LONDON (Reuters) - The world lacks a sense of urgency over the importance of the U.N. climate change talks in Copenhagen in preventing a “human emergency” affecting hundreds of millions of people, the British government said on Thursday.
With United Nations talks on a new deal to combat global warming less than 50 days away, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said too many people still failed to grasp the scale and urgency of the problem.
Climate change will deepen Middle East tensions, trigger wars over water and food and lead to unprecedented migration unless action is taken now to curb global warming, he said.
“For too many people, not just in our own country but around the world, the penny hasn’t yet dropped ... that this climate change challenge is real and is happening now,” Miliband told a news conference.
“The penny hasn’t dropped too that Copenhagen is the chance to address on a global scale the climate change challenge. There isn’t yet that sense of urgency and drive and animation about the Copenhagen conference.”
Disagreement between rich and poor countries on levels of emissions cuts and aid for developing nations to help make those reductions have hampered talks leading to Copenhagen.
BREAK THE IMPASSE
Miliband is the latest senior member of the British government to attempt this week to persuade the 192 countries meeting in Copenhagen to “break the impasse” preventing a deal.
Finance Minister Alistair Darling told Reuters he feared the climate talks could drag on like the world trade negotiations, while Prime Minister Gordon Brown said world leaders should intervene to avoid a catastrophe.
Unchecked global warming will lead to a further 150 to 200 million people migrating, four billion people facing water shortages and climate change dominating the U.N. Security Council, Miliband said. Water shortages in the Middle East will exacerbate the region’s problems, he said.
Miliband and his brother Ed Miliband, energy and climate change secretary, published a map showing the possible effects of a global average temperature rise of 4 degrees Celsius (7.2 degrees Fahrenheit) compared to pre-industrial levels.
It suggested northern areas, such as the Arctic and North America, will have larger temperature rises than the rest of the world. Every continent will face a higher risk of forest fires, while yields of maize and wheat in Africa could fall by 40 percent. Rice yields in Asia may drop by nearly a third.
The hottest days of the year in cities like New York and Washington could be as much as 10-12C (18-22F) warmer.
Sea levels could rise by 80cm by the end of the century, threatening low-lying islands in the Pacific and Indian oceans.
The map was based on computer models run by the Hadley Center, Britain’s climate research center, and the data was peer-reviewed. It is online: www.actoncopenhagen.decc.gov.uk.
The 4C rise could be reached by 2060, although it could be as late as 2100, according to the British government’s Chief Scientific Advisor John Beddington. He said it was crucial that the world agrees to limit the temperature rise to below 2C.
“There is going to be a danger of (reaching) a tipping point: a sudden, dramatic and unexpected change,” he said.
Editing by Janet Lawrence
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