Saturday, November 17, 2007

IPCC report warns that climate change is irreversible

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) approved the final installment of its four-part landmark report on global warming Friday, concluding that even the best efforts at reducing carbon-dioxide levels will not be enough. The world must focus on adapting to "abrupt and irreversible" climate changes.

The report from the IPCC summarizes thousands of pages of research produced over six years by delegates from 140 countries. It will be used as a "how-to" guide for governments meeting in Bali, Indonesia, beginning Dec. 3rd to create a successor to the Kyoto Protocol, which is set to expire in five years.

The panel and former Vice President Al Gore were awarded the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for their global-warming work.

The report says that governments will have to spend billions of dollars every year to mitigate the effects of increased temperatures, but even that will not be adequate, and many countries simply will have to learn to live with the changes.

The report stresses that global warming is "unequivocal" and that there is high confidence that humans are responsible. Global temperatures have risen about 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in the 18th century.

The panel estimates that temperatures could increase by an additional 3.2 degrees to 7.8 degrees by 2100. Sea level could rise seven to 23 inches over that period.

According to the panel, adaptation is now as important as reducing carbon dioxide. In its most basic sense, adaptation is the construction of walls to protect coastlines from rising sea levels or draining glacier-fed lakes in the Himalayas to prevent flooding of villages below. For some places, adaptation is the only option.

My hope is that this UN report will mobilize the world to act together and take action with regard to carbon dioxide emissions in order to avoid catastrophic events. The United Nations and many countries favor strong mandatory reductions of the greenhouse gases that drive global warming; unfortunately, the Bush administration wants voluntary measures and wants developing countries to share the burden of cuts.

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