UN Secretary-General urges climate change action
by UN News / AP/ The Times
10:34pm 20th Feb, 2007
1 March 2007
Ban Ki-moon calls on new generation to take better care of Planet Earth than his Own. (UN News)
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today called on the world’s younger generation to take better care of Planet Earth in the face of global warming than his own.
“We are all complicit in the process of global warming. Unsustainable practices are deeply entrenched in our everyday lives. But in the absence of decisive measures, the true cost of our actions will be borne by succeeding generations, starting with yours,” Mr. Ban told a UN International School conference in the General Assembly Hall in New York.
“That would be an unconscionable legacy; one which we must all join hands to avert. As it stands, the damage already inflicted on our ecosystem will take decades, perhaps centuries, to reverse – if we act now.
“Unfortunately, my generation has been somewhat careless in looking after our one and only planet. But I am hopeful that is finally changing. And I am also hopeful that your generation will prove far better stewards of our environment; in fact, looking around this hall today, I have a strong sense that you already are,” he added.
Mr. Ban cited his own childhood in war-ravaged Korea as the starting point of his identification with the UN which ended hostilities on the peninsula. “I grew up viewing the United Nations as a saviour; an organization which helped my country, the Republic of Korea, recover and rebuild from a devastating conflict,” he declared.
“Yet if there is one crucial difference between the era I grew up in, and the world you inherit, it is of the relative dangers we face. For my generation, coming of age at the height of the cold war, fear of a nuclear winter seemed the leading existential threat on the horizon.
“Today, war continues to threaten countless men, women and children across the globe. It is the source of untold suffering and loss. And the majority of the UN’s work still focuses on preventing and ending conflict. But the danger posed by war to all of humanity – and to our planet – is at least matched by the climate crisis and global warming,” he added.
As he has frequently stressed since he took office on 1 January, Mr. Ban said action on climate change would be one of his top priorities as Secretary-General, noting that global warming has profound implications for jobs, growth and poverty, affecting agriculture, the spread of disease and migration patterns, determining the ferocity and frequency of natural disasters, and prompting droughts, land degradation and other changes that “are likely to become a major driver of war and conflict.”
He added that he would discuss climate change with global leaders at this June’s summit meeting of the G-8 major industrialized nations. “These issues transcend borders,” he declared. “That is why protecting the world’s environment is largely beyond the capacity of individual countries. Only concerted and coordinated international action, supported and sustained by individual initiative, will be sufficient.
“The natural arena for such action is the United Nations. I am strongly committed to ensuring that the United Nations helps the international community make the transition to sustainable practices.”
UN urges climate change action. (AP)
To head off the worst of climate change, governments must pour tens of billions of dollars more into clean-energy research a scientific panel reported to the UN.
In addition, the group told the United Nations also warns that nations must enforce sharp rollbacks in fossil-fuel emissions.
The UN itself must better prepare to help tens of millions of "environmental refugees", the group said, and authorities everywhere should discourage new building on land less than one metre above sea level.
The 166-page report, two years in the making, forecasts a turbulent 21st century of rising seas, spreading drought and disease, weather extremes, and damage to farming, forests, fisheries and other economic areas.
"The challenge of halting climate change is one to which civilisation must rise," said the panel of 18 scientists from 11 nations, whose work was conducted at UN request and sponsored by the private United Nations Foundation and the Sigma Xi Scientific Research Society.
Among its wide-ranging list of recommendations, today"s report also called on UN agencies to study the need for an internationally accepted definition of "environmental refugee", since treaties recognise only political refugees as eligible for aid from the UN refugee agency.
The report expressed special concern that international capacity could be overwhelmed by coastal refugees fleeing seas rising as they expand from heat and melted land ice.
Scientists estimate a sea-level rise of one metre by 2100 would displace roughly 130 million people worldwide.
The UN panel was led by biodiversity expert Peter H. Raven and University of Michigan ecologist Rosina Bierbaum.
February 22 2007
Global warming must slow by 2020, warns UN, by Martin Virtel and Volker Mrasek. (Financial Times)
The world has less than 15 years to take urgent action against global warming through the use of new technology if it is to prevent a climate catastrophe, the United Nations warns in the as yet unpublished third part of its World Climate Report.
If carbon emissions are not substantially reduced by 2020, the report warns, global warming will set in motion irreversible natural processes such as the melting of the ice shields in Greenland and the over-acidification of the oceans.
The report, a draft of which was seen by FT Deutschland, the Financial Time’s sister paper, is to be presented by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on May 3 in Bangkok.
According to the report, carbon concentration in the atmosphere would have to be stabilised at a level of 420 parts per million to prevent a leap in temperatures. The current concentration is 383ppm and is expected to rise by 2.5ppm every year.
The world has warmed by about 0.74ºC in the last 100 years. But the IPCC estimates that temperatures could rise by 3ºC by the end of this century. Temperatures could rise at an even faster pace if “feedback” effects take place, such as the thawing of Siberian permafrost leading to the release of large quantities of methane, a greenhouse gas more potent than carbon dioxide.
The report says that the carbon concentration target could still be achieved, but only “in the most stringent scenarios”, which would have to involve “the rapid introduction of new and efficient technology”.
The scientists who compiled the report propose a range of measures, including the much increased use of biofuels and hybrid cars, as well as the construction of new nuclear power stations. They also propose a switch in agriculture away from rice grown under water, a method that produces considerable amounts of methane.
World scientists warn of a future characterised by extreme weather events – long and intense droughts, fierce hurricanes, heatwaves and rising sea levels – as a result of rising temperatures.
February 20, 2007
US Scientists unite to push Bush on climate change, by Lewis Smith. (The Times)
Pressure on the White House to act on scientific assessments of global warming mounted yesterday after the world’s largest general scientific society said that climate change was a “threat to society”.
The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) joined the growing clamour for political action in a public statement approved by its board.
It is the first time that the AAAS, which represents 262 societies and scientific academies, has published a statement of consensus on climate change. It was issued on Sunday during a conference where a series of studies added weight to the body of evidence of human impact on the climate and environment.
In the statement the association said: “The scientific evidence is clear: global climate change caused by human activities is occurring now, and it is a growing threat to society.
“Accumulating data from across the globe reveal a wide array of effects: rapidly melting glaciers, destabilisation of major ice sheets, increases in extreme weather, rising sea level, shifts in species ranges, and more.
“The pace of change and the evidence of harm have increased markedly over the last five years. The time to control greenhouse gas emissions is now.
“The growing torrent of information presents a clear message: we are already experiencing global climate change. It is time to muster the political will for concerted action.”
The statement reflects growing frustration among US scientists with the White House’s reluctance to tackle climate change.
In June 2005 the national academies of science for all the G8 countries and those of Brazil, India and China issued a joint statement demanding an end to political procrastination. Among the signatories was Bruce Alberts, president of the US National Academy of Sciences, but there has been little shift since then in President Bush’s position.
The AAAS said that concentrations of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, were higher than they had been for at least 650,000 years and that temperatures were heading to “levels not experienced for millions of years”.
The association said that the result of burning fossil fuels and deforestation was already being observed in the intensification of droughts, heat waves, floods, wildfires and severe storms.
Next (more recent) news item
Next (older) news item