February 1, 2007
Humans ‘Very Likely’ Making Earth Warmer
PARIS -- The most authoritative report on climate change is using the strongest wording ever on the source of global warming, saying it is "very likely" caused by humans and already is leading to killer heat waves and stronger hurricanes, delegates who have seen the report said Thursday.
Dozens of scientists and bureaucrats from 113 countries are editing the new report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in closed-door meetings in Paris. Their report, which must be unanimously approved, is to be released Friday and is considered an authoritative document that could influence government and industrial policy worldwide.
Three participants said the group approved the term "very likely" in Thursday's sessions. That means they agree that there is a 90 percent chance that global warming is caused by humans.
"That is a big move. I hope it is a powerful statement," said Jan Pretel, head of the department of climate change at the Czech Hydrometeorological Institute.
"I hope that policymakers will be quite convinced by this message," said Riibeta Abeta, a delegate from the island nation Kiribati, which is worried about overrun by rising seas. "The purpose is to get them moving."
The last report, in 2001, said global warming was "likely" caused by human activity. There had been speculation that the participants might try to change the wording this time to "virtually certain," which means a 99 percent chance.
The U.S. government delegation was not one of the more vocal groups in the debate over the "very likely" statement for man-made warming, said other countries' officials. However, several officials credited the head of the panel session, Susan Solomon, a top U.S. government climate scientist, with pushing through the agreement in just 90 minutes.
The Bush administration acknowledges that global warming is man-made and a problem that must be dealt with, Bush science adviser Jack Marburger told The Associated Press late last year.
The Chinese delegation was resistant to strong wording on global warming, said Barbados delegate Leonard Fields and Zimbabwe delegate Washington Zhakata.
China has increasingly turned to fossil fuels, which emit the greenhouse gases blamed for boosting the Earth's temperature, to feed its huge and growing energy needs. The Chinese also asked the panel to remove the official definition of "very likely" from the text.
The report will also say that global warming has made stronger hurricanes, including those on the Atlantic Ocean such as 2005's Katrina, according to Fields and other delegates.
They said the panel approved language saying an increase in hurricane and tropical cyclone strength since 1970 "more likely than not" can be attributed to man-made global warming.
The panel did note that the increase in stronger storms differs in various parts of the globe, but that the storms that strike the Americas are global warming-influenced.
In 2001, the same panel had said there was not enough evidence to make such a conclusion.
This week's report will also mark departure from a November 2006 statement by the World Meteorological Organization, which helped found the IPCC. The meteorological organization, after contentious debate, said it could not link past stronger storms to global warming.
Fields - of Barbados, a country in the path of many hurricanes - said the new wording was "very important. ... Insurance companies watch the language too."
The delegates, staring at a countdown clock showing how little time they have left before Friday's deadline, went into Thursday's talks well behind schedule and planned a late-night session.
A draft of the report predicts a temperature increase of between 2.5 to 10.4 degrees by the year 2100, although that could be adjusted.
Another contentious issue is predictions of sea level rise. Scientists are trying to incorporate concerns that their early drafts underestimate how much the sea level will rise by 2100 because they cannot predict how much ice will melt from Greenland and Antarctica.
In early drafts, scientists predicted a sea level rise of no more than 23 inches by 2100, but that does not include the ice sheet melts.
The report is being edited in English, then must be translated into five other languages. It will be a 12-15 page summary for policymakers in most of the world's countries.
As the delegates hold their evening session, the Eiffel Tower, other Paris monuments and concerned citizens in several European countries were expected to switch off their lights for five minutes to call attention to energy conservation, heeding a call by French environmental campaigners.
Some experts said that while well-intentioned, turning the lights out could actually consume more energy than it would conserve by requiring a power spike when the lights turn back on - possibly causing brownouts or even blackouts.
Associated Press Writer Angela Charlton contributed to this report.