New alarms are rung on perils of
Feb 26, 2007 The Associated Press
UNITED NATIONS, New York: To head off the worst of
climate change, governments must pour tens of billions
of dollars more than they are into clean- energy research
and enforce sharp rollbacks in fossil-fuel emissions,
a scientific panel reported to the United Nations
The United Nations itself must better prepare to
help tens of millions of "environmental refugees,"
the panel said, and the authorities everywhere should
discourage new building on land less than one meter,
or 39 inches, 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
"The challenge of halting climate change is one to
which civilization must rise," said the panel of 18
scientists from 11 nations, whose work was conducted
at the United Nations' request and sponsored by the
private United Nations Foundation and the Sigma Xi
Scientific Research Society.
Their dozens of recommendations about what to do
to mitigate and adapt to global warming came three
weeks after the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate
Change, an authoritative UN network of 2,000 scientists,
made headlines with its latest assessment of climate
The IPCC expressed its greatest confidence yet that
global warming was being caused largely by the accumulation
of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases in
Earth's atmosphere, mostly from the burning of coal,
oil and other fossil fuels. If nothing is done, the
panel said, global temperatures could rise by as much
as 11 degrees by 2100.
Temperatures rose an average 1.3 degrees in the past
100 years. The scientists who produced the report
released Tuesday said further increases this century
should be limited to about 3.6 degrees or the world
risked crossing a climate "tipping point" that could
produce "intolerable impacts on human well-being."
They said global carbon dioxide emissions should
be leveled off by 2015- 2020 and then cut back to
less than one- third that level by 2100 — via a vast
transformation of global energy systems, toward greater
efficiency, away from fossil fuels and toward biofuels,
solar and wind energy and other renewable sources
That changeover would be spurred by heavy "carbon
taxes" or "cap-and-trade" systems, whereby industries'
emissions are capped by governments and more efficient
companies can sell unused allowances to less efficient
Such programs — already in use in Europe under the
Kyoto Protocol climate pact — have been proposed in
Congress but are opposed by the Bush administration,
which also rejected the Kyoto treaty.
The White House says that it is spending almost $3
billion a year on energy-technology research and that
that is its major contribution to combating climate
change. But the UN panel said such research worldwide
was badly underfunded and required a tripling or quadrupling
of spending, to $45 billion or $60 billion a year.
Specialists say governments particularly should step
up research into carbon capture and sequestration
— technology to capture carbon dioxide in power-plant
emissions and store it underground or underwater.
In fact, the experts panel urged governments to immediately
ban all new coal-fired power plants except those designed
for retrofitting with sequestration technology.
Among its list of recommendations, the report Tuesday
also called on UN agencies to study the need for an
internationally accepted definition of "environmental
refugee," since treaties recognize only political
refugees as eligible for aid from the UN refugee agency.
The report expresses "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 that a rise in sea levels
of one meter by 2100 — conceivable in IPCC projections
— would displace roughly 130 million people worldwide.