Setting the stage for new talks on climate change, the head of the U.N. Environment Program called Tuesday for more concerted action to fight global warming, saying fresh evidence proves temperatures are rising quicker than expected.
Klaus Toepfer, executive director of the U.N. Environment Program, cited data included in a draft report released Monday by scientists from 99 nations in Shanghai, China. It will be discussed in Nairobi at a Feb. 5-9 meeting of environment ministers.
The report, the most emphatic warning yet, said increased human industrial activity has forced them to revise upwards the projected increase in global temperatures over the next century to between 2.5 degrees Fahrenheit and 10.4 degrees Fahrenheit. Their previous forecast had been between 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit and 6.3 degrees Fahrenheit.
"The evidence is absolutely clear that the speed of global warming is going faster and faster," Toepfer said. "This would really have an enormous impact, especially for Africa."
Scientists have established that rises in global temperatures are due in part to human industrial activity. The worst offender is the burning of fossil fuels to create energy, which releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere creating a greenhouse effect and global warming.
"Scientists also gave us a clear signal that this global warming is not ... linked with natural fluctuation as it was in the history of the world for the last millions of years, but that this is at least two-thirds directly linked to human activity," Toepfer said.
The rising temperatures threaten to disrupt fishing, farming and forestry, and kill much of the globe's coral reefs. Rising seas could flood heavily populated coastal areas of China, Bangladesh or Egypt.
He said many countries, including those still trying to develop economically, are already suffering from the effects of climate change.
At least 100 environment ministers are expected to attend the 2nd Global Ministerial Environment Forum, in Nairobi, to discuss the Shanghai report. The scientists who met in Shanghai are expected to release a major report in Nairobi.
The data gathered will be presented to negotiators who meet in Bonn, Germany in May to decide how to carry out a 1997 agreement by industrialized nations to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 5.2 percent from 1990 levels by 2010. Talks held in The Hague in November were inconclusive. Details of the Shanghai report had already been leaked prior to The Hague.
The United States is the biggest producer of greenhouse gases, accounting for a quarter of the world total. China is No. 2, but has recently begun a far-reaching effort to shift coal-fired factories and power plants to natural gas and cleaner fuels.
Analysts say negotiations in Bonn could be complicated by the new U.S administration of President George W. Bush, a former oil man who has expressereluctance about U.S. commitments to curb greenhouse gases.
By GEORGE MWANGI
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