- Title: VARIOUS: Calls for swift action to tackle emissions ahead of Doha talks
- Date: 21st November 2012
- Summary: SELBY, NORTH YORKSHIRE, ENGLAND, UNITED KINGDOM (FILE) (REUTERS) POWER STATION VARIOUS OF SMOKE STACK
- Reuters ID: LVAEKX4J9OD269OWJ7W6RYQJZXYB
- Location: Qatar, Usa
- Country: USA
- Duration: 00:00:12
- Aspect Ratio:
- Topics: Politics
- Story Text: As climate scientists and policy leaders from around the world prepare for the Doha climate conference next week, many in the U.S. are asking in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy whether the increasing frequency of extreme weather events in North America and around the world is linked to climatic changes caused by global warming.
At his post-election news conference, U.S. President Barack Obama said Sandy could not be attributed to climate change, but acknowledged that global temperatures were rising.
"I am a firm believer that climate change is real, that it is impacted by human behavior and carbon emissions. And as a consequence, I think we've got an obligation to future generations to do something about it," Obama said.
The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) reported in its annual Greenhouse Gas Bulletin that atmospheric volumes of greenhouse gases blamed for climate change reached a record level in 2011. Fossil fuels are the primary source of about 375 billion tons of carbon that has been released into the atmosphere since the industrial era began in 1750, the WMO said.
Ahead of the Doha conference, many scientists and activists in the U.S. and around the world are calling for swift and immediate actions to cut emissions.
"The fact of the matter is that this is a global problem. Right, the problem of emissions--, it doesn't matter where those emissions come from, it could be from China or from India or from the U.S. or from Japan or from Europe. It has the same impact on the atmosphere. It has the same impact on climate. And so, it is necessary for us to have an international dimension to agreeing to cut emissions," said Gavin Schmidt, a climate scientist for NASA at the Goddard Institute for Space Studies.
A United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report released on Wednesday (November 21) shows global greenhouse gas emissions in 2020 could increase between 8 billion and 13 billion tons -- a figure which could initiate temperature spikes warmer than the two degrees Celsius predicted by scientists.
The annual report, prepared by UNEP and the European Climate Foundation, studied a range of estimates to assess whether current pledges for emissions cuts are enough to limit the worst effects of climate change. It found the gap between level of emissions cuts pledged by countries and the amount of emission cuts believed scientifically necessary for a measurable slowing of the march toward the devastating effects of global warming has widened since the previous estimates.
Fearing widespread global economic fallout caused by drought and other effects of global warming, a coalition of environmental investment firms on Tuesday (November 20) called on governments to ramp up action on climate change and boost clean-energy investment or risk trillions of dollars in investments and disruption to economies. In an open letter, the alliance of institutional investors, responsible for managing $22.5 trillion in assets, said rapidly growing greenhouse gas emissions and more extreme weather were increasing investment risks globally.
"I think we hope to see some incremental progress at Doha but we don't expect anything dramatic. I do think that there is sort of a new opportunity in the U.S. following the election, following Hurricane Sandy, we are having kind of an 'a-ha' moment about climate change, that it is a serious problem, that it threatens the economy, and that we've got to do something about it quite soon," said Chris Davis, the director of investor programs at Ceres, a Boston-based group of investors and green groups.
Delegates from 190 countries will meet in Doha at the U.N. conference to work on emissions cuts under a new climate pact which will only come into force in 2020.
Scientists say emissions will have to peak before 2020 and fall to around 44 billion tons by 2020 to have a good chance of limiting temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius or below.
Based on 2010 data, global emissions are estimated around 50 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) -- 20 percent higher than 2000 emissions and 14 percent above the level needed in 2020 to stay under 2 degrees, UNEP said.
"We've heard for 20 years now scientists telling us that extreme weather is one of the trends that we would see when we have a warmer planet, and I think that's coming to fruition right now," said Janet Redman, the co-director of the Sustainable Energy and Economy Network at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington who will attend the Doha meetings to lobby for drastic emissions cuts.
"Global emissions is what we're concerned about and the global impacts of climate change will come home here to roost in the United States as well as in other countries like Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nicaragua. We need to really act now - that's what Superstorm Sandy is telling us," she added.
Recent research indicates that greenhouse gases have raised the chances of some events, such as the Texas heatwave of 2011 or a European heatwave in 2003 that killed perhaps 70,000 people.
Scientists say it was too early to know if there is a link between climate change and the recent Superstorm Sandy, which struck the northeastern United States. But, the string of tornados, hurricane, floods, droughts and other extreme weather events have forced many Americans to wonder whether the link may be easily dismissed.
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