October 7, 2008

Former Nobel Prize Winner Says Evidence Of Warming Is Growing

The head of the U.N. Climate Panel said on Tuesday that evidence is mounting day by day that mankind is to blame for climate change, and the financial crisis is a temporary setback in the hunt for solutions.

The downturn could dominate for 2-3 months before politicians return to focus on fixing long-term problems like global warming, said Rajendra Pachauri, whose panel shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with former U.S. vice president Al Gore.

"The evidence...is getting stronger by the day. We have much more evidence available of what the human role is in climate change. One has every reason to take action on what's already been said," Pachauri noted.

Last year Pachauri's panel, which draws on the work of 2,500 scientists, said that it was at least 90 percent sure that mankind was to blame for warming and forecast more droughts, heatwaves, floods and rising sea levels.

At the moment everything seemed to be "on the back burner" because of worries about the financial system, he said. "I'm absolutely sure that climate change will be the last thing people will think about at this point in time."

"Sooner or later, they will come back to it." Arctic sea ice, for instance, shrank to its smallest ever recorded area in September 2007, and came close to breaking the record last month.

Some skeptics believe that global warming has stopped because the warmest year since records began in the mid-19th century was 1998. That year was warmed by a strong El Nino weather pattern in the Pacific Ocean.

Pachauri, however, dismisses such beliefs. "Eleven of the last 12 years have been the warmest ever recorded. The trend is very clear," he said.

He predicted that the financial crunch would bring "soul searching about how society might act to reduce dependence on fossil fuels" and shift to renewable energies such as wind, solar or hydropower.

Over 190 governments around the world have agreed to work out a new U.N. climate treaty by the end of 2009 to succeed the Kyoto Protocol, which binds 37 industrialized nations to make cuts in emissions of an average of 5 percent below 1990 levels by 2012.

Pachauri hopes the world can agree on a strong action by the end of 2009.

The next U.S. president, whether Democrat Barack Obama or Republican John McCain, would do more to fight climate change, Pachauri said. And he expressed optimism that McCain could fight off skepticism by some Republicans.

He predicts Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin, the governor of Alaska who says natural shifts may explain climate change alongside human influences would not have very much influence over the issue.

"I wouldn't really worry too much about her," he said.

"My feeling is that, in 2-3 months from now, or soon after the new president takes office (in January), he is going to have to look to permanent solutions...and climate change is going to be an important part of this."

The next president really has a tough job on his hands, he added.


Image Caption: Rajendra Pachauri. Courtesy Wikipedia


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