Oread Daily

Speaking at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco a leading US climate scientist has warned that the world has one decade to get to grips with climate change.

Dr James Hansen told the meeting that just 1C more of warming would take the Earth into climate patterns it has not experienced for more than 500,000 years.

Hansen said determined action on energy efficiency to bring about reductions in greenhouse gas emission could lead to some stabilisation.

However, Dr Hansen warned that the planet will be very badly damaged within 10 years if global warming isn't slowed down.

In Montreal where the United Nations conference on climate change is reaching its climax the United States continued its deadly obstructionist policy and opposed an an initiative by Canada to start formal discussions on how to tackle global warming outside of the Kyoto Treaty. Inida and Saudi Arabia joined the US in opposition to the Canadian proposal.

Other developing countries including China, South Africa and Brazil seem willing to go along with the plan. However, those same countries don't want to commit to any formal targets to limit emissions.

As the endless debate continued the World-Wide Fund for Nature(WWF) said that 2005 will go down as the hottest, driest and stormiest year on record, and it's most likely due to climate change. The WWF says there has been more extreme weather like hurricanes and droughts this year than any other. They also say that the amount of ice at the poles has shrunk more than before.

In October this year, the report noted, NASA reported that the global average temperature was already 0.1 Fahrenheit warmer than in
1998, the record year.

The WWF based its conclusions on data from US government sources, NASA, and the World Meteorological Organisation.

World-Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) spokesperson Lara Hansen said the violent weather that has hit many places in 2005 is too strong to just be explained by natural cycles. "There is a cyclical signature to hurricanes, but what were seeing now is even beyond what that cyclical nature would lead us to believe has happened," said Hansen.

Hansen said some predictions indicate that the Arctic North could become ice-free by the end of the century, even possibly by mid- century. In fact, the smallest area of Arctic sea ice ever was recorded in September -- 500,000 square miles smaller than the historic average -- and a 9.8 percent decline, per decade, of perennial sea ice cover, the report said.

"The rate at which we are losing sea ice goes beyond the normal models of what we would think would be happening," she said.

Waters in the Caribbean were hotter for longer, causing extensive bleaching from Colombia to the Florida Keys says the WWF report.

The year has also been the driest in decades in the Amazon, where a drought may surpass anything in the past century.

With so many environmental flash points, Hansen said the world must accept the urgency of preventing global warming, despite the lack of leadership from Washington.

The message is "Act now", said the WWF. It warned that governments meeting in Montreal must make the Kyoto agreement on climate change, initiated in 1997 but largely ignored by the US and criticised for failing to meet objectives, work. "They have to start now on the next round of carbon dioxide emission reductions, to keep the process on track after the current commitment period ends in 2012."

Otherwise, WWF claimed, a "window of opportunity" would be lost to keep the average world temperature less than 2C above pre-industrial levels: "Failure to do that would be a key tipping point for the world's ecosystems."

The WWF warning came only days after a report by Britain's National Oceanography Centre that part of the oceanic system that drives the Gulf Stream, the warm current that flows from the Caribbean towards northern Europe, has slowed by almost one-third since 1992 because of global warming. As the Gulf Stream flows, it releases huge amounts of heat, creating the warm winds that keep Europe's climate relatively mild. Without that heat, Europe would have a more hostile climate and Britain, on the same latitude as Labrador in Canada, could see winter temperatures plummet to minus 30C. Sources: Radio New Zealand, CBBC, RTE (Ireland), Cape Argus, Forbes, Scottsman, AHN, Live Science

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