The US chief scientist has told the BBC that climate change is now a fact.
Professor John Marburger, who advises President Bush, said it was more than 90% certain that greenhouse gas emissions from mankind are to blame.
The Earth may become “unliveable” without cuts in CO2 output, he said, but he labelled targets for curbing temperature rise as “arbitrary”.
His comments come shortly before major meetings on climate change at the UN and the Washington White House.
There may still be some members of the White House team who are not completely convinced about climate change – but it is clear that the science advisor to the President and director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy is not one of them.
In the starkest warning from the White House so far about the dangers ahead, Professor Marburger told the BBC that climate change was unequivocal, with mankind more than 90% likely to blame.
Despite disagreement on the details of climate science, he said: “I think there is widespread agreement on certain basics, and one of the most important is that we are producing far more CO2 from fossil fuels than we ought to be. “And it’s going to lead to trouble unless we can begin to reduce the amount of fossil fuels we are burning and using in our economies.”
This is an explicit endorsement of the latest major review of climate science from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
Professor Marburger said humanity would be in trouble if we did not stop increasing carbon emissions.
“The CO2 accumulates in the atmosphere and there’s no end point, it just gets hotter and hotter, and so at some point it becomes unliveable,” he said. Professor Marburger said he wished he could stop US emissions right away, but that was obviously not possible.
US backing for the scientific consensus was confirmed by President Bush’s top climate advisor, James Connaughton.
The chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality told BBC News that advancing technology was the best way to curb the warming trend.
“You only have two choices; you either have advanced technologies and get them into the marketplace, or you shut down your economies and put people out of work,” he said.
“I don’t know of any politician that favours shutting down economies.”
Mr Bush has invited leaders of major developed and developing nations to the White House later this month for discussions on a future global direction on climate change.
It will follow a UN General Assembly session on the same issue.
Last week the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation forum in Sydney backed the UN climate convention as the right body for developing future global policy.
The European Union wants such a policy to adopt its own target of stabilising temperature rise at or below 2C.
But Mr Marburger said the state of the science made it difficult to justify any particular target.
“It’s not clear that we’ll be in a position to predict the future accurately enough to make policy confidently for a long time,” he said.
“I think 2C is rather arbitrary, and it’s not clear to me that the answer shouldn’t be 3C or more or less. It’s a hunch, a guess.”
The truth, he said, was that we just do not know what the ‘safe’ limit is.
Environment analyst, BBC News
I wouldn’t be expecting Bush or the US to be making any big changes to their environmental and economic policies quite yet. He’s one species of monkey I don’t think needs saving. The epitome of short term thinking, if you can call it thinking.
Tuvalu about to disappear into the ocean
SEOUL (Reuters) – The tiny Pacific island state of Tuvalu on Thursday urged the rest of the world to do more to combat global warming before it sinks beneath the ocean.
The group of atolls and reefs, home to some 10,000 people, is barely two meters on average above sea-level and one study predicted at the current rate the ocean is rising could disappear in the next 30 to 50 years.
“We keep thinking that the time will never come. The alternative is to turn ourselves into fish and live under water,” Tuvalu Deputy Prime Tavau Teii told Reuters in the South Korean capital where he was attending a conference on the environment.
“All countries must make an effort to reduce their emissions before it is too late for countries like Tuvalu,” he said, calling the country one of the most vulnerable in the world to man-made climate change.
He reeled off a list of threats to the country, one of whose few export earnings comes from its Internet country suffix which it can sell to anyone wanting their Website site to end with .tv.
Coral reefs are being damaged by the warming ocean and so threatening fish stocks — the main source of protein.
The sea is increasingly invading underground fresh water supplies, creating problems for farmers, while drought constantly threatened to limit drinking water.
Annual spring tides appear to be getting higher each year, eroding the coastline. As the coral reefs die, that protection goes and the risk only increases.
And the mounting ferocity of cyclones from a warmer ocean also brought greater risks, he said, noting another island state in the area had been buffeted by waves three years ago that crashed over its 30 meter cliffs.
“We’ll try and maintain our own way of living on the island as long as we can. If the time comes we should leave the islands, there is no other choice but to leave.”
Teii said his government had received indications from New Zealand it was prepared to take in people from the islands. About 2,000 of its population already live there.
But Australia, the other major economy in the region, had only given vague commitments.
“Australia was very reluctant to make a commitment even though they have been approached in a diplomatic way.”
For some people the reality of climate change is very real. People sit in there homes thinking a lot of things about climate change. Most think it’s terrible but that it is never going to affect me. Well maybe it won’t directly at this moment in time, but in the near future it will affect our generations to come. And for some unfortunate people the time has come when there is no time to stop and think ‘thats terrible’ because the effects are already hitting them hard.
Global warming impact like “nuclear war”: report
LONDON (Reuters) – Climate change could have global security implications on a par with nuclear war unless urgent action is taken, a report said on Wednesday.
The International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) security think-tank said global warming would hit crop yields and water availability everywhere, causing great human suffering and leading to regional strife.
While everyone had now started to recognize the threat posed by climate change, no one was taking effective leadership to tackle it and no one could tell precisely when and where it would hit hardest, it added.
“The most recent international moves towards combating global warming represent a recognition … that if the emission of greenhouse gases … is allowed to continue unchecked, the effects will be catastrophic — on the level of nuclear war,” the IISS report said.
“Even if the international community succeeds in adopting comprehensive and effective measures to mitigate climate change, there will still be unavoidable impacts from global warming on the environment, economies and human security,” it added.
Scientists say global average temperatures will rise by between 1.8 and 4.0 degrees Celsius this century due to burning fossil fuels for power and transport.
The IISS report said the effects would cause a host of problems including rising sea levels, forced migration, freak storms, droughts, floods, extinctions, wildfires, disease epidemics, crop failures and famines.
The impact was already being felt — particularly in conflicts in Kenya and Sudan — and more was expected in places from Asia to Latin America as dwindling resources led to competition between haves and have nots.
“We can all see that climate change is a threat to global security, and you can judge some of the more obvious causes and areas,” said IISS transnational threat specialist Nigel Inkster. “What is much harder to do is see how to cope with them.”
The report, an annual survey of the impact of world events on global security, said conflicts and state collapses due to climate change would reduce the world’s ability to tackle the causes and to reduce the effects of global warming.
State failures would increase the gap between rich and poor and heighten racial and ethnic tensions which in turn would produce fertile breeding grounds for more conflict.
Urban areas would not be exempt from the fallout as falling crop yields due to reduced water and rising temperatures would push food prices higher, IISS said.
Overall, it said 65 countries were likely to lose over 15 percent of their agricultural output by 2100 at a time when the world’s population was expected to head from six billion now to nine billion people.
“Fundamental environmental issues of food, water and energy security ultimately lie behind many present security concerns, and climate change will magnify all three,” it added.
Jeremy Lovell -Reuters
A pretty stark accessment. Sometimes it baffles me how complacent people really are. I remember reading an article a few months ago about the misconception that scientists weren’t in agreement about the fact that global warming is real and that man is causing it. The article put that to bed quite easily by pointing out that the only articles in the past 20 years not to agree were ones sponsored by companies with something to gain by denying it. Out of every single non biased report and article written every single one agreed with the above statement. Seems pretty straight forward to me.
Eating Less Meat May Slow Climate Change
LONDON (AP) — Eating less meat could help slow global warming by reducing the number of livestock and thereby decreasing the amount of methane flatulence from the animals, scientists said on Thursday.
In a special energy and health series of the medical journal The Lancet, experts said people should eat fewer steaks and hamburgers. Reducing global red meat consumption by 10 percent, they said, would cut the gases emitted by cows, sheep and goats that contribute to global warming.
“We are at a significant tipping point,” said Geri Brewster, a nutritionist at Northern Westchester Hospital in New York, who was not connected to the study.
“If people knew that they were threatening the environment by eating more meat, they might think twice before ordering a burger,” Brewster said.
Other ways of reducing greenhouse gases from farming practices, like feeding animals higher-quality grains, would only have a limited impact on cutting emissions. Gases from animals destined for dinner plates account for nearly a quarter of all emissions worldwide.
“That leaves reducing demand for meat as the only real option,” said Dr. John Powles, a public health expert at Cambridge University, one of the study’s authors.
The amount of meat eaten varies considerably worldwide. In developed countries, people typically eat about 224 grams per day. But in Africa, most people only get about 31 grams a day.
With demand for meat increasing worldwide, experts worry that this increased livestock production will mean more gases like methane and nitrous oxide heating up the atmosphere. In China, for instance, people are eating double the amount of meat they used to a decade ago.
Powles said that if the global average were 90 grams per day, that would prevent the levels of gases from speeding up climate change.
Eating less red meat would also improve health in general. Powles and his co-authors estimate that reducing meat consumption would reduce the numbers of people with heart disease and cancer. One study has estimated that the risk of colorectal cancer drops by about a third for every 100 grams of red meat that is cut out of your diet.
“As a society, we are overconsuming protein,” Brewster said. “If we ate less red meat, it would also help stop the obesity epidemic.”
Experts said that it would probably take decades to wane the public off of its meat-eating tendency. “We need to better understand the implications of our diet,” said Dr. Maria Neira, director of director of the World Health Organization’s department of public health and the environment.
“It is an interesting theory that needs to be further examined,” she said. “But eating less meat could definitely be one way to reduce gas emissions and climate change.”
There are some people out there who think the fact that animal waste products such as methane contribute to the greenhouse effect is just plain stupid. It can even strike them as humourous. Methane is more than x20 more effective as a green house gas than CO2 and farmed animals produce a lot of it. Couple that with the fact that we have many times the population of farmed cattle on the planet as humans and things begin to add up. “Gases from animals destined for dinner plates account for nearly a quarter of all emissions worldwide”. There are plenty of scientific studies out and published on the subject.