Key climate report sparks global call to action
- 18:02 02 February 2007
- NewScientist.com news service
- Catherine Brahic, Paris
Governments and environmental groups the world over have greeted the new UN report on the science of climate change with words of praise – and determination. The report, by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, was released on Friday in Paris, France (see Blame for global warming placed firmly on humankind).
"It is another nail in the coffin of the climate change deniers and represents the most authoritative picture to date, showing that the debate over the science of climate change is well and truly over,” said David Miliband, UK environment minister.
The report considered all the research since the last IPCC assessment in 2001 and the 21-page summary (pdf) of its findings – approved by officials from 113 countries – says that “warming of the climate system is unequivocal”.
“The IPCC report embodies an extraordinary scientific consensus that climate change is already upon us, and that human activities are the cause,” says James Leape, director general of WWF International.
Achim Steiner, executive director of the United Nations' Environment Programme (one of the governing bodies of the IPCC), said the new report "gives us a stark warning that the potential impact will be more dramatic, faster and more drastic in terms of consequences" than previously thought. The impacts will change the way some people live in fundamental ways, he added.
Calls for action
Despite past scepticism by the US administration, the White House backed the report. "It is a comprehensive and accurate reflection of the current state of climate change science,” said Sharon Hays, associate director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. Hays led the US delegation to the IPCC, which was praised by many for their constructive contribution to the final vetting of the report summary.
With the report being acknowledged as having clearly demonstrated the link between human activities and climate change, it has prompted strong calls for action.
The Democrat chair of the House Committee on Science and Technology, Bart Gordon said: "Expert scientists have provided us with a diagnosis of the problem and a prognosis for our planet's health. Now, it's time for us - the policymakers - to do our jobs."
"The clock is ticking and time is running out for us to avoid major climate change, with the real and serious threats to our economies and peoples' livelihoods it carries,” said Marthinus van Schalwyk, South African minister for environment and tourism.
"Faced with this emergency, now is not the time for half measures. It is the time for a revolution, in the true sense of the term," said French president Jacques Chirac. "We are in truth on the doorstep of the irreversible."
There was a hopeful feeling in Paris that the new report would pave the way for an agreement that would go beyond the Kyoto Protocol targets for 2012.
Yvo de Boer, executive secretary to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, said the European Commission’s calls for industrialised nations to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 60% to 80% by 2050 (compared to 1990 levels) were “exactly in line with what scientists say we need". The question now, he said, "is how do we convince other industrialised countries to sign up to the European rallying call?”
Others echoed the idea that developed nations must take the lead. Kenneth Denman, a Canadian climatologist who led the work on one of the report’s chapters, told New Scientist that developed countries would be “moral hypocrites if we ask developing countries to reduce their emissions when they’re trying to catch up with the standard of living we’ve had for the past 50 years”.
“North America has 5% of the global population,” Denman pointed out, “yet we produce 25% of the fossil fuel emissions.” Developed nations must “clean up their act” first, he said.
reposted from: NS
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