ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday, April 08, 2007
Vol. 41 - No 45

US falls in line with climate report

WASHINGTON, Saturday (AFP) - Long sceptical about climate change and its causes, the US administration has finally acknowledged the “global challenge” facing the planet and called for international solutions.

“Climate change is clearly a global challenge and we all recognize that it requires global solutions,” said Sharon Hays, leader of the US delegation at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The chairman of the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Rajendra Pachauri at the presentation of the report. AFP

A summary of the IPCC's latest technical report released on Friday in Brussels raised questions about possible measures to reduce harmful emissions by the United States, regarded as the world's number one emitter of greenhouse gases. It warned of devastating damage on all continents from global warming, saying that the resulting climate change is set to hit poor countries hardest, and threatens nearly a third of the world's species with extinction.

The report said the consequences could be catastrophic, depending chiefly on how much carbon gas is spewed into the atmosphere from burning oil, gas and coal.

The United States consumes around a quarter of the world's energy and causes nearly 30 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Despite stressing his commitment to reduce emissions, US President George W. Bush has refused to adopt the so-called Kyoto protocol for countries to reduce them, arguing the cost would be prohibitive.

He has also questioned their usefulness since major polluter China, as a developing country, is exempt. The US administration's top environmental official, Jim Connaughton, on Friday defended Bush's record on addressing the problem.
“This report further underscores what the (US) president has been saying for some time about the seriousness of this challenge,” said Connaughton, chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, answering questions alongside Hays.He cited a pledge by Bush to reduce the United States' gasoline (petrol) consumption by 20 percent over the next 10 years and other measures. Bush plans to replace 20 percent of car fuel with clean biofuel by 2030, he said.

“We are actually engaging the developing countries ... in strategies for significantly reducing greenhouse gases,” he said. “I think you'll continue to see us advance new policies of a wide variety.”Draft versions of the IPCC summary were fiercely disputed during a week of tense negotiations. Publication was delayed after the United States, China and Saudi Arabia objected to the wording of certain parts.

At US insistence, summary drafters dumped a paragraph that said North America could expect “severe local economic damage and substantial ecosystem, social and cultural disruption,” delegates in Brussels said.

Hays hailed the final version, however, and stressed the need for societies to take “adaptation” measures to counter the potential damage. These could include measures such as planning for flood damage when building, she said.

Gases such as carbon dioxide and methane trap the sun's heat in the Earth's upper atmosphere, acting like the glass in a greenhouse. Earth's temperature has been rising steadily since the industrial revolution and scientists agree it has already begun to affect the weather.

Bettina Menne, a World Health Organization specialist who was lead author on the report's chapter on health, said 150,000 deaths could be “attributed directly” to climate change in 2000 alone, due to malnutrition and diarrhea.

Top to the page

Copyright 2007 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka.