World Scientist to Issue New Warning on Climate Threat

February 1st, 2007 - by admin

The Age & Marlowe Hood /Agence France-Presse & International Herald Tribune – 2007-02-01 23:08:23

People ‘To Blame’ for Global Warming
The Age

(February 2, 2007) — The UN climate panel has issued its strongest warning yet that human activities are heating the planet, putting extra pressure on governments to do more to combat accelerating global warming.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the most authoritative group on warming which groups 2,500 scientists from more than 130 nations, predicted more severe rains, melting glaciers, droughts and heatwaves and a slow rise in sea levels.

The final text of the report, due out later, said it was “very likely” — meaning a probability of more than 90 percent — that human activities led by burning fossil fuels explained most of the warming in the past 50 years.

That is a shift from the last report, in 2001, when the IPCC said the link was “likely”, or at least 66 percent probable.

“Most of the observed increase in globally averaged temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic (human) greenhouse gas concentrations,” said the text, seen by Reuters.

The talks among government representatives and IPCC scientists, meeting in Paris since Monday, ended after midnight after a wrangle over rising ocean levels.

IPCC leaders will formally unveil the results of six years’ work in Paris at 0830 GMT (1930 AEDT).

A 20-page summary for policy makers outlines threats such as a melting of Arctic sea ice in summers by 2100 and a slowing of the Gulf Stream.

UN officials hope the report will prompt governments and companies to do more to cut emissions of greenhouse gases, released mainly by burning fossil fuels in power plants, factories and cars.

The report also predicted a “best estimate” that temperatures would rise by between 1.8 and 4.0 Celsius in the 21st century, with a likely range from 1.1 to 6.4 Celsius.

Temperatures rose 0.7 degrees in the 20th century and the 10 hottest years since records began in the 1850s have been since 1994. Many European countries have had their warmest January on record.

“The IPCC’s latest report provides the most conclusive evidence to date that human activities are causing dangerous climate change,” said Camilla Toulmin, head of the International Institute for Environment and Development, a London-based research group.

“Time is running out to cut greenhouse gas emissions,” she said. “For those who are still trying to determine responsibility for global warming, this new UN report on climate change is a scientific smoking gun,” Democratic Congressman Edward Markey of Massachusetts said. “We ignore it at the peril of our children and their children,” he said.

Thirty-five rich nations – but not the US, nor Australia – have signed the Kyoto Protocol that sets caps on emissions of greenhouse gases – but Kyoto’s first period runs only to 2012. And big emitters led by the US, China and India have no targets.

US President George W Bush said last week that climate change was a “serious challenge”.

He pulled out of Kyoto in 2001, saying Kyoto-style caps were an economic straitjacket and that it unfairly omitted developing nations.

Sea levels are likely to rise by between 28cm and 43cm this century, according to an earlier draft of the IPCC report. The range is lower than forecast in 2001 but delegates said they clarified that the projection did not include the possibility of an accelerating melt of Greenland ice, which some studies suggest is under way.

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Global Temperature to Rise between 1.8 and 4 C by 2100
Marlowe Hood /Agence France-Presse

The earth’s surface temperature will probably rise by between 1.8 and 4.0 C (3.24 and 7.24 F) by the turn of the century, according to a “best estimate” agreed by the UN’s top scientific panel for global warming, sources said.

The estimate was released as the world’s top climate experts struggled against the clock to hammer out a consensus report on global warming that is already radiating political shockwaves.

The 1.8-4.0 C warming is experts’ “best estimate” in forecasts for 2090-2099 compared to 1980-1999, depending on how much carbon dioxide, the principal greenhouse gas, enters the atmosphere by 2100.

In 2001, using a somewhat different method of calculation, the IPCC gave a temperature range of between 1.4 and 5.8 C (2.52-10.4 F).

The consensus estimate will feature in a major update about global warming due to be unveiled in Paris on Friday by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) after a four-day debate.

The first review of the evidence since 2001, it summarises the work of thousands of climate scientists, working in fields as diverse as ice cores, coral reefs, ocean current observation and atmospheric monitoring.

Greenhouse gases are carbon gases that trap the sun’s heat instead of letting it radiate into space.

They exist naturally, but the IPCC report is expected to declare that man-made gases — especially carbon pollution from fossil fuels — are almost certainly to blame for most of the warming observed in the last half-century.

This warming is already affecting the climate, causing shrinking snow and ice cover, retreating permafrost, longer droughts and changed precipitation patterns.

More than 500 scientists huddled at the closed-door meeting in Paris, poring over the first review of the scientific evidence for global warming in six years.

“None of the ‘usual suspects’ — the United States, the oil-producing countries and China — have attempted to obstruct the discussions” or “corrupt the science in the report,” said a participant.

But the line-by-line vetting was slowed by the sheer task of making the document intelligible for policymakers without sacrificing scientific accuracy.

There was also sharp debate, sources said, about what should be included, or not, in the phonebook-sized report’s all-important summary.

“The two main sticking points have been how to describe the temperature projections and the rise in sea levels,” said the environmental scientist.

A forecast in the draft that sea levels will rise by 28 to 43 centimeters (11.2 to 17.2 inches) has also been contested as too conservative by some scientists, both sources said, as it does not factor in recently-observed melting of ice in Greenland and Antarctica.

“The paleontologists point out that during the last intergalacial period, sea levels rose at one meter (3.25 feet) or higher per century,” a source said.

As the week-long meeting got underway, global warming initiatives announced around the world underscored the extent to which climate change is fast becoming a top priority for policy makers.

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) joined with the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) — the offshoot of the 1992 Rio Summit — to call on new Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon to call a special summit on global warming.

US lawmakers called Tuesday for an end to American complacency over global warming as the new Democratic-controlled Congress weighed measures to reduce greenhouse gases.

Two more volumes of the IPCC assessment are due out in April and early May. They will assess the environmental and social impacts of these changes and ways of mitigating climate shift.

The Eiffel Tower, near the conference venue, as well as the Colosseum in Rome and other landmarks throughout Europe, extinguished their lights for five minutes at 7:55 pm (1855 GMT) as part of a campaign to raise awareness about energy efficiency and fossil-fuel pollution.

Panel: Global Warming Makes Stronger Hurricanes
International Herald Tribune

(February 1, 2007) — Global warming has made stronger hurricanes, including those in the Atlantic Ocean such as 2005’s Katrina, an authoritative panel on climate change has concluded for the first time, participants in the deliberations said Thursday.

During marathon meetings in Paris, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change approved language that said an increase in hurricane and tropical cyclone strength since 1970 “more likely than not” can be attributed to man-made global warming, according to Leonard Fields, of Barbados, and Cedric Nelom, of Suriname.

In its last report in 2001, the same panel had said there was not enough evidence to make such a conclusion.

“It is very important” that the language is so strong this time, said Fields, whose eastern Caribbean island is on the path of many hurricanes. “Insurance companies watch the language too.”

The panel did note that the increase in stronger storms differs in various parts of the globe, but that the storms that strike the Americas are global warming-influenced, according to another participant.

Fields said that the report notes that most of the changes have been seen in the North Atlantic.

The report — scheduled to be released Friday morning — is also a marked departure from a November 2006 statement by the World Meteorological Organization, which helped found the IPCC.

The meteorological organization, after contentious debate, said it could not link past stronger storms to global warming. The debate about whether stronger hurricanes can be linked to global warming has been dividing a scientific community that is otherwise largely united in agreeing that global warming is human-made and a problem.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Kerry Emanuel, who pioneered much of the research linking global warming to an uptick in hurricane strength, looked at the original language in an IPCC draft and called it “a pretty strong statement.”

“I think we’ve seen a pretty clear signal in the Atlantic,” Emanuel said. The increase in Atlantic hurricane strength “is so beautifully correlated with sea surface there can’t be much doubt that there’s a relationship with sea surface temperature.”

But U.S. National Hurricane Center scientist Christopher Landsea has long disagreed with that premise. While he would not comment on the IPCC decision, Landsea pointed to the meteorological organization’s statement last fall.

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