Extreme weather calls for action, U.N. climate chief says

DOHA Wed Nov 28, 2012 1:53pm EST

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DOHA (Reuters) - Extreme weather from melting Arctic ice to Superstorm Sandy shows snail-paced U.N. climate talks have to do more to cut greenhouse gas emissions, the head of the U.N. weather agency and its climate chief said on Wednesday.

"Climate change is taking place before our eyes," Michel Jarraud, the head of the U.N.'s weather agency, said of the shrinking of ice floating on the Arctic Ocean to a record low in September and other extremes.

And the first 10 months of 2012 were the ninth-warmest since records began in the mid-19th century, with early months cooled by a "La Nina" weather event in the Pacific, according to a report by Jarraud's World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

It also documented severe floods, droughts and heatwaves, in what the U.N. expected to add to pressure for action at the November 26-December 7 meeting among 200 nations in OPEC member Qatar.

"The message here for this conference is very clear," Christiana Figueres, head of the U.N. Climate Change Secretariat told Reuters of extremes and rising emissions. "Governments need to hurry up and they need to be much more on track."

Superstorm Sandy, which struck the U.S. east coast after raging through the Caribbean, showed the United States "is not exempt from the vulnerabilities of climate change and that it also needs to do something," she said.

"We have had severe climate and weather events all over the world and everyone is beginning to understand that is exactly the future we are going to be looking about if they don't do something about it," she said.

SEA LEVELS

Rajendra Pachauri, head of the U.N. panel of climate scientists, said the costs of defenses against higher sea levels would rise towards 2100 and could amount to five to 10 percent of gross domestic product of low-lying nations.

And between 75 and 250 million people in Africa alone could face greater stress on water supplies by 2020, hitting food output. "This would further adversely affect food security and exacerbate malnutrition," he said in a speech to the conference.

He said polls showed U.S. public opinion had swung towards wanting more action by President Barack Obama to slow global warming after Sandy. "But whether that's a lasting change it's too early to say," he told Reuters.

China, the United States, the European Union and India are the top emitters. None have announced plans to limit emissions at Doha despite wide pleas for action.

The U.N. meeting is struggling to overcome disputes about how to extend the Kyoto Protocol, the existing plan for cutting emissions by developed nations that will otherwise expire at the end of the year.

The European Union, Australia and a few other countries are willing to extend but Japan, Russia and Canada have pulled out, arguing that it is meaningless unless emerging nations led by China and India also sign up.

The United States never ratified the 1997 Kyoto pact. Without an extension of Kyoto, developing nations say they won't work for a global deal applicable to all and meant to be agreed by 2015 and enter into force by 2020.

Also, coal-dependent Poland won backing as the host for next year's U.N. climate talks after OPEC member Qatar, a double act that dismayed environmentalists who say both oppose action to drop fossil fuels and embrace greener energies.

"The prospect of Poland hosting the next global climate conference is hugely concerning. At a time when action is desperately needed, a host country should be firmly committed to climate protection," Greenpeace's Jiri Jerabek said.

(Editing by Hugh Lawson and Jason Webb)

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Comments (2)
Techboom wrote:
So if it’s greenhouse gases, then why are the other planets in our solar system getting warmer? There have always been warming and cooling cycles throughout the life of the system due to solar activity, and we cannot stop it no matter how many carbon taxes we pay. This tax a farce to dig deeper into our wallets. I am not saying man has no effect on the planet, I am saying that the sun has far more, and there isn’t a thing we can do about it through taxation.

Nov 28, 2012 8:45am EST  --  Report as abuse
flower1 wrote:
“Many regions have faced extremes of droughts, floods and heatwaves.” Which regions?
“The number of cyclones worldwide was around normal but some, such as Sandy were especially devastating”. Not really, yeh it washed off houses seating right on the water and damaged roads and such but calling 200 people dead as devastating is too stupid. The last 2 tsunamis claimed close to 300,000 lives and wiping off towns after towns-that is devastating.
To one of my friends I said that deserts are ancient sea beds and he gave me a shocked look. Plus that Arctic had a rather mild climate mere 18000 yo and had a different ecosystem. I guess they are trying very hard to claim that tsunamis which have been most devastating actually connected to global warming, if only they could. All those pseudo scientists forget to mention that the warming is seen only in the Arctic and nowhere else. The ice melt is heavily influenced by warm currents. The colder water keeps sinking pushing the warm one up and further like a washing machine. Second, because colder air holds less water vapour than warmer air, in the Arctic, a greater fraction of any increase in radiation absorbed by the surface goes directly into warming the atmosphere.

Nov 28, 2012 9:08am EST  --  Report as abuse
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