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Climate Catastrophe Warning

Global warming is approaching the critical point of no return, after which widespread drought, crop failure and rising sea-levels would be irreversible, an international climate change task force warned Monday.

The report, "Meeting the Climate Challenge," called on the G-8 leading industrial nations to cut carbon emissions, double their research spending on green technology and work with India and China to build on the Koyoto Protocol.

A broad scientific consensus attributes much of the warming to the accumulation of "greenhouse gases" in the atmosphere, such as carbon dioxide from fossil fuel-burning. The Kyoto Protocol, which takes effect Feb. 16, mandates cutbacks in such emissions, but the United States, the biggest emitter, has rejected that international pact.

"An ecological time-bomb is ticking away," said Stephen Byers, a close confidant of British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who co-chaired the task force with U.S. Republican Senator Olympia Snowe, from Maine.

"World leaders need to recognize that climate change is the single most important long-term issue that the planet faces," he said.

The independent report — by the Institute for Public Policy Research in Britain, the Center for American Progress in the United States and The Australia Institute — is timed to coincide with Blair's commitment to advance climate change policy during Britain's G-8 presidency.

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