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CLIMATE CHANGE: Catastrophes Inevitable, Says New Report

Julio Godoy

PARIS, Feb 1 2007 (IPS) - The fourth assessment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will confirm catastrophic predictions on global warming and its effect on nature and weather cycles over coming decades.

The IPCC is meeting in Paris this week to revise and present the final draft of its fourth assessment on global warming. The report, which will be finally released Feb. 2, confirms predictions that global temperatures will rise between two and 4.5 degrees Celsius during this century due to growing emissions of greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide.

A draft of the document says states that “Anthropogenic (man-made) warming of the climate system is widespread and can be detected in temperature observations taken at the surface, in the free atmosphere and in the oceans.

“It is highly likely that the warming observed during the past half century cannot be explained without external forcing (human activity),” the paper adds.

Temperatures, that the report says could rise by a global average of 6 degrees by the year 2100, could lead to rising sea levels and the destruction of cities and territories located near the seas, melting of glaciers in the North Pole and in higher mountains zones such as the European Alps, and droughts and desertification in vast areas.

The IPCC warns that heat waves, such as the one observed in 2003 in Europe, are likely to become more intense, more frequent and longer-lasting in the coming decades, and that tropical storms and hurricanes will probably be stronger.

The paper also suggests that the effects of greenhouse emissions will last a long time. “Twenty-first century … carbon-dioxide emissions will contribute to warming and sea-level rise for more than a millennium, due to the timescales required for removal of this gas.”

The IPCC that brings together hundreds of government representatives and experts on climate, was set up in 1998 by the United Nations Environment Programme and the World Meteorological Programme.

The IPCC role is “to assess on a comprehensive, objective, open and transparent basis the scientific, technical and socio-economic information relevant to understanding the scientific basis of risk of human-induced climate change, its potential impacts and options for adaptation and mitigation.”

The IPCC has so far produced three assessments on global warming, the last one released in 2001. In the present draft of the fourth report, the scientists and government representatives agreed that since 2001, “confidence in the assessment of the human contributions to recent climate change has increased considerably.”

At the meeting’s inauguration ceremony in Paris, Rajendra Pachauri, the Indian scientist presiding over the IPCC, expressed the hope that “policies will be adopted and actions taken” to confront the problems derived from greenhouse emissions and global warming.

“I hope this report will shock people, governments, into taking more serious action, as you really can’t get a more authentic and a more credible piece of scientific work,” he added.

Similar findings have been published by scientists all over the world in recent months.

In a report on the effects of global warming on European glaciers and related sports activities presented last December in Paris, the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), a grouping of 30 rich countries, said that the years 1994, 2000, 2002 and particularly 2003 have been the warmest on record in the European Alps in the past 500 years.

The OECD report titled ‘Climate change in the European Alps’ warns that “climate models project even greater changes in the coming decades, including a reduction in snow cover at lower altitudes, receding glaciers and melting permafrost at higher altitudes, and changes in temperature and precipitation extremes.”

The OECD too relates this climate change to greenhouse emissions, especially of carbon dioxide. One of the main sources of anthropogenic greenhouse emissions is the burning of fossil combustibles, especially carbon and mineral oil.

According to the OECD, if global temperatures rise by 4 degrees during this century, most European glaciers would disappear, and avalanches and inundations would hit the regions near the mountains.

According to the Austrian Central Institute for Meteorology and Geodynamics, the Alps are already warmer today than anytime in the past 1,300 years.

Another report, by the Max-Planck-Institute for Meteorology (MPIM) in Hamburg, Germany, also concludes that global temperatures will rise by 4 degrees by the year 2100.

“Because of this warming, the sea level could rise on average by as many as 30 centimetres,” says the paper released last September. The MPIM expects that “under certain conditions, the sea ice in the arctic will completely melt. In Europe, summers will be drier and warmer, and this will affect agriculture. The winters will become warmer and wetter. Another consequence of the heated atmosphere will be extreme events like heavy precipitation with floods.”

Yet another report, by the German Advisory Council on Global Change published last year says that “ocean surface waters are warming, the sea level is rising ever faster, the oceans are becoming increasingly acidic and marine ecosystems are under threat.”

All the reports quoted call for drastic reduction of greenhouse gases, in line with the Kyoto Protocol which entered into force Feb. 16, 2005. The protocol’s objective is to stabilise greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere “at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.”

To that end, the protocol calls industrialised countries to reduce their present greenhouse emissions. Practically all industrialised countries have signed the protocol, expect the United States and Australia.

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