Saturday, 30 May 2009

Climate change 'kills 300,000 every year'

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Three hundred thousand people are already dying every year as a result of global warming, according to the most comprehensive report ever on the human impact of climate change.

Kofi Annan: Climate change kills 300,000 every year
Former UN secretary General Kofi Annan Photo: AFP
The report by the Global Humanitarian Forum, set up by Kofi Annan, the former head of the United Nations, looked at the latest information on changing weather patterns and how they are affecting humans in terms of spreading disease and causing starvation and even conflict.
It found 325 million people are already seriously affected by climate change through damage to crops, homes and livelihoods at a total economic cost of $125 billion (£78 billion) every year.
Heatwaves, floods and forest fires caused by rising temperatures will be responsible for half a million deaths annually by 2030 and could impose a $300 billion (£188 billion) drag on the world economy.
Most of the deaths will be in developing countries like Bangladesh or Sudan that are vulnerable to flooding or drought. However developed countries will also see an impact with an increase in deadly phenomena like the heatwave that struck Europe in 2003.
In addition to the direct effects of global warming, changes to the world's climate could also spark conflict over scarce resources, for example water.
Mr Annan said the report was a "clarion call" to world leaders to negotiate an international deal on climate change in Copenhagen at the end of this year that keeps temperature rises below 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F).
"Climate change is silent human crisis. Yet it is the greatest emerging humanitarian challenge of our time. Already today, it causes suffering to hundreds of millions of people, most of whom are not even aware that they are victims of climate change. We need an international agreement to contain climate change and reduce its widespread suffering," he said.
Barbara Stocking, Chief Executive of Oxfam Great Britain, said the suffering is mostly in developing countries.
"The world's poorest are hardest hit by climate change but they have done the least to cause it," she said.

World's leading scientists warn climate change is as great a threat as nuclear warfare

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The threat of climate change is as severe as nuclear warfare, according to an emergency summit of the world's Nobel Laureates.

By Louise Gray, Environment Correspondent
Last Updated: 6:52AM BST 29 May 2009

The group of Nobel winners, together with Prince Charles, issued a memorandum which declared the best chance of stopping catastrophic climate change is to keep the predicted temperature rise at or below 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F).

Without action, they envisaged three times that temperature rise, which would mean global warming would cause a huge rise in sea levels, and swamp the cities of London, Paris and Copenhagen.

The communique is likely to influence world leaders at the forthcoming international conference on climate change in Copenhagen at the end of this year.

More than 20 Nobel Laureates, including President Obama's Energy Secretary Steven Chu, gathered at the meeting in London to discuss the threat of global warming.

After three days the St James's Palace Nobel Laureate Symposium concluded that climate change posed a danger of similar proportions to "the threat posed to civilisation by the advent of thermonuclear weapons".

The memorandum read: "The St James's Palace Memorandum calls for a global deal on climate change that matches the scale and urgency of the human, ecological and economic crises facing the world today.

"It urges governments at all levels, as well as the scientific community, to join with business and civil society to seize hold of this historic opportunity to transform our carbon-intensive economies into sustainable and equitable systems. We must recognise the fierce urgency of now.

"We know what needs to be done. We cannot wait until it is too late. We cannot wait until what we value most is lost."

The eminent group unveiled a number of ambitious targets on cutting carbon emissions that go far beyond anything the world has so far managed to achieve during the Kyoto Protocol or any previous international summit on climate change.

They said global greenhouse gases will have to peak by 2015, meaning the current growth in carbon dioxide caused by the rapid development of China and India will have to stop in the next six years.

Developed countries would have to cut reduce greenhouse gas emissions by between 25 to 40 per cent. This means the UK would have to increase its current target of 34 per cent by 2020 and the US would have to commit to any targets for the first time.

The whole world will have to cut emissions by at least 50 per cent by 2050 meaning developing countries will also have to make cuts despite growing demand for energy intensive goods and cars.

The memorandum recommended forcing polluters to pay extra for emitting carbon across large parts of the global economy and massive investment in new technologies such as renewables in order to cut emissions.
There was also a call for emergency funding to stop deforestation, that causes a fifth of carbon emissions every year, by paying poorer countries not to chop down trees.

The paper has been compared to the Einstein-Russell manifesto in 1955 when Albert Einstein and Bertrand Russell brought together scientists from around the world to speak out against the threat posed by the H-bomb.

Speaking after the agreement had been signed, Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, which organised the summit, said the consequences of not acting were comparable to a nuclear fall out.

"It is comparable in magnitude [to nuclear warfare]. With business as usual we will have another five or six degrees Celsius [9 to 10.8F] – that could not sustain civilisation as we know it, which is quite comparable to a nuclear shoot-out. It would mean 80 metres rise in sea level – London, Paris and Copenhagen would disappear. This could not sustain nine billion people [the predicted population of the world.]"

Monday, 25 May 2009

Nobel Laureates and big business unite against climate change

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Nobel Laureates and big business will say billions of pounds need to be invested in combating climate change in a move likely to expose the challenges faced in securing a successor to the Kyoto protocol.

By Louise Gray, Environment Correspondent
Last Updated: 10:55PM BST 24 May 2009

In a meeting in London hosted by the Prince of Wales, the world's greatest minds will discuss the "urgency" of doing more to curb global warming.

At the same time a summit in Copenhagen attended by some of the most powerful corporations in the world will also debate the need to cut carbon emissions.

Both groups are set to urge world leaders to replace the Kyoto Protocol with a comprehensive new agreement at the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen at the end of this year.

The Nobel laureate Symposium will bring together 60 leading scientists from various disciplines, including more than 20 Nobel Laureates at the beginning of this week. At the end of the three-day event in London the group will come up with an unprecedented "memorandum" on climate change. It is likely to call on world governments to commit to ambitious targets to cut emissions by sharing information on new technology, switching to renewables and creating a "low carbon economy".

Nobel Prize Laureate Professor Steven Chu, who advices President Obama on energy policy, has already said he believes something must be done – although he fears ambitious plans to develop renewable energy already faces fierce political opposition in the US.

At the same time a summit attended by some of the most powerful corporations in the world in Copenhagen will also make recommendations for world leaders to cut carbon emissions and commit funds to helping poorer countries adapt to the problems caused by climate change such as flooding.

Al Gore and Ban Ki-Moon will attend the Copenhagen Climate Change Council of around 1,000 business leaders. Companies attending include Saatchi & Saatchi, Unilever, BP, Royal Mail and Marks and Spencer.

Jeremy Hobbs, Executive Director of Oxfam, said both meetings will "embarrass" world governments into taking actions against climate change.

"These are make-or-break issues," he said. "The outcome could not matter more to millions of poor people around the world who are already suffering first and worst from the impacts of climate change."