August 31, 2009

Leaders Gather For UN Talks Over Weather Surveillance

Officials from the United Nations met on Monday to discuss setting up a worldwide weather surveillance system that would see all nations receiving earlier and more accurate warnings about hurricanes, droughts and floods, the Associated Press reported.

The weeklong meeting in Geneva attracted around 1,500 officials, diplomats and scientists interested in helping the world better adapt to climate change. Some 15 heads of state, including those from Cameroon, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Slovenia, Tajikistan and Togo, as well as 80 ministers will meet for this week's meeting.

The World Climate Conference is aimed at assisting developing countries in generating better data on their own climate issues and sharing that information with other countries.

A U.S. delegation will also be highlighting President Barack Obama's new administration commitment to combating climate change.

Swiss President Hans-Rudolf Merz, the host of the meeting, said the costs for adapting to climate change would run to several tens of billions of U.S. dollars every year, with more than half of the expenditure being required in developing countries. Switzerland donated $1.7 million to the conference.

Merz said better weather forecasts and hazard maps could also prevent deaths and reduce the extent of the damage.

"We all want our societies to be able to withstand the consequences of climate change. Scientists and experts will have to provide the information that makes this possible," he said.

World officials will also attempt to agree upon "Global Framework for Climate Services" to ensure that early warnings for tsunamis and hurricanes reach everyone.

They're goal is that even farmers in remote African regions will be alerted to upcoming droughts and floods.

"Decision-makers need reliable information about the current and projected impacts of climate change, but many countries lack basic information about their own climates," said Jane Lubchenco, administrator of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Michel Jarraud, head of the U.N.'s World Meteorological Organization, said the way they delivered climate information to some sectors had been ad hoc, until now.

"What we need is a formal system that all people can trust to access vital information that can save their lives and protect property and economies," he added.

Jarraud said hydrological networks in Africa were totally insufficient and that many water basins were managed without any information about precipitation and the runoff amount of water in the underground water table.

In December, governments across the globe will meet to forge a new accord to replace the 1997 Kyoto Protocol on reducing greenhouse gases blamed for global warming.

The Dec. 7-18 U.N. meeting in Copenhagen, Denmark, will be the time for organizers to reach an agreement on limiting the warming of the Earth's temperature to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit above levels 150 years ago.

However, global warming will continue even if Copenhagen is a success, the U.N. noted.

Rising sea levels may prompt some countries to build more dikes, relocate residents from low-lying islands and ensure that health services can cope with spreading diseases such as malaria, according to U.N. officials.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is to speak Wednesday.


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