was a 30 percent drop in rainfall over the last 30 years, he said.
Levels in some of Europe’s leading rivers were dropping. German officials said the Rhine was at five-year lows and ships along the Danube faced the risk of running aground in Romania.
Authorities in Romania were digging deeper channels in the Danube to prevent ships from grounding, and ordered shipping companies to reduce their loads on one of eastern Europe’s top commercial arteries.
The economic fallout was poised to hit agriculture too. In Austria, farming groups warned that drought was likely to cut this summer’s harvest of various crops – such as grains, peas and corn – in many places down to about 60 percent of normal levels. At least four brush fires broke out on Corsica today, prompting firefighters to fan out across the French Mediterranean island to battle the blazes.
Authorities were also on guard about possible forest fires in Finland, a big timber producer, where temperatures topped 30 degrees Celsius under glaring sunshine in recent days.
On one of the city’s hottest days of the year, London Mayor Ken Livingstone offered a $245,000 reward to anyone who invented an air-conditioning system for the London Underground’s deepest lines.
In the French capital, some commuters said Paris officials could take a lesson from their neighbour across the Channel.”It’s high time they put air conditioning in the Paris Metro,” said Parisian Joelle Abalea, 33, as she entered the station at Place de la Concorde.”It’s so hot in here that for short trips, I’d rather walk in the sun than take the subway.”