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World News and Prophetic Trends
Reviewing Current World Conditions In Light Of Bible Prophecy
World Report-5 - Environmental Damage
Earth's Ozone Hole Growng Larger
September 3, 1999 USA Today reported: Theozone hole over the Antarctic is expected to grow this year to around twice the size of Europe, but it is bit weaker than last year because polar winds have eased, a U.N. expert said Wednesday. Last year was the biggest and the strongest ozone depletion in Antarctica, said expert Rumen Bojkov. Ozone depletion started in July and intensified during August, and the hole now covers 3.09 million square miles. Ozone forms a protective layer that shields the Earth from damaging ultraviolet rays. Any reduction in the ozone layer can allow the sun's rays to reach the Earth's surface can cause skin cancer and damage vegetation, aquatic life and the food chain's tiniest organisms. Officials say it could be centuries before ozone levels noticeably recover.
Certain gases in the atmosphere, such as water, carbon dioxide (CO2), methane, CFCs, and nitrous oxide, absorb infrared light that would otherwise escape to space, radiating it back toward the planet's surface. These "greenhouse gases," as they are called, have always had a critical role in determining the temperature of the Earth's surface and the livability of the planet. Now, with the amounts of CO2 and other greenhouse gases increasing in the atmosphere due to human activities, the possible implications for climate are the subject of much research.
At the Aeronomy Laboratory, researchers are conducting laboratory experiments and theoretical research to determine the infrared properties and atmospheric lifetimes (how long they "live" in the atmosphere) of molecules that may contribute to the greenhouse effect. The relative roles of these "other" (non-CO2)greenhouse gases have been evaluated through laboratory experiments that enable calculation of the Global Warming Potential (GWP), a number that compares the warming properties of a given gas to those of carbon dioxide. The GWP gauges the climate impact of a given molecule and hence becomes a crucial piece of information for policymakers, who are faced with decisions about which substances to restrict. Other Aeronomy Lab studies have led to important advances in our understanding of the removal rate of a key greenhouse gas, methane.
An Illustrative Example
An interesting recent contribution was a study of molecules known as "perfluorocarbons", or PFCs for short. PFCs are a class of compounds that were being considered as replacements for the ozone-destroying chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) in industrial applications such as fire extinguishing, foam blowing, and refrigeration (some of them are also byproducts of aluminum production).
Their suitability as substitutes was clear on one level: they have essentially zero ozone-destroying capacity and can be considered "ozone friendly." However, scientists at the Aeronomy Laboratory recognized that they could have other implications in the atmosphere, in particular that they may be greenhouse gases that could influence the temperature of the surface of the Earth.
With industry poised to produce PFCs, information about their total impact on the global atmosphere was needed. To find out, scientists in the Aeronomy Laboratory's Middle Atmosphere and Atmospheric Chemical Kinetics Programs studied the lifetimes of the PFCs using models and instruments in the laboratory. The atmospheric lifetime is a crucial parameter that is used in the calculation of the Global Warming Potential (GWP) index used by policymakers to gauge each compound's global climate impact.
The answer? "Some human-made greenhouse gases could live forever" was the finding of the study, which has subsequently opened up research in this area and also influenced policymaking on the national and international level.
The Aeronomy Lab study was very timely and very comprehensive. Using a concerted laboratory and modeling approach, scientists studied several chemical loss pathways (reaction of the PFCs with trace gases in the atmosphere) and the pathway involving photolytic destruction by ultraviolet light. The research yielded definitive answers for policymakers and industry on six PFCs, finding that each of them had an atmospheric lifetime of more than 2000 years (on the same order of magnitude as human civilization and much longer than the industrial period).
The implications were three-fold for policymakers:
1) emissions of PFCs would accumulate in the atmosphere for tens of centuries;
2) the Global Warming Potentials for these compounds would be very large, and likely much larger than the CFCs they would replace; and
3) it would take the atmosphere an extremely long time to recover from any inputs of these compounds and, in fact, the recovery times would dwarf the century-scale recovery times required in the case of CFCs
The scientific findings of this research had nearly immediate impacts on industry and policy. In the United States, the results caused the Environmental Protection Agency to encourage voluntary efforts to reduce the use of these gases. Internationally, other countries re-evaluated their policies towards such chemicals. The findings were used by the international scientific community to assess Global Warming Potentials and Ozone Depletion Potentials in the recent United Nations Environment Programme-sponsored evaluation of the "state of the science" on ozone depletion (Scientific Assessment of Ozone Depletion: 1994)
By averting the use of what would have been very unsuitable substitutes for the CFCs, this research has spared industry a great expense while simultaneously protecting the atmosphere from additional burdens of potent greenhouse gases
In 1995, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a collection of more than 2,000 scientists and technical experts from industry, government and academia, concluded that there has been "a discernable human influence on the global climate." By burning carbon-rich fossil fuels and cutting down vast tracts of forests, humans have increased the carbon content of the Earth's atmosphere by 30% since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. As levels of carbon dioxide and other "greenhouse" gases increase, they act as a blanket, trapping heat in the atmosphere.
In the last century, the average surface temperature of the planet has risen by about 1 degree Fahrenheit. Rising temperatures can have devastating health and environmental impacts for the majority of the planet. The rise in temperatures has already had a discernable effect on the planet. The Polar ice caps and glaciers have been melting up to seven times faster than in previous decades; intense storms have been more frequent in some regions, while rainfall has decreased in others; tropical diseases such as dengue fever and malaria have been spreading into new areas in South America, North America and Africa; and warming in the oceans has triggered the disappearance of zooplankton, krill and algae and is destroying vast areas of coral reefs.
GLOBAL WARMING AN INTRODUCTION
The earths climate is predicted to change because human activities are altering the chemical composition of the atmosphere through the buildup of greenhouse gasesprimarily carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide. The heat-trapping property of these gases is undisputed. Although uncertainty exists about exactly how earths climate responds to these gases, global temperatures are rising.
What Are Greenhouse Gases?
Some greenhouse gases occur naturally in the atmosphere, while others result from human activities. Naturally occuring greenhouse gases include water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and ozone. Certain human activities, however, add to the levels of most of these naturally occurring gases:
Carbon dioxide is released to the atmosphere when solid waste, fossil fuels (oil, natural gas, and coal), and wood and wood products are burned.
Methane is emitted during the production and transport of coal, natural gas, and oil. Methane emissions also result from the decomposition of organic wastes in municipal solid waste landfills, and the raising of livestock.
Nitrous oxide is emitted during agricultural and industrial activities, as well as during combustion of solid waste and fossil fuels.
Greenhouse gases that are not naturally occurring include byproducts of foam production, refrigeration, and air conditioning called chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), as well as hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and perfluorocarbons (PFCs) generated by industrial processes.
Each greenhouse gas differs in its ability to absorb heat in the atmosphere. HFCs and PFCs are the most heat-absorbent. Methane traps over 21 times more heat than carbon dioxide, and nitrous oxide absorbs 270 times more heat than carbon dioxide. Often, estimates of greenhouse gas emissions are presented in units of millions of metric tons of carbon equivalents (MMTCE), which weights each gas by its GWP value, or Global Warming Potential.
Our Changing Atmosphere
Energy from the sun drives the earths weather and climate, and heats the earths surface; in turn, the earth radiates energy back into space. Atmospheric greenhouse gases (water vapor, carbon dioxide, and other gases) trap some of the outgoing energy, retaining heat somewhat like the glass panels of a greenhouse.
Without this natural greenhouse effect, temperatures would be much lower than they are now, and life as known today would not be possible. Instead, thanks to greenhouse gases, the earths average temperature is a more hospitable 60°F. However, problems may arise when the atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases increases.
Since the beginning of the industrial revolution, atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide have increased nearly 30%, methane concentrations have more than doubled, and nitrous oxide concentrations have risen by about 15%. These increases have enhanced the heat-trapping capability of the earths atmosphere. Sulfate aerosols, a common air pollutant, cool the atmosphere by reflecting light back into space, however, sulfates are short-lived in the atmosphere and vary regionally.
Why are greenhouse gas concentrations increasing? Scientists generally believe that the combustion of fossil fuels and other human activities are the primary reason for the increased concentration of carbon dioxide. Plant respiration and the decomposition of organic matter release more than 10 times the CO2 released by human activities; but these releases have always been in balance with the carbon dioxide absorbed by plant photosynthesis. What has changed in the last few hundred years is the additional release of carbon dioxide by human activities. Energy burned to run cars and trucks, heat homes and businesses, and power factories is responsible for about 80% of society's carbon dioxide emissions, about 25% of U.S. methane emissions, and about 20% of global nitrous oxide emissions. Increased agriculture, deforestation, landfills, industrial production, and mining also contribute a significant share of emissions. In 1994, the United States emitted about one-fifth of total global greenhouse gases.
Estimating future emissions is difficult, because it depends on demographic, economic, technological, policy, and institutional developments. Several emissions scenarios have been developed based on differing projections of these underlying factors. For example, by 2100, in the absence of emissions control policies, carbon dioxide concentrations are projected to be 30-150% higher than todays levels.
Global mean surface temperatures have increased 0.6-1.2°F since the late 19th century. The 20th century's 10 warmest years all occurred within the last 15 years. Of these, 1998 was the warmest year on record. The snow cover in the Northern Hemisphere and floating ice in the Arctic Ocean have decreased. Globally, sea level has risen 4-10 inches over the past century. Worldwide precipitation over land has increased by about one percent. The frequency of extreme rainfall events has increased throughout much of the United States.
Increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases are likely to accelerate the rate of climate change. Scientists expect that the average global surface temperature could rise 1.6-6.3°F by 2100, with significant regional variation. Evaporation will increase as the climate warms, which will increase average global precipitation. Soil moisture is likely to decline in many regions, and intense rainstorms are likely to become more frequent. Sea level is likely to rise two feet along most of the U.S. coast.
Calculations of climate change for specific areas are much less reliable than global ones, and it is unclear whether regional climate will become more variable.
MUCH OF EARTHS SOIL SERIOUSLY DEGRADED
According to a new report, nearly 40% of the world's land used for agriculture is 'seriously degraded.' The study by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research finds that it has already reduced food production on about 16% of the world's cropland, a huge problem as the world's need for food is ballooning. In some areas, the damage is much greater as almost 75% of farmland in Central America is seriously degraded and so is 20% of the land in Africa, the researchers say...
Methane Fuel Puts Planet In Grave Danger
It has been hailed as the fuel of the future, a source of energy that could power our planet throughout the next century. But now scientists have warned that the world's largest untapped energy reserves - deposits of methane gas locked under the ocean floor - could trigger a catastrophic bout of atmospheric warming that would cause global devastation.
These methane eruptions could be set loose as a result of current modest levels of global warming, or because of bungled attempts to mine seabed deposits. "The end result would be a catastrophic rise in world temperatures;' said Professor Erwin Suess, of the Research Centre for Marine Geosciences in Kiel, Germany.
The reserves, estimated to be twice the size of other reserves of fossil fuels, such as oil and coal, were first discovered several years ago and are made up of molecules of methane gas trapped inside cages of frozen water. Packed into these crystals by deepsea pressures and frigid temperatures, methane in this form is a white, ice-like compound that burns leaving little waste.
A cubic metre of hydrate releases an incredible 164 cubic metres of methane, one of the most powerful greenhouse gases known to science.
And in the past few years, more than 30 major deposits have been discovered, most of them in deep ocean beds, but occasionally in permafrost regions of Siberia and Alaska. Already several big energy companies, such as Russia's Gazprom, have begun surveying reserves, and have begun building test rigs to recover their methane.
In the latest issue of Scientific American, Professor Suess and his colleagues point to evidence that explosive releases of methane from a single reservoir may have had devastating effects on the carth's climate in the past.
For example, the American oceanographer James Kennett has argued that a methane release around 15,000 years ago brought an abrupt end to the last Ice Age. In addition, a methane eruption may have triggered an event known as the Storrega submarine landslide, which occurred 8,000 years ago and which would have triggered massive tidal waves that engulfed Europe's coastline.
As global temperatures rise, ocean currents will change, say researchers. And when they do, that could easily trigger the release of one of these big deposits.
Politicians Are Fiddling While The Planet Burns.
It's a tall order to expect politicians to cut the rhetoric, but unless they do someting to reduce carbon dioxide emissions the ambitious targets the Kyoto climate change conference in 1997 are likely to be missed.
The consequences for future generations are unclear, but scientists say they could include a further rise in world temperatures, with a vaxiety of adverse, possibly irreversible effects, including severe storms, a rise in the sea level, the spread of disease and the loss of species.
The mere threat of these horrors ought to be enough to make politicians take the issue of greenhouse gases seriously. Yet to judge by two new studies by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, the Paris-based think-tank, they are not doing so. Instead, they are fiddling while the planet burns.
Genes 'jump species barrier'
A leading zoologist has found evidence that genes used to modify crops can jump the species barrier and cause bacteria to mutate, prompting fears that GM (Genetically Modified) technology could pose serious health risks.
A four-year study by Professor Hans-Hinrich Kaatz, a respected German zoologist, found that the alien gene used to modify oilseed rape had transferred to bacteria living inside the guts of honey bees.
The research - which has yet to be published and has not been reviewed by fellow scientists - is highly significant because it suggests that all types of bacteria could become contaminated by genes used in genetically modified technology, including those that live inside the human digestive system.
If this happened, it could have an impact on the bacteria's vital role in helping the human body fight disease, aid digestion and facilitate blood clotting.
Agriculture Minister Nick Brown, who was yesterday advising farmers who have accidentally grown contaminated GM oilseed rape in Britain to rip up their crops, confirmed the potential significance of Kaatz's research. He said: 'If this is true, then it would be very serious.'
The 47-year-old Kaatz has been reluctant to talk about his research until it has been published in a scientific journal, because he fears a backlash from the scientific community similar to that faced by Dr Arpad Pustzai, who claimed that enetically modified potatoes damaged the stomach lining of rats. Pustzai was sacked and had his work discredited.
But in his first newspaper interview, Kaatz told The Observer: 'It is true, I have found the herbicide-resistant genes in the rapeseed transferred across to the bacteria and yeast inside the intestines of young bees. This happened rarely, but it did happen.'
Although Kaatz realised the potential 'significance' of his findings, he said he 'was not surprised' at the results. Asked if this had implications for the bacteria inside the human gut, he said: 'Maybe, but I am not an expert on this.'
Dr Mae-Wan Ho, geneticist at Open University and a critic of GM technology, has no doubts about the dangers. She said: 'These findings are very worrying and provide the first real evidence of what many have feared. Everybody is keen to exploit GM technology, but nobody is looking at the risk of horizontal gene transfer.
'We are playing about with genetic structures that existed for millions of years and the experiment is running out of control.' One of the biggest concerns is if the anti-biotic resistant gene used in some GM crops crossed over to bacteria. 'If this happened it would leave us unable to treat major illnesses like meningitis and E coli
Kaatz, who works at the respected Institute for Bee Research at the University of Jena in Germany, built nets in a field planted with Genetically Modified rapeseed produced by AgrEvo. He let the bees fly freely within the net. At the beehives, he installed pollen traps in order to sample the pollen from the bees' hindlegs when entering the hive.
This pollen was fed to young honey bees in the laboratory. Pollen is the natural diet of young bees, which need a high protein diet. Kaatz then extracted the intestine of the young bees and discovered that the gene from the GM rape-seed had been transferred in the bee gut to the microbes.
Professor Robert Pickard, director-general of the Institute of the British Nutrition Foundation, is a bee expert as well as being a biologist and has visited the institute where Kaatz works. He said: 'There is no doubt that, if Kaatz's research is substantiated, then it poses very interesting questions and will need to be looked at very closely.
'But it must be remembered that the human body has been coping perfectly well with strange DNA for thousands of years. And we also know many people have been eating GM products for years without showing any signs of ill health.'
STUDY RENEWS WORRIES ABOUT GM FOOD
Reuters reports: Iowa State University researchers said Monday they found more evidence that pollen from bioengineered corn could be deadly for Monarch butterflies, prompting environmentalists to renew demands for tighter restrictions on the crop. The Iowa study published in the journal ``Oecologia'' comes at a time when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has launched its own review of the safety of corn and cotton plants modified to contain a pest-fighting gene.
GAS EXPLOSIONS UNDER THE OCEAN THREATEN AMERICAN SHORELINES
Underwater gas explosions threaten to send huge tidal waves crashing into the East Coast of America as far inland as Washington. Scientists investigating rifts in the ocean floor found the continental shelf disturbed by an unidentified gas and the conditions ripe for tsunami. The blowouts have torn holes up to three miles wide and 165ft deep.
A landslide could launch 20ft tidal waves that would wreak havoc along the mid-Atlantic coast with hurricanes and floods. Researchers thought faults had created cracks but later discovered that gas had created huge depressions. The gas is trapped under layers of sediment on the shelf edge, said Neil Driscoll of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, who led the team. The scientists were surprised at the quantity of gas and intensity of the blowouts. Tsunami are common in Japan and the Pacific but have never been a problem in the north Atlantic. No danger has been detected anywhere apart from off Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina...
Earth enters the big thaw
Around the world, ice sheets and glaciers are melting at a rate unprecedented since record-keeping began.
The Worldwatch Institute, based in Washington DC, has compiled reports from across the globe, which show that the melting accelerated during the 1990s - the warmest decade on record.
The Institute says glaciers and other ice features are especially sensitive to temperature shifts, and that "scientists suspect the enhanced melting is among the first observable signs of human-induced global warming".
Many scientists believe the Earth is gradually warming up because of the release of heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere from human activity. But other researchers dispute this.
They point to inconsistencies in temperature records over the last century, and in particular the data measured from space and by high-altitude balloons which show no recent warming trend at all.
Some of the examples of thinning ice in the Worldwatch report include:
Arctic ocean sea ice: shrunk by 6% since 1978, with 14% loss of thicker, year-round ice. Thinned by 40% in under 30 years
Greenland ice sheet: has thinned by more than a metre a year on its southern and eastern edges since 1993
Antarctic sea ice: ice to the west of the Antarctic peninsula shrank by about 20% between 1973 and 1993 - the decline continues
Tien Shan mountains, central Asia: 22% of glacial ice volume has disappeared in the last 40 years
Quelccaya glacier, Peruvian Andes: retreat of 3 m a year in the 1970s had increased to 30 m annually by the 1990s.
Three Antarctic ice shelves - Wordie, Larsen A and Prince Gustav - have disintegrated within the last decade. Worldwatch says: "Antarctica's vast land ice is also melting, although there is disagreement over how quickly."
Dr David Vaughan, of the British Antarctic Survey, told BBC News Online: "Overall, not much seems to be happening in Antarctica. "On the Antarctic peninsula, a fairly small area, there is a warming, and that does seem to be having an effect on the ice sheets. "But the meteorological records are very short, and there is a lot of year-to-year variability.
There's a lot of argument about whether there really is a warming trend.
"And while there are very few people who'll dispute that the peninsula has warmed very rapidly during the last 50 years, we don't know whether this is a global or a regional phenomenon."
The Earth's ice cover reflects much of the sun's heat back into space, and Worldwatch says the loss of much of it would affect the global climate, raise sea levels, and threaten water supplies.
And it says the land and water left exposed by the retreating ice would themselves retain heat, creating a feedback loop that would speed up the warming process.
It also believes melting ice in the Arctic could release enough fresh water into the north Atlantic to disrupt the Gulf Stream which warms north-west Europe.
The Institute says the world's glaciers, taken as a whole, are now shrinking faster than they are growing, and it says the World Glacier Monitoring Service described losses in 1997-98 as "extreme".
Worldwatch also warns of the effects of retreating ice on wildlife. In northern Canada, it says, reports of hunger and weight loss among polar bears have been correlated with ice cover changes.
And in Antarctica, sea ice loss, rising air temperatures and increased precipitation are altering the habitats and the feeding and breeding patterns of seals and penguins.
MEGA MELTING OF NORTH POLE ICE
BBC News Reports: An American scientist says the ice cap at the North Pole has melted. Dr James McCarthy, an oceanographer, says he found a mile-wide stretch of open ocean on a recent trip to the pole. Some experts believe it is the first time in more than 50 million years that the North Pole has been covered in water rather than ice. They point to it as further evidence of global warming - but other scientists say movements in polar ice regularly create gaps in the ice cap - including at the North Pole itself. Dr McCarthy told the New York Times newspaper that he found the new patch of ocean during a trip earlier in August on board a Russian icebreaker. "It was totally unexpected," he said.
ITALIAN ICE - ALPS MELT IN HEAT WAVE
Unusually hot summer weather is melting alpine glaciers in Italy and causing numerous forest and brush fires in the rest of the country, including the island of Sicily. Temperatures up to 38 degrees Celsius and high humidity is forecast to continue for several more days. More than 7,000 forest and brush fires have been reported so far during August alone - 20% more than last year. Many fires are believed to have been set by arsonists who hope to profit from the development of land that has been burned. Glaciers melting The government has recently announced new legislation which will enable the courts to hand down long prison terms and heavy fines for crimes of arson. In the Italian Alps many glaciers are receding at a rate which exceeds that of the normal summer melting period. One mountain, the Marmolada, shed two metres of ice in only two days, revealing signs of an often talked about but never seen before nest of bunkers, barracks and storage areas built by Austro-Hungarian troops during World War I.
MILLIONS OF TONNES OF POLLUTANTS, GREEN HOUSE GASSES AND EXTRA HEAT IS BEING RELEASED INTO THE ATMOSPHERE AS A RESULT OF THE WORLD WIDE PLAGUE OF FOREST FIRES
The world wide plague of brutal forest fires this summer season is releasing millions of tonnes of additional pollutants, greenhouse gasses and extra heat into the atmosphere.
This release of additional pollutants, greenhouse gasses and extra heat will greatly accelerate the global warming trend.
Severe disruptions of the earth's weather patterns are already taken place. This additional load of gasses and pollutants will only speed up the process of global warming resulting in even more severe weather and environmental disruptions in the months and years to come.
Since the forests and plant life on the earth are the lungs of the earth, the ability of the now destroyed plant life to absorb carbon dioxide and convert it to life giving oxygen is severely disrupted resulting in even more environmental damage.
The more the fires rage and burn the more of our planet's life giving oxygen is being used up!
Be prepared! Hell on Earth is coming!
WORLD-WIDE WATER SHORTAGE
Reuters reported: Global fresh water supplies are being used up so fast that almost half a billion people already depend on non-renewable sources, an international conference was told on Monday. Water riots such as those in China's Shandong province last month will become more common as people struggle for control of dwindling supplies, said Lester Brown, chairman of the U.S.-based Worldwatch Institute. Thousands of Chinese farmers clashed with police in July after officials cut off water leaking from a dam near Anqiu village in Shandong province, according to a human rights group. This is an example of how desperate people become when they are deprived of water, Brown told a news conference at the start of the week-long meeting. This is going to happen more and more. Water suddenly becomes an issue when the wells run dry.
Overpumping of aquifers in China, India, the Middle East and United States now exceeds 160 billion tons of water per year, according to Brown, who delivered a keynote address when the conference opened on Monday...
Why We'll Probably Be Too Late to Save the Planet
Growth in the ozone hole despite 13 years of limiting CFCs suggests that pollution curbs will take many decades to have any effect
When it comes to the environment, the good news is that we are more aware of the effects of our behavior than we were a few decades ago. The bad news is that even once global warming reaches crisis proportions too difficult for U.S. leaders to ignore, any corrective measures we then allow them to take may well take several more decades to make any difference.
New studies in recent weeks have documented the warming of the planet through the shortening of winters over centuries, while anecdotal evidence of the absence of pack ice at the normally frozen North Pole underscores the sense that the planet may now be undergoing a more rapid warming process that could have catastrophic climatic effect.
NASA's revelation Thursday that the hole in the ozone layer is continuing to grow, however, may be a chilling warning about the pace of environmental damage. After all, an international treaty curbing outputs of the chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and other pollutants that gnaw away at the gaseous layer that protects our planet from harmful radiation has been in force since 1987. NASA scientists point out the hole may be continuing to grow because, despite the sharp cutbacks that took effect more than a decade ago, the concentration of the offending gases in the stratosphere may only now be reaching its peak. By extension, it may take decades before we feel the full impact of whatever damage we're doing to the Earth's climate system right now and that time-delay may make it even more difficult politically for the world's leaders to take the steps they deem necessary to avert a climate-change catastrophe.
The U.S. is the 500-pound gorilla of atmospheric pollution on the planet, accounting for the more than a quarter of the world's total output of carbon gases. But although President Clinton signed the 1997 Kyoto Accord committing the U.S. to cut its output levels to 5.2 percent below the 1990 levels by the year 2010, he hasn't dared send it to Capitol Hill. (And without curbs, the government's Energy Information Agency estimates, U.S. carbon gas outputs will actually grow by 33 percent over the present decade.)
Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush is resolutely opposed to adopting the Kyoto targets, and while Al Gore helped negotiate the treaty, he's shown little inclination to press for its ratification, which would face almost certain defeat in the Senate. After all, Americans are already blanching at having to pay almost $2 a gallon for gasoline, but in order to reach the Kyoto targets the pump price might have to be even higher in order to discourage consumption and prompt the auto industry to shift its emphasis away from gas-guzzling SUVs and toward more fuel-efficient vehicles. Slashing carbon gas outputs will ultimately demand lifestyle changes in America, but no politician wants to be the bearer of bad tidings.
Which means that if the worst fears of environmentalists prove true, it may be decades too late by the time we're prepared to change our ways.
Report Warns of Increase in Natural Disasters
LONDON (Reuters) - Climate change is already increasing the frequency and intensity of natural disasters, and the trend is likely to continue according to a report released Friday by the World Wide Fund for Nature.
The report, 'Climate Change and Extreme Weather Events', said global temperatures would increase, sea levels would rise, and few places in the world would be spared an increase in violent rainstorms, droughts, tropical cyclones and other climatic disruptions.
Dr. Ute Collier, head of the WWF's Climate Change Program, said the evidence to show extreme weather was the result of global warming was overwhelming.
``We got leading scientists to investigate (the evidence) -- we wanted scientists because they're often reluctant to link events such as more floods and the disappearance of Arctic ice to climate change -- and they've said that climate change is clearly having an impact on the frequency and intensity of natural disasters,'' Collier told BBC radio Friday.
The report was compiled for the WWF by Pier Vellings and Willem van Verseveld of the Institute of Environmental Studies at the Vrije University in Amsterdam, using observations and documents on climate patterns produced by various organizations over recent decades.
STARK CHOICE FOR WORLD
The authors said the increase in extreme weather would affect different parts of the world differently, and that the southern hemisphere would suffer most.
Southern Europe was expected to become drier while northern Europe would become wetter. In Britain, summer droughts in the southeast would become more frequent and there would be more winter rainfall across the country, with more frequent flooding.
The authors are cautious over the causes of climate change, but said ``at least part of the damage caused by weather extremes is due to human-induced climate change.''
``The world faces a stark choice -- reduce emissions or face the fury of nature,'' said Collier.
However, Richard North of the Institute of Economic Affairs said the consensus view of the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) -- a panel of leading world scientists -- was that little could be done to reverse the trend of global warming, and that humans needed to adjust to it.
``The IPCC says we've put our foot on the accelerator and taking it off a bit won't make much difference,'' he told BBC radio. ``The Greens are defending very high petrol prices. They're ignoring evidence that fuel prices have doubled in the last decade but it's had hardly any impact on carbon dioxide emissions.''
RICE FIELDS ADD TO DEPLETION OF WORLDS OZONE LAYER
The London Telegraph reported: After the warnings about aerosols and fridges, scientists have found another threat to the world's ozone layer. A study has shown that rice paddy fields emit a small but significant amount of methyl halide gas that can deplete stratospheric ozone, the layer that protects against the sun's ultraviolet rays. Researchers say the world's paddy fields could account for up to five per cent of the total amount of the gas released into the atmosphere every year. Methyl halide compounds, naturally released by fields of crops, include methyl chloride and methyl bromide. In the air, these gases release chlorine and bromine substances that deplete ozone
Climate Experts Seek to Check Global Warming
THE HAGUE (Reuters) - Cracks emerged between the United States and Europe on Monday over how to check global warming, threatening U.N.-sponsored talks aimed at implementing a 1997 deal to cut emissions of greenhouse gases.
In a year of devastating floods in Asia, Africa and northern Europe, delegates from 180 countries heard grim predictions of rising seas, hurricanes and typhoons that could wipe small islands off the map if developed countries failed to act.
The European Union said it wanted industrialized countries to reform their transport and energy policies to cut emissions of greenhouse gases, like carbon dioxide, in accordance with the agreement reached in Kyoto, Japan, three years ago.
The United States said it wanted maximum flexibility to trade in pollution and buy cheap emission reductions from other countries that do not need them, developing nations for example.
``These mechanisms will promote innovation and reduce costs,'' U.S. Assistant Secretary of State David Sandalow told a news conference. ``We don't have the luxury of wasting dollars, euros and yen on fighting against climate change.''
KYOTO DEAL FAR FROM BEING REALIZED
Failure to compromise could dash hopes of implementing the 1997 Kyoto agreement, aimed at cutting greenhouse gas emissions by over five percent from 1990 levels by 2008-2012. While 180 nations signed the protocol, only 30 have so far ratified it.
The two-week meeting in The Hague will seek pledges of firm action. Some experts say time is running out.
``The Earth's surface temperature is now the highest level in 1,000 years,'' the chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Dr Robert Watson, said.
``The weight of the evidence is that we humans are at least partially responsible for climate change.''
Underlining the passions stirred by the debate, 20 environmental protesters were arrested for trying to stage a demonstration near the conference.
Dutch Environment Minister Jan Pronk said the conference must conclude negotiations so the Kyoto deal could be put into practice. ``This will take an enormous effort, since rich countries' emissions would otherwise increase by around 20 percent over the same period,'' he warned.
TEMPERATURES, SEA LEVELS RISING
New forecasts suggest temperatures could rise this century by 1.5 to 6.0 degrees Centigrade, double previous estimates.
Ocean levels are expected to rise by 50 cm by 2100, threatening 200 million people who live in coastal areas of China, Southeast Asia and Africa, Watson warned.
Island countries most at risk from dramatic global climate change called on the industrialized world to accept its ``moral duty'' and cut the pollution that threatens their existence.
``We are now suffering and expect to suffer in the most direct way the full range of climate impacts -- increased cyclones, hurricanes, typhoons and coral bleaching among them,'' said Tuiloma Neroni Slade, Samoa's ambassador to the U.N.
The first few days of the Sixth Conference of Parties (CoP6) to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change will be devoted to hearings by two U.N. working groups.
One assesses the science behind the proposals and the other creates practical ways to implement emissions cuts.
Much of those cuts are likely to be carried out by the private sector, according to Michael Zammit Cutajar, Assistant U.N. Secretary-General.
``We are creating new markets, new businesses, and new commodities through the development of carbon trading'' he said.
The overall costs of meeting the Kyoto targets are difficult to estimate. ``It will probably cost less than we think, but the costs of inaction tend to be overlooked.'' Cutajar said.
The conference will debate so-called flexibility mechanisms designed to offer states a number of ways to reach their emission cut targets without actually trimming their output.
Those include the clean development mechanisms (CDMs), which promote investment by firms or governments in developing nations and could include the use of ``sinks,'' or reforestation projects, to help absorb carbon dioxide (CO2), the main greenhouse gas.
Another is joint implementation, under which credits for emissions targets are shared by developing states and the rich countries that helped them achieve the goals either by investment or technology transfers.
A third method is emissions trading, where countries such as Russia, which is expected to meet its emissions targets easily, can sell some credits to countries which fail to meet their limits.
Scientist Predicts Rise in Climate-Related Deaths
LONDON (Reuters) - More people in Britain will die from heat waves, food poisoning and flood-related illness as rising temperatures cause extreme weather patterns, a British scientist warned on Friday.
Professor Graham Bentham, of the Centre for Environmental Risk at the University of East Anglia, told a medical conference Britain will face severe health problems due to climate change.
Instead of a heat wave every 230 years, Britain could have one every four years if predictions of global warming are right. ``We anticipate, given the increase in temperatures and increasing frequency of these events, more heat wave deaths in this country,'' he said.
If floods, similar to the ones that have swamped many parts of the nation, become more common, communicable diseases from water contamination and cases of food poisoning will increase.
Flood victims may also suffer from mental health problems. ``There is clear evidence of long term psychological effects,'' said Bentham.
But wealthy nations with good public health systems should be able to cope with the increased demands.
``The biggest health impact would be on third world countries, ironically, the people who have done least to add to the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere,'' Bentham told the conference sponsored by the British Medical Association.
Negotiators from about 180 countries are set to meet in The Hague on Monday for the start of a two-week U.N. climate conference to hammer out an international agreement on reducing emissions of greenhouse gases that cause global warming.
Rising Seas Imperil Pacific Island Nations
WELLINGTON (Reuters) - This month's global conference on climate change in the Netherlands could be too little too late for tiny Pacific islands and coral atolls at risk from rising sea levels.
Environment ministers and other delegates from 180 countries will meet in the Hague for two weeks starting on Monday to decide on how to ensure that a three-year-old treaty on reducing greenhouse gas emissions is implemented.
Scientists say emission of those gases is responsible for global warming, which a report commissioned by the environmental group Greenpeace last month said may devastate the economies of several small South Pacific nations over the next 20 years.
``The most vulnerable countries are Tuvalu and Kiribati, tiny islands in a vast surrounding ocean,'' the report said.
Under the U.N. treaty hammered out in Kyoto, Japan, in 1997, industrialized states undertook to cut emissions of greenhouse gases by an average of five percent of 1990 levels by 2008-2012.
But so far no country has ratified the protocol as is necessary to make it legally binding.
The Greenpeace report estimated that a rise in the sea level of 12-20 cm (4.7-7.8 inches) would cost nine small Polynesian and Micronesian nations A$4-5 billion ($2-2.6 billion) over the next 20 years.
Four larger Melanesian countries will suffer to the tune of A$1.9-$2.5 billion, said the report, prepared by a team of scientists and economists, including the director of the University of Queensland's Center for Marine Studies.
The report said the effect of the sea level increase would be aggravated by the death of coral as sea temperatures rise.
Tuvalu's prime minister, Ionatana Ionatana, told New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark at a meeting in February that many of Tuvalu's 10,500 residents would seek a new home over the next decade as climate warming and population pressure came to bear.
New Zealand is already home to 5,000 people from Tuvalu.
The Greenpeace report said the worst affected would be nine Polynesian and Micronesian island groups: Tonga, the Cook Islands, Samoa, American Samoa, French Polynesia, Kiribati, Tuvalu, Nauru and Palau.
Less affected would be Melanesian groups: Fiji, New Caledonia, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, because of their larger size and the availability of more resources.
Wolfgang Scherer, director of the South Pacific Sea Level and Climate Change Program, said that while sea levels are rising, there is no evidence yet of an acceleration.
``...So far there is no signal there, in terms of a major climate change kind of signal, in the acceleration of sea level rises,'' he told a news conference last month. ``But because the ocean response time is very slow, it would take a long time to respond (so) we have to continue monitoring.''
In October a draft report from an international climate group concluded that greenhouse gases are making the world even warmer than predicted.
The report, from the U.N.-sponsored Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), predicts that the average global temperature could be as much as 11 degrees F (6 degrees C) higher at the end of the century than it was in 1990.
That is a bigger change than the world has seen since the end of the last Ice Age and could lead to storms, flooding and severe droughts.
The report is the strongest word yet from the IPCC, which groups 2,500 top climate scientists. Its last report in 1995 said there was a ``discernible human influence'' on climate.
Forests Could Speed Up Global Warming, Scientists Say
LONDON (Reuters) - Global warming could happen faster than scientists expect because forests, instead of mitigating climate change, could speed it up, researchers said Wednesday.
As environment ministers prepare for a major climate change conference in The Hague next week, scientists at Britain's Hadley Center for Climate Prediction and Research said planting forests to absorb carbon dioxide (CO2) and reduce global warming could be counterproductive.
Two studies published in the science journal Nature using computer models of global warming show that as temperatures rise, forests, or so-called carbon sinks, are likely to emit more CO2 into the atmosphere, leading to further warming of the climate.
``Our initial results suggest that vegetation and soils, which currently absorb about a quarter of human-made carbon dioxide emissions, could accelerate future climate change by releasing carbon to the atmosphere as the planet warms,'' said Dr Peter Cox.
The findings could have important implications for the Hague meeting because the use of carbon sinks is one of the key issues that will be debated at the two-week conference.
Ministers from around the world will try to seal an international agreement to cut emissions of CO2 by an average of five percent of 1990 levels by 2008-2012 in line with a treaty agreed in Kyoto, Japan in 1997.
The Kyoto treaty allows countries to plant forests to offset some of their CO2 emissions.
``All we can say... is that if you want to plant trees to absorb CO2 in order to offset additional future emissions there are a huge amount of uncertainties,'' Dr Geoff Jenkins, head of the Hadley climate change program, said in a telephone interview.
``On the other hand if you refrain from emitting carbon into the atmosphere you know where you are in terms of its effect on CO2. So there is a big difference in the uncertainty levels between those two courses of action,'' he added.
CHARGES OF CHEATING
Environmental groups Greenpeace and WWF are calling for carbon sinks to be excluded from the Kyoto treaty. Both groups want industrialized countries to achieve their targets by cutting emissions.
``Claiming credit for carbon stored in trees is a blatant attempt by some countries to cheat on their Kyoto commitments,'' Bill Hare, Greenpeace International's Climate Policy Director, said in a statement.
The second study in Nature by Dr Richard Betts also showed that planting new forests in cold parts of the world like Siberia and Canada could be doing more harm than good.
This is because in northern countries, where the ground is covered in snow, forests absorb more of the sun's heat than the terrain. The additional exposure to the sun has a warming influence that could offset part of the cooling effect of the CO2 uptake.
Britain's Environment Minister Michael Meacher said the research highlighted the importance of the Hague conference and the difficult negotiations ministers will face.
``These results add weight to our view that we must achieve real emission reductions to meet Kyoto targets, and confirm our concerns about sinks. We must be cautious about them,'' he said in a statement.
Playing God with the Earth
The research journal Science recently documented some of the enormous impact mankind has had on the planet. "We are tinkering with our life support systems" and " we don't realize the consequences of what we are doing," cautions Jane Lubchenco, former president of the American Academy for the Advancement of Science and contributor to the magazine's 31-page report.
The report states:
Humans have altered or cleared 40 to 50 percent of the earth's land surface, drastically altering the plant and animal communities in those areas.
Because of land conversion and competition from invading species, 18 percent of mammals, 11 percent of birds, 8 percent of plants and 5 percent of fish species are threatened with extinction. One fourth of all bird species are already extinct.
Of the world's fisheries, 66 percent are being used to their maximum or depleted faster than they are being replaced.
Fossil fuel burning adds some 5.5 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere every year.
Man consumes half of the world's usable fresh water, using most of it for farming. We have built 36,000 dams worldwide, and 98 percent of all U.S. rivers have been diverted or dammed.
Several major rivers, including the Nile, the Ganges and the Colorado, are mostly used up before they reach their mouths. (Sources: Science, Knight-Ridder News Service.)
Global-warming crisis - Arctic thunderstorms alarm Inuits
OTTAWA (CP) - Canada's Inuit are seeing something unknown in their oral history - thunder and lightning.
Electric storms in the High Arctic are among the evidence of climate change being reported in a new study by the Winnipeg-based International Institute for Sustainable Development. The study is believed to be the first to intensively document aboriginal knowledge of changes in the Arctic environment. "When I was a child I never heard thunder or saw lightning, but in the last few years we've had thunder and lightning," Rosemarie Kuptana of Sachs Harbour, N.W.T., said Tuesday.
"The animals really don't know what to do because they've never experienced this kind of phenomenon."
Researchers spent a year visiting the community of Sachs Harbour, accompanying people on their hunting and fishing trips and recording their observations on videotape.
The result is a powerful portrait of environmental upheaval - melting permafrost, thinning ice, mudslides, even the disappearance of an entire lake as its once-frozen shores gave way.
The freshwater fish that lived in the lake were killed as it drained into the ocean.
"You used to be able to walk along the beach there, now it's all mud," said hunter John Keogak, one of those interviewed on the video, pointing to a shoreline area.
Thinner ice has made it dangerous to pursue polar bears and seals and more difficult for the bears to pursue their prey.
"If this keeps up . . . the polar bears, how are they going to survive?" asks Inuit hunter Peter Esau.
Residents say the seals used to bask on ice floes in the harbour throughout the summer, but in recent summers the floes have disappeared.
People now see robins and barn swallows - species that never used to come so far north. There are unfamiliar beetles and sand flies. Melting permafrost is causing buildings to tilt and has rendered roads unusable.
"Climate change isn't any longer a theory but is in fact something that's happening right now and it's affecting the lives of many of Canada's northern people," said scientist Graham Ashford, project manager at the institute in Winnipeg.
He noted the Inuit possess knowledge that can't be obtained from other sources.
"The Inuvialuit hunt and trap and they're out on the land all the time. They notice very small changes."
"They're telling us very clearly, it wasn't like this before, and they give examples of how they know that it's different."
Ashford said the study underlines the need for Canada to take a lead in negotiations on climate change currently taking place in The Hague.
"Canada needs to take a lead internationally. We stand to lose a lot in terms of the economic, social and environmental costs created by the impacts of climate change."
At the Kyoto conference of 1997, Canada committed itself to reducing greenhouse emissions six per cent from 1990 levels by 2010, but emissions have grown some 13 per cent since then.
The Environment Department announced Tuesday that Foreign Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy will lead the Canadian team in ministerial-level talks at The Hague.
Greenhouse gases, produced by burning fossil fuels, trap solar heat in the atmosphere, preventing it from radiating out into space.
ALASKA HEATS UP AND IS THAWING FAST
The BBC reported: The average temp in Alaska is rising almost 10 times faster than the world average, affecting the landscape and ecosystems of America's largest state. But for Shishmaref's 600 Inupiaq people, it means the abandonment of their village. The once-permanently frozen ground that used to reinforce this coast is thawing. Climate change has also brought a higher sea level and more destructive storms. The result is that the narrow island on which Shishmaref stands is being rapidly eroded. For more than a decade the Arctic tundra surrounding Shishmaref has been warming. The thaw threatens not only the village's buildings, but also its people's fragile way of life. Usually, by early November hunters should be traveling over the ice with teams of huskies, or fishing in local rivers but he's noticed that each year they're needing to wait longer&ldots;Almost all Alaska is covered by a layer of permanently frozen ground, which is thawing in the higher temps, steadily destroying millions of acres of spruce and birch trees. The forest is turning into a watery fenland, and destroying the habitat for much of the state's wildlife. If the warmer climate persists, they're all expected to be dead by the end of the century, unable to survive in standing water&ldots;Surface ice is disappearing even faster than the permafrost. On average Alaskan glaciers have been losing 15% of their length every decade. Many have lost almost 1/2 their thickness and some are in rapid retreat, melting far more quickly than they can form new ice. Water locked up for centuries in glaciers and ice caps is being added, drop by drop, to the rising level of the sea...
GLOBAL WARMING LINKED TO GIANT OCEAN WAVES
The BBC reported: Climate researchers are warning of a possible link between global warming and giant waves in the Atlantic Ocean. They say that if the current trend towards warmer temperatures continues, roughening seas could threaten coastal areas in northern Europe. Average winter wave heights in the north-east Atlantic have increased by about a metre (3.28 feet) over the past 30 years.
Stormy conditions also persist longer. Experts in Germany believe new data show human activity is a major factor. And they warn that if the trend continues, more rough seas seem likely, threatening coastal areas and the marine industry...
Indian Study Gives New Insight on Global Warming
BOMBAY (Reuters) - The increasing use of fertilizers could be a contributor to global warming by decreasing oxygen and raising levels of nitrous oxide gas in coastal waters, a three-year Indian study has revealed.
A team led by S.W.A. Naqvi, a scientist at the National Institute of Oceanography in the Indian state of Goa, conducted a series of studies in the waters of the Arabian Sea off the West coast of India.
The research, published in the latest issue of the British journal Nature, details an unusual increase in the production of nitrous oxide, popularly known as laughing gas, over the Indian continental shelf.
The gas is known to be over 200 times more potent than carbon dioxide in absorbing infra red radiation which contributes significantly to the ``greenhouse effect'' blamed for global warming.
``Over fifty coastal sites in the world are oxygen-deficient because of the increase in fertilizer run-offs.,'' Naqvi told Reuters by phone from Goa.
``We suspect that the same thing is happening in these other regions too,'' Naqvi told Reuters by phone from Goa.
Nitrous oxide in the sea or ocean is eventually released into the atmosphere, where in the higher atmosphere layer (stratosphere) it causes depletion of ozone which shields the earth from harmful ultra-violet radiation.
Naqvi's research revealed that the concentration of nitrous oxide in the coastal Arabian Sea was 100 times higher than normal levels.
Low-oxygen areas which develop naturally in the Arabian Sea during monsoons appear to have intensified in recent years.
``At this point it cannot be established whether this change is brought about by an increased fertilizer run-off from land or a modified water circulation and rainfall pattern,'' the scientist said.
Naqvi said that other oxygen-deficient areas of the world, such as Chesapeake Bay and the Louisiana shelf off the Mississippi Delta in the United States, Tokyo Bay, the Baltic Sea and the Black Sea had much higher concentrations of fertilizer influx to coastal waters than India, leading to the possibility of even higher levels of nitrous oxide.
Global warming is happening faster than previously predicted!
BBC NEWS reports: The world's leading climatologists say global warming is happening faster than previously predicted. They say world temperatures this century could rise by between 1.4 and 5.8 degrees Celsius. Sea levels could also rise by tens of centimetres, threatening millions of people living in low-lying countries.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which has been meeting in Shanghai, China, says an increasing body of observations gives a collective picture of a warming world. And it says the evidence is stronger than before for a human influence on the climate. The head of the United Nations Environment Programme, Dr Klaus Toepfer, said: "The scientific consensus presented in this comprehensive report about human-induced climate change should sound alarm bells in every national capital and in every local community"
Dr Robert Watson, who heads the panel of scientists advising the United Nations, said there could be massive implications in terms of water shortages, drought, damage to agriculture and the increased spread of disease, with developing countries worst hit. He said: "There's no doubt the Earth's climate is changing. The decade of the 1990s was the hottest decade of the last century and the warming in this century is warmer than anything in the last 1,000 years in the Northern Hemisphere&ldots;
Pace of global warming 'could double'
GLOBAL warming could happen twice as quickly as previously forecast over the next 100 years, the most authoritative report yet produced on the science of climate change said yesterday.
Global average temperatures could rise by between 1.4C and 5.8C by the end of the century, according to the latest report of the Intergovermental Panel on Climate Change, made up of scientists from 100 countries, and sponsored by the UN Environment Programme and the World Meteorological Organisation. The panel's previous forecast in 1995 was that the greatest likely temperature rise over the next 100 years was 3C.
Scientists have revised their forecasts of rising temperatures upwards in the report because of the gradual removal from the atmosphere of sulphate aerosols - pollution produced by industry - which reduce global warming by blocking sunlight.
The likely temperature rise is expressed as a range because of uncertainties over man's ability to rein back the use of fossil fuels which produce carbon dioxide, the gas mainly responsible for global warming. In the report published yesterday at a meeting in Shanghai, scientists say there is now a greater degree of certainty about ascribing the warming seen since 1861 to human influences. The panel's third assessment report concludes: "There is new and stronger evidence that most of the warming observed over the past 50 years is attributable to human activities."
Since the panel's first scientific report in 1990, scientists say that confidence in the ability of models to predict future climate has increased. Reconstructions of climate for the past 1,000 years, as well as computer models, "suggest that the observed warming of the past 100 years was unusual and is unlikely to be entirely natural in origin," the report states. But it adds that "there are still many remaining gaps in information and understanding about climate change".
An increasing body of evidence supports the view that man-made climate change is happening, says the panel, which adds: It is "very likely" that the Nineties were the warmest decade, and 1998 the warmest year, since global records based on instruments began in 1861.
New analyses of data from tree rings, corals, ice cores and historical records in the Northern Hemisphere indicate that the temperature rise in the 20th century was the greatest for 1,000 years. It is very likely that snow cover has declined by about 10 per cent since the Sixties.
Since 1750, before the Industrial Revolution, the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide has increased by 31 per cent, from 289 parts per million to 367 ppm today. This concentration has not been exceeded during the past 420,000 years, and probably during the past 20 million years.
The panel forecasts that clouds and rain will increase, with more intense rainstorms likley over mid to high latitudes in the northern hemisphere. The intensity and frequency of tropical and extra-tropical cyclones and storms shows no long-term trends.
Sir John Houghton, co-chairman of the panel's scientific working group and former head of the Meteorological Office, said: "I hope people read this report and realise it is an authoritative thing, not the work of a few lobbyists or environmental campaigners."
More than 150 scientific delegates from 100 governments participated in the working group meeting which finalised the summary of the report. The full report runs to 1,000 pages and has been three years in production. The report has concided with the inauguration of an American president as yet unconvinced that global warming is happening, or at least that man is responsible for the changes. George W Bush's election may make it more difficult to reach agreement on the Kyoto climate change treaty after the breakdown of talks in The Hague.
UN watchdog warns of water wars
IT is too late to stop the first stages of global warming, the destruction of thousands of the world's species or prevent shortages of water across swathes of Africa and Asia that could provoke wars over the next 25 years, the UN claimed yesterday.
A wasteful consumer society in rich countries, coupled with rapid population growth in poor ones, is threatening to destroy the natural resources on which human life is based, according to a report by the UN Environment Programme.
UNEP, described as "the world's environmental conscience" by its director, the former German environment minister Klaus Töpfer, predicted in its report on the state of the planet at the Millennium that the time to tackle major problems was fast running out and in some aspects, such as global warming and the destruction of species, it was already too late.
Dr Töpfer said it was likely that many countries would fail to meet the targets for preventing man-made climate change set at Kyoto two years ago, dooming the world to an average temperature rise of up to 3C during the next century. He said: "I am not being pessimistic, just realistic."
He complimented Britain's Budget, with its climate change levy which the Government is still backing against bitter criticism from industry. But he expressed scepticism that industrialised countries would meet the target of an overall five per cent reduction on 1990 emissions set at Kyoto because of inaction by the United States, the world's largest emitter of carbon dioxide. The American Senate has refused to ratify the treaty.
He said: "It is absolutely crucial to give more thought to the future. Human activities have grown to the point where they affect the large-scale physical systems of the planet and present-day actions will have consequences that reach far into the future. We can no longer be complacent and assume that the environment can look after itself."
The Global Environment Outlook report, GEO 2000, said that "full-scale emergencies" now existed as a result of water shortages, land degradation, tropical forest destruction, species extinction, overfishing and urban air pollution in the developing world's mega-cities.
It added that over the next 25 years the world would begin to run out of fresh water and "water wars" over scarce resources could spread across a wide belt of North Africa, the Middle East and Asia. About 20 per cent of the population already lacked access to safe drinking water and 50 per cent had no access to a safe sanitation system.
Commenting on deforestation, it said that some 80 per cent of the world's original forest cover had been cleared, fragmented or degraded. Even if current trends were reversed, it would take generations to replace lost forests and the cultures that lived in them would never be replaced.
Many of the planet's species had already been lost or condemned to extinction because of the slow response of politicians to environmental degradation. One quarter of the world's mammal species were now at significant risk of total extinction.
It is too late, said the report, to preserve all the biodiversity our planet once had. Land degradation had reduced fertility, negating many of the advances made through increasing agricultural productivity and the land available for agriculture.
Marine fisheries were being "grossly over-exploited" and their recovery would be slow. More than half the world's coral reefs had been degraded by human activities and 80 per cent of those in populated areas were still at risk.
Next month the world's population is expected to top six billion. In the Fifties the population of Africa was a third that of Europe. Now it is about the same, and by 2050 the population of Europe would be only a third the size of Africa's. Almost half the planet's new residents lived in cities.
Urban air pollution problems were reaching "crisis proportions" in many of the mega-cities of the developing world and the health of many millions had been impaired as a result. Dr Töpfer said there had been an increased frequency and severity of natural disasters, such as hurricanes, now killing and injuring many millions of people every year and causing mounting economic losses.
He said it was impossible to say that Hurricane Floyd was a result of global warming, but it was consistent with the increase in extreme weather conditions which was the signature of global warming.
He pointed to other new phenomena which had appeared since the last UNEP report two years ago, such as more and larger forest fires, caused by El Niño, and slash-and-burn techniques which made forests more susceptible to major conflagrations.
There had also been a decline in the "quality of governance" in some countries, along with a decreasing government and media focus on important environmental issues. Poor governance was cited as an emerging issue for the 21st century by more than 200 of the 850 environmental experts and scientists consulted in compiling the report, said Dr Töpfer.
There had been a recognition that there was a global nitrogen pollution problem, caused by fertilisers and the burning of fossil fuels, with some areas receiving nitrogen compounds in quantities which could make water supplies unfit for human consumption and cause excessive algal growth.
Dr Töpfer said: "This massive environmental deterioration has not happened overnight. We are seeing more clearly the result of a long chain of events. The full extent of damage is only now becoming apparent as we begin to piece together a comprehensive overview of the extremely complex, interconnected web that is our life-support system."
He pointed to the success of many environmental treaties, such as the Vienna Convention on substances which damaged the ozone layer, the convention which has reduced acid rain throughout Europe over the 20 years and the treaty banning the export of toxic waste.
Dr Töpfer called for "inspired political leadership and intense co-operation" in existing and new environmental treaties. But he conceded that as far as the UN was concerned it was "too weak" in a lot of areas.
Commenting on the report, Michael Meacher, environment minister, said yesterday: "This is a situation that has never happened before but it is wrong to despair. The fact is climate change policies are beginning to have an impact. In the last two years the level of economic growth in the world has been nearly seven per cent whereas carbon emissions have held steady.
"In China they have actually gone down. In America, which has always been the worst offender: growth of four per cent, less than half a per cent growth in greenhouse gas emissions. So changes are occurring. Stratospheric ozone which is so essential to human life on earth is beginning to be repaired. It's going to take a long time but changes are occurring. "
Speaking about the emergencies described by UNEP, Mr Meacher said: "We need greater awareness of people all across the world - governments, scientists and ordinary people - about how human activities are the cause of this. And we need industry to be more sensitive to the need for change and indeed I think that is beginning to happen. "But people will only change if they understand how their way of life is unsustainable and if government says in very clear and simple terms the changes that need to be made. That's why the Government is going to produce a climate change programme by the end of this year which sets out not only that we are going to meet our legally binding agreement from the Kyoto protocol but exactly how we are going to do it."
Friends of the Earth described the report as "a wake-up call to the world." Charles Secrett, director of FOE, said: "GEO 2000 proves that we are literally destroying the Earth. We need environmental leadership from the Prime Minister and we are not getting it."
Sounding the alarm World Disasters Seen As Global Warming Outcome
GENEVA (Reuters) - Massive flooding, disease and drought could hit rich and poor countries around the world over coming decades if global warming is not halted, an authoritative U.N. scientific team warned Monday.
The scientists said they foresaw glaciers and polar icecaps melting, countless species of animals, birds and plant life dying out, farmland turning to desert, fish-supporting coral reefs destroyed, and small island states sunk beneath the sea.
The disaster scenario, with its major impact on the global economy, was set out in a 1,000-page report by the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which links nearly 3,000 experts in dozens of countries and has been studying the warming problem since 1990.
``Projected climate changes during the 21st century have the potential to lead to future large-scale and possibly irreversible changes in Earth systems, resulting in impacts on continental and global scales,'' the report said.
``Climate change in polar regions is expected to be among the greatest of any region on the Earth,'' declared a Summary for Policymakers agreed at a meeting of IPCC scientists and officials of over 100 governments in Geneva last week.
Hinting at sharper global social conflict to come, it said poorer countries, and the poorest people in rich countries, would suffer the most -- increasing the North-South divide and the poverty gap in the United States and Europe.
POOR LESS ABLE TO ADAPT
The effects of a surge in hurricanes, floods, higher temperatures and water shortages ``are expected to fall disproportionately on the poor because they are less able to adapt,'' Harvard professor James McCarthy told a news conference.
McCarthy, one of the authors of the report, said farming in tropical and sub-tropical regions would be worst hit ``and tens of millions of people will be at risk from sea-level rise.''
The report is the second of four to be issued this year as governments gird up for a fresh effort to shape a pact on how to tackle the warming problem and avert disaster.
Last month the first report said the earth's atmosphere was warming faster than the IPCC initially thought and largely because of human activity -- use of carbon-based fossil fuels, industrial pollution and destruction of forests and wetlands.
Next month in Accra, Ghana, the body is to issue a third report looking at what can be done to slow the process and help people, animals and plant life to adapt to irreversible change.
In September, a final report will put the conclusions into one major document which the scientists and environmentalists -- as well as insurance companies and new, clean energy industries -- hope will prod political leaders to action.
In parts of the scientific community, the IPCC has critics who say there is no solid evidence for unusual global warming.
Producers and users of fuels like coal and oil also deny it, as do opponents of the U.N. who suggest the IPCC is part of a plot to install a world government of international bureaucrats.
SAUDIS, CHINESE SAID TO RESIST
Diplomats involved in last week's closed-door Geneva sessions said Saudi Arabia, a major oil producer, and industrial giant China delayed approval of the Summary for Policymakers by arguing over almost every line of the text.
But mainstream scientists, even outside the wide embrace of the IPCC, say the work it has done over the past 10 years has ended debate on whether warming is taking place and moved it on to measures that need to be taken.
IPCC backers hope the reports will push governments to try harder after they failed at a meeting in the Hague last November to agree on reducing carbon, or ``greenhouse gas,'' emissions.
That meeting focused on implementing a protocol negotiated in Kyoto in 1997 on cutting emissions from fossil fuel use. The governments meet again in Bonn in May.
Monday's report warned that the United States -- where skepticism about warming is strong in the new administration -- would not escape a rise in flooding and storms that have caused billions of dollars in damage in recent years.
ENVIRONMENTAL BODY URGES U.S. ACTION
In a comment on the report, the global conservation body WWF's Washington-based Climate Change Campaign director Jennifer Morgan said the IPCC findings showed that ``it is time for governments such as the United States to get serious about reducing their carbon dioxide emissions.''
The Dutch-based environmental group Greenpeace said the report revealed a ``climate emergency'' which the world's richest nations needed to tackle urgently.
The IPCC said northern hemisphere countries would probably become hotter, bringing a rise in deaths from heat stroke in cities and diseases until now restricted to tropical areas, like malaria and mortal viral infections.
Africa -- with its already severe economic and social problems -- would be most vulnerable. Disease levels could shoot up, especially in crowded cities along the continent's coasts which could also face inundation as sea levels rise.
In Asia, it said, mangrove forests that protect river and sea banks could be swamped, especially in Bangladesh. Forest fires could become more frequent and warmer conditions could increase the spread of infectious disease.
ASIAN ICE MELT TO BRING WATER SHORTAGE
The melting of glaciers in the Himalayas, which feed river systems providing water to around 500 million people, could cause huge flooding and then massive water shortages.
Much of Latin America, from Mexico to Argentina, could see a decline in crop yields, deciduous tropical forests could shrink and new diseases spread, while renowned wildlife like the Central American quetzal bird could disappear.
Other animals that could vanish included the polar bear, penguins, the Bengal tiger and the central African mountain gorilla.
In Europe, southern countries were more likely to be affected, with an increased risk of water shortage and a deterioration in soil quality that would affect agriculture.
Australia, the report said, could face a major threat to agriculture as drought spread.
In the Middle East, political tension could be heightened and slide into wars over water resources as rivers dried out.
GLOBAL WARMING THREATENS THOUSANDS OF SPECIES
The London Telegraph reported: "Global warming could destroy or fundamentally alter a third of the world's plant and animal habitats by the end of this century, scientists said. They warned it could cause the extinction of thousands of species. The study, commissioned by the World Wide Fund for Nature, said that the most vulnerable plant and animal species would be in Arctic and mountain areas, where up to 20 per cent could be driven to extinction. In the north of Canada, Russia and Scandinavia, where warming was predicted to be most rapid, up to 70 per cent of habitat could be lost. Species identified as most at risk included the rare Gelada baboon in Ethiopia, the mountain pygmy possum of Australia, the monarch butterfly in its Mexican wintering grounds and the snowy owl of Canada and Alaska. Also under threat were the spectacled bear of the Andes and the spoon-billed sandpiper, of which only 4,000 remained, in its breeding sites in Russia's Arctic far east. In Britain, the report said the ptarmigan, dotterel and snow bunting, birds of the high Cairngorms, would also come under severe pressure. The report, Global Warming and Terrestrial Biodiversity Decline, was written by Jay Malcolm, professor of forestry at Toronto University, and Adam Markham, the British-born director of the North American pressure group, Clean Air - Cool Planet. The authors 'calculated required migration rates for species in all terrestrial areas for a doubling of carbon dioxide from pre-industrial levels, which was expected to take place around 2050'..."
HOLE IN EARTH'S OZONE LAYER NOW 3 TIMES THE SIZE OF AMERICA
The BBC reported: "The hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica has grown to its greatest size yet, the US space agency says. Nasa says this year's hole in the ozone layer - an annual event around September and October -measures 28.3 million square kilometers (11 million square miles). That is three times the size of the United States. The previous record was 27.2 million square kilometers (10.5 million square miles), two years ago. Scientists who have been studying the ozone layer since the early I 970s were shocked by the hole's size..."
Scientists See Global Warming Rise
WASHINGTON (AP) - In a study commissioned by the White House, the National Academy of Sciences said Wednesday that global warming ``is real and particularly strong within the past 20 years'' and said a leading cause is emissions of carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels.
The report was requested to help prepare Bush for his trip to Europe next week, but the academy was not asked for policy recommendations and it made none.
However, White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said the report does not definitely conclude that human activity is the cause of rising temperatures.
``Yes, temperatures (are) rising. It is uncertain what has caused it and what the solutions might be,'' he said.
Bush wanted the study to help the administration decide what steps to take to combat climate change.
In Europe, Bush has meetings on global warming scheduled with various officials. Many Europeans protested vigorously after Bush, citing looming energy shortages, in March reversed a campaign promise to limit CO2 emissions from power plants.
Bush's Cabinet-level task force plans to keep studying the issue after the president goes to Europe, where he is expected to outline a set of mostly voluntary steps that countries could take to reduce emissions.
The 24-page National Academy of Sciences report, an assessment based on previous studies of the phenomenon, says, ``The primary source, fossil fuel burning, has released roughly twice as much carbon dioxide as would be required to account for the observed increase'' in temperature.
The report also blames global warming on other greenhouse gases directly affected by human activity: methane, ozone, nitrous oxide and chlorofluorocarbons.
``Despite the uncertainties, there is general agreement that the observed warming is real and particularly strong within the past 20 years,'' it says. ``Global warming could well have serious adverse societal and ecological impacts by the end of this century.''
One U.S. area likely to be hard hit by climate change is the United States' breadbasket, the Great Plains.
Two senior Bush advisers, John Bridgeland, who oversees domestic policy, and Gary Edson, an economist, wrote to the academy May 11 asking for help with ``identifying the areas in the science of climate change where there are the greatest certainties and uncertainties.''
In preparation for his round of meetings with European allies, Bush held a lengthy meeting with Cabinet members Tuesday to come up with a strategy on how to sell his almost-finished proposal for a global-warming agreement, according to senior administration officials. In March, he rejected an international pact former Vice President Al Gore signed in Kyoto, Japan, that would have set tight limits on emissions of many greenhouse gases.
Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., said the academy report was unnecessary and ``underscores the lack of leadership'' by Bush on global warming. ``The science on this has been strong enough that presidents and foreign ministers of other countries have moved on this for years,'' Kerry said.
But now that the report is in hand, he said, ``It increases the imperative for them to take action.''
Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., a major participant in the debate on global warming, said the report ``provides us with a basis to move forward with an alternative'' global warming strategy.
Though the report is neutral on that, scientists ``really do know that CO2 is the main driver'' behind global warming, said the report's lead author, Ralph Cicerone, chancellor of the University of California, Irvine.
Prepared in less than a month by 11 scientists, the report finds agreement with the assessment of human-caused climate change by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, an agency of the United Nations.
``The IPCC's conclusion that most of the observed warming of the last 50 years is likely to have been due to the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations accurately reflects the current thinking of the scientific community on this issue,'' the report says.
It says, however, the increase of global fossil fuel carbon dioxide emissions in the past decade has averaged about 0.6 percent per year, less than the range of IPCC scenarios.
Other findings are: By 2100, temperatures are expected to increase between 2.5 degrees and 10.4 degrees Fahrenheit above those of 1990.
The predicted warming is larger over higher latitudes than over low latitudes, especially during winter and spring, and larger over land than over the oceans.
``The likelihood that this effect could prove important is greatest in semiarid regions, such as the U.S. Great Plains,'' the report says.
On the Net:
National Academy: http://www.nationalacademies.org
United Nations: http://www.ipcc.ch
EPA global warming: http://www.epa.gov/globalwarming
DROUGHT OF BIBLICAL SCALE WORSENS MODERN CONFLICT
The Associated Press reports: Lake Tiberia, the biblical lake where Jesus walked on water, has been pumped almost to its limit. It is now so low that salt deposits endanger its sweet water. Broad mud flats and odd little islands deface the placid expanse of blue that until just a few years ago lapped at old stone walls.
Israel's other main sources; aquifers marbled within mountains and along the Mediterranean coast, are depleted by the worst drought in a century. They are being tapped much faster than engineers advise.
With all of their other problems, Israelis and Palestinians are running out of water. We're worried, very worried, said Zvi Stuhl, senior engineer at Mekorot, Israel's water company. He oversees the National Water Carrier, which has supplied homes and made deserts bloom for 37 years. Against a backdrop of fresh conflict, water politics are paramount. Palestinians receive a fraction of what goes to Jews, which adds hard immediacy to the slow process of making peace...
Be prepared: sudden shifts in climate coming
Data from ancient tree rings and ice cores suggest Earth may soon experience intense periods of drought and cold.
By Robert C. Cowen | Special to The Christian Science Monitor
If you're concerned about forecasts of long-term global warming, you might be worried about the wrong thing.
The US National Academy of Sciences warns that sudden, unexpected climate change - on a scale that could cause widespread drought or plunge Earth into a deep freeze - pose a more immediate danger.
The evidence? Embedded in ancient tree rings and ice cores are signs that quick, drastic change is a fundamental characteristic of Earth's climate. These data show that the climate can switch abruptly from one mode - such as an ice age - to another, such as a milder interglacial period, climatologists say.
Humans have no remembered experience of such sudden, far-reaching shifts. If one were to occur in the near future, human civilization could be vastly ill-equipped to adjust.
The Academy's National Research Council (NRC) organized a study to assess this knowledge, which has come to a head over the past five years. The NRC report was distributed here at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union.
In a sense, the report notes, humanity has been living in the meteorological equivalent of a fool's paradise. Agriculture and other aspects of civilization have developed during a period of relatively benign climate.
The workings of this climate system can be likened to a light fixture that is controlled by both a dimmer and an on-off switch, says Richard Alley of Pennsylvania State University in University Park, chair of the NRC study. You can continuously change the light level by turning the dimmer dial. But nothing may happen until you push hard enough to throw the switch. Then the lights abruptly go out.
"It's clear that climate has both dimmer dials and switches," says Mr. Alley.
In the case of global warming, for example, is the heat-trapping effect of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide twiddling a dimmer dial - and is it also pushing on a switch that might suddenly flip the climate?
The NRC committee emphasizes that it isn't trying to alarm people. But it does want to inject a sense of urgency into discussions of climate change to encourage research. Currently, scientists do not understand what drives drastic changes, which in turn means they cannot simulate or forecast them.
Yet researchers are already aware that some degree of change seems to be under way. For example, the Arctic is warming. Air circulation around the North Pole region has changed. It is bringing warmer, wetter winters to northern Europe, Siberia, and parts of North America.
Also, a changed wind pattern is moving young Arctic ice out of the ocean faster. That means it doesn't linger as long and build up its former thickness.
Dorothy Peteet from the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Science in New York - an NRC committee member - notes the Arctic is a good region to explore climate questions. There could well be a climate switch, which might be as simple as permafrost melting. Among other things, that could release methane, a powerful greenhouse gas.
The NRC committee members realize they are sounding a warning that is cloaked in uncertainty. Therefore, they urge what they call a "no regrets" policy: Take no action based on vague fear. Do take actions that will be beneficial, whatever happens. These include measures to curb global warming.
Continue to work to ensure adequate resources of clean air and water. Build resiliency into economic systems. And support the extensive research needed to understand how the climate system works.
Alley says scientists need to face up to a certain amount of inevitable uncertainty, since natural processes may throw climate switches in random ways that are impossible to forecast. To help people learn to anticipate surprises, he says, "We need to build uncertainty into our models of climate change."
U.N.: 2001 Temperatures to be High - more proof of global warming
GENEVA (AP) - The Earth's temperature in the year 2001 is expected to be the second highest since global records began 140 years ago, the U.N. weather agency said Tuesday, more proof of global warming caused by humans.
The World Meteorological Organization said the warming temperatures led to an increase in the severity and frequency of storms and droughts and other unusual weather conditions.
``Temperatures are getting hotter, and they are getting hotter faster now than at any time in the past,'' said Michel Jarraud, the organization's deputy secretary-general.
Nine of the 10 warmest years in the last four decades have occurred since 1990, and temperatures are rising three times faster than in the early 1900s, he said.
This year's global average surface temperature was expected to be 57.96 Fahrenheit, the World Meteorological Organization said. The record, set in 1998, was 58.24 Fahrenheit.
``Much of the temperature change is down to human influence,'' said Ken Davidson, director of the organization's climate program department. ``There are always skeptics on everything, but certainly the evidence we have today shows we do have global warming, and that most of this is due to human action.''
Carbon dioxide produced from burning fossil fuels is the most prevalent of the so-called greenhouse gases, whose growing concentration in the atmosphere is thought to be warming the Earth. Many scientists believe the warming, if not stopped, will cause severe climate changes over the next century.
Few critics disagree that global warming exists. But opinions diverge when scientists forecast the severity of the temperature hikes and their effects, with many skeptics believing the earth's atmosphere will adjust to changes.
At a two-week conference in Morocco last month, negotiators from 165 countries agreed on rules for implementing the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which calls on about 40 industrialized nations to limit carbon emissions or cut them to below 1990 levels.
The United States, the world's largest polluter, has rejected the accord. It argues that the treaty would harm the U.S. economy and says it is unfair because it excuses heavily polluting developing countries like India and China from any obligations.
Jarraud said that while greenhouse gas emissions in 2100 can't be predicted, ``continued pollution at today's rate - or faster - presents several risks, especially a rise in sea-levels'' as polar ice melts.
``Many of the world's fastest developing cities are by the sea, and they could face floods, land erosion, and the pollution by salt water of fresh water supplies,'' he said.
On the Net: -Organization site, http://www.wmo.ch
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