Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Vital facts 'deleted' from UN report on climate change

The Age (Australia): A major United Nations report on climate change has been watered down as a result of influence from government officials from countries opposed to taking radical action, conservation group WWF claims. It says "vital facts" have been cut from the report's summary, including a warning of more destructive hurricanes, the warming of the upper Pacific Ocean and the loss of glaciers in the European Alps. The group fears that the report will play down the need for deep cuts in emissions.

The report, which will be released on Saturday, will say that almost a third of the world's species will face extinction if greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise. A draft copy of the report by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) also warns that if temperatures rise by more than two degrees - now expected before 2050 - 20 per cent of the world's population will face a great risk of drought.

…The report is the focus of talks between the UN panel and government delegations at a meeting in Valencia, Spain, before next month's UN-sponsored meeting in Bali that will start negotiations on a new climate change treaty. It was compiled by the UN panel of 2500 climate change scientists, which this year won the Nobel peace prize with the former US vice-president Al Gore.

…The study will warn that if emissions continue to rise without action being taken until 2050, then global average temperatures would rise by up to five degrees. Such an average rise would cause "significant extinctions" around the world, a decrease in cereal harvests everywhere and the flooding of about 30 per cent of coastal wetlands.

The chairman of the Nobel prize-winning IPCC, Rajendra Pachauri, called the Valencia meeting a watershed for the group. Mr Pachauri said the UN panel scientists were determined to "adhere to standards of quality" in the fourth and final report to be issued this year. The comment was an indirect barb at the political delegations, which environmentalists have accused of watering down and excluding vital information from the summaries of earlier reports to fit their own domestic agendas.

The WWF claims that the report will also not contain worrying evidence published in the past year that the Southern Ocean has started to take up less carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, accelerating the pace of global warming.

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