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Published: November 17, 2007 

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VALENCIA, Spain, Nov. 17 — Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, describing climate change as "the defining challenge of our age," released the final report of a United Nations panel on climate change here Saturday and called on the United States and China to play "a more constructive role."


"Many of my colleagues would consider that kind of melt a catastrophe" so rapid that mankind would not be able to adapt, said Michael Oppenheimer, a climate scientist at Princeton University who contributed to the IPCC.

"It's extremely clear and is very explicit that the cost of inaction will be huge compared to the cost of action," said Jeffrey D. Sachs, head of Columbia University's Earth Institute. "We can't afford to wait for some perfect accord to replace Kyoto, for some grand agreement. We can afford to spend year bickering about it. We need to start acting now."

He said that delegates in Bali should take action immediately where they do agree, for example, by public funding for demonstration projects on new technologies like "carbon capture," a "promising but not proved" system that pumps emission underground instead of releasing them into the sky. He said the energy ministers should start a global fund to help poor countries avoid deforestation, which causes emissions to increase because growing plants absorb carbon in the atmosphere.


The European Union already has such a carbon trading system in place for many industries, and is fighting to bring airlines into the scheme.

"Stabilization of emissions can be achieved by deployment of a portfolio of technologies that exist or are already under development," said Achim Steiner, head of the United Nations Environment Program.

But he noted that developed countries would have to help poorer ones in implementing such plans, which are often expensive.

1 Comment

  1. Alex Fischer AUTHOR

    Another article from BBC with more analysis of the report itself.

    The IPCC report synthesises the three aspects of climate change that it has already pronounced on earlier in the year, on the science, the likely impacts, and options for dealing with the problem.

    Among the top-line conclusions are that climate change is "unequivocal", that humankind's emissions of greenhouse gases are more than 90% likely to be the main cause, and that impacts can be reduced at reasonable cost.

    One declaration that reportedly caused heated discussion during the week-long talks here states that climate change may bring "abrupt and irreversible" impacts.

    Such impacts could include the fast melting of glaciers and species extinctions.

    "Approximately 20-30% of species assessed so far are likely to be at increased risk of extinction if increases in global average temperature exceed 1.5-2.5C (relative to the 1980-1999 average)," the summary concludes.

    Other potential impacts highlighted in the text include:

    • between 75m and 250m people are projected to have scarcer fresh water supplies than at present
    • yields from rain-fed agriculture could be halved
    • food security is likely to be further compromised in Africa
    • there will be widespread impacts on coral reefs

    The panel's chairman, Rajendra Pachauri, highlighted the need to deal with impacts which are coming whether or not global emissions are curbed.