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Archive for Tuesday, March 6, 2001

U.N. sees way, no will to control warming

March 6, 2001

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— The world possesses effective and affordable means to combat the threat of global warming, but the political will to implement them is in doubt, members of a U.N. panel said Monday.

The panel, which met in Accra, Ghana, released a summary of a 1,000-page study called "Climate Change 2001: Mitigation," written by 200 scientists and reviewed by 400 independent experts.

The report is the third in a series on climate change. The first predicted that global temperatures could increase faster than expected. The second, released last month, warned of potentially devastating effects.

"The earth is really warming, and this warming needs to be mitigated," said Narasimhan Sundararaman, secretary of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. "Fortunately, the options are there."

Greenhouse gases primarily carbon dioxide produced by burning fossil fuels like coal and oil are widely believed to trap heat in the atmosphere, causing the phenomenon known as global warming.

Research indicates that existing technologies could stabilize carbon dioxide levels over the next 100 years or more, panel members said. To reach that goal, however, means clearing an array of technical, economic, political, cultural, social and institutional hurdles.

"The good news is that there are cost-effective policies and technologies available for cutting emissions," said Klaus Topfer, executive director of the U.N. Environment Program. "The bad news is that there are many barriers to rolling these out."

Among the possible energy sources it cited were forestry and agricultural byproducts, municipal and industrial waste, wind energy, hydropower and nuclear power. But the report concedes that at least until 2020, energy supply is likely to be dominated by relatively cheap and abundant fossil fuels despite the existence of energy sources involving low levels of carbon emission.

The U.N. panel's first report, released in January, predicted global temperatures could rise by as much as 10.5 degrees over the next century and said industrial and auto pollution would be largely to blame.

The second installment outlined the potential effects, saying sea levels could rise, while melting polar ice caps could unleash climate changes that would continue for centuries.

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