December 14, 2004

Scientists Warn of Global Warming Results

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) -- Scientists warned Tuesday that a long-term increase in global temperature of 3.5 degrees could threaten Latin American water supplies, reduce food yields in Asia and result in a rise in extreme weather conditions in the Caribbean.

The warnings came in a report by a group of European scientists on the sidelines of an annual U.N. conference on climate change.

Carlo Jaeger, a scientist at Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, said if the long-term temperature increase was 3.5 degrees above from a century ago, it could collapse the Amazon rain forest ecosystem and lead to rising sea levels affecting Greenland.

American scientists reported last April that global temperatures rose an average of 1 degree in the past century.

But a long-term 3.5-degree increase would constitute "dangerous interference with the climate system," Jaeger said. "This can lead to sea-level rise of several meters and involve a whole range of major risks to human well-being and environmental integrity."

The planet's temperature is used as a guideline by environmentalists and government official seeking to control the amount of greenhouse gas emissions blamed for global warnings.

The report was released as representatives from almost 200 nations refined details of the Kyoto Protocol, a global warming treaty, to be implemented in February.

The treaty commits major industrialized nations to curb gases from factories, cars and coal-burning power plants blamed for trapping heat in the atmosphere by 2012.

The United States has rejected the plan, with President Bush in 2001 saying it would damage the economy.

In Peru, where almost 70 percent of power comes from hydroelectric plants, water supply for the Peruvian capital could be threatened if warming continues, Jaeger said.

Other vulnerable areas include China, where an increase in global temperatures could affect rice yields, and in the Caribbean, a region already hit by an increase in extreme weather such as hurricanes, Jaeger said. China is the world's second-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, with the United States ranking first.

Also Tuesday, government and private groups said they are rushing a new generation of more sophisticated satellites into space to monitor greenhouse gas emissions and track changing sea levels, thinning polar ice and as well as rising temperatures on the planet.

The effort aims at better understanding the impact of heat-trapping gases on the climate.

The European Space Agency, together with the European Union, is taking part in an Earth monitoring program that is tracking everything from polluting forest fires in Borneo to changes in farmland in Europe and the thinning of polar ice caps.