Gore Exhorts UN Climate Conference to Act Now

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Al Gore addresses delegates at Bali. (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin)

NUSA DUA, Bali Indonesia, December 13, 2007 (ENS) – “The Earth has a rising fever,” Nobel Peace Prize laureate Al Gore told delegates at the United Nations climate change conference today. The former U.S. vice president said that the need to address climate change is urgent because its impacts already are affecting the present generation.

Melting glaciers, water scarcity, floods, and greater frequency and intensity of storms and droughts are occurring now, Gore said at a side event parallel to the official conference. He stressed that the changes in the climate are far beyond those caused by natural variation.

Heads of state, politicians, nongovernmental organizations and scientists are in Bali discussing plans to reduce emissions of six greenhouse gases that have been linked to increasing global temperatures. The goal of the conference is to decide how to negotiate a successor agreement to the Kyoto Protocol, which expires at the end of 2012.

The Bali negotiators should not wait for the United States before moving forward with aggressive action to combat climate change, said Gore, referring to the current administration’s resistance to accepting legally binding limits on greenhouse gas emissions.

U.S. negotiators at Bali have blocked a proposal that called on industrialized nations to cut their greenhouse gas emissions by 25 to 40 percent by 2020. This target was agreed by European nations and others during pre-Bali talks earlier this year.

On the recurring question of whether emission reduction ranges would be included in the text of the Bali roadmap that will emerge from this conference, the top UN climate official Yvo de Boer acknowledged today while the European Union and a number of developing countries are in favor of including the specific 25 to 40 percent range in the text, others such as the United States had made clear their opposition to this idea.

“Any inclusion of numbers in the text,” he said, “would exceed his expectations for this conference.”

At a news conference Wednesday, U.S. Undersecretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs Paula Dobriansky said the United States is not alone in resisting future emissions targets. Canada and Russia have joined with the Bush administration in this position.

Gore indicated that the United States could be in a different political situation next year, after the November 2008 election which term limits do not permit President George W. Bush to contest.

Gore called for the implementation of the successor agreement to the Kyoto Protocol in 2010, two years before the current commitment period under the protocol expires, as he said in his Nobel Peace Prize lecture in Norway on Tuesday.

Gore encouraged participants to draw upon what India’s Mahatma Gandhi referred to as “truth force” to help the climate change action movement gather momentum.

Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg (Photo courtesy ENB)

Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg told delegates that he supports carbon capture and storage under the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism, which allows industrialized countries with legally binding emissions limits to gather credits by supporting projects in developing countries.

Stoltenberg announced that Norway would spend more than US$500 million annually to support efforts to reduce deforestation in developing countries.

Also today British scientists released a report showing that the top 11 warmest years on record all occurred within the past 13 years.

The data comes from UK government’s Met Office and the University of East Anglia, which together maintain a global temperature record which is used in the reports of the Nobel Peace Prize winning UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The scientists released preliminary global temperature figures for 2007, which show this year is likely to be the seventh warmest on records dating back to 1850.

In January, meteorologists at the two research centers predicted that 2007 could register a global temperature well above the long term average. There was also a 60 percent probability that 2007 could be the warmest year on record and the expected temperature for 2007 is within the range predicted.

The announcement comes as the Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization Michel Jarraud addressed the United Nations climate change conference.

World Meteorological Organization head Michel Jarraud (Photo courtesy ENB)

“Many developing countries already have considerable difficulties in maintaining their observational networks,” Jarraud told the delegates today.

“Therefore, collaborative mechanisms should urgently be developed or strengthened, as most appropriate, to meet developing countries’ observational requirements and to upgrade the quality and efficiency of their climate risk management practices,” he said.

Dr. Vicky Pope from the Met Office Hadley Centre has been attending the conference and says, “The last few days have provided an important platform for debate and confirms the need for swift action to combat further rises in global temperatures because of human behavior.”

The last time annual mean global temperatures were below the 1961-1990 long term average was in 1985. Since then, mean surface air temperatures have continued to demonstrate a warming trend around the world.

2007 has been no exception to this, even though there has been a La Niña event of cooling sea surface temperatures in the Eastern Tropical Pacific Ocean which usually reduces global temperatures.

Professor Phil Jones, director of UEA’s Climatic Research Unit, said, “The year began with a weak El Niño – the warmer relation of La Niña – and global temperatures well above the long-term average. However, since the end of April the La Niña event has taken some of the heat out of what could have been an even warmer year.”

Met Office climate scientist David Parker said, “This year has also seen sea-ice extent in the Northern Hemisphere below average in each month of 2007, with record minima sea-ice reported in July, August and September.

In the Southern Hemisphere, sea-ice coverage has remained close to average,” he said.

Across the UK, 2007 is on course to become one of the warmest years on record. Even if the mean temperature for December is 1 °Celsius below the 1971-2000 long term average, the year will still be the third warmest since UK-wide records began in 1914.

The full report on the climate of 2007 is available on the WMO website. As well as information and graphics on land and sea surface temperature, it includes details on the extent of sea-ice in both hemispheres and rainfall.

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