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This page was updated on: 01/14/10



Climate and Atmosphere Media Reports Archives: 2010; 2009; 2008; 2007; 2006; 2005; 2003; 2002





The Bush administration in the US has mounted a vigorous defense of its climate change policies, promoting the benefits of voluntary measures and a focus on technological solutions. US officials attending the UN Climate Convention’s tenth Conference of the Parties (COP-10) used the opportunity to promote their approach to climate change (for more on COP-10, see ENB’s coverage of the meeting). The Bush administration has been criticized for rejecting the Kyoto Protocol, a treaty that has been ratified by more than 30 other industrialized countries and 130 countries in all. The US claimed at the meeting that it is matching or even exceeding steps taken by others, in spite of not joining the Kyoto treaty.


UK Applies Pressure, US-Australia Rift Alleged: International pressure on the US has recently been stepped up with the announcement by British Prime Minister Tony Blair that he intends to push the climate change agenda at 2005’s Group of Eight meeting. The UK is chairing the G-8 in 2005. Meanwhile, in another apparent blow to US policy, Australia, the only major industrialized country to have joined the Bush administration in the anti-Kyoto camp, has distanced itself from its ally. Australian politicians and diplomats have recently appeared more open to multilateral talks on future post-Kyoto agreement, as long as it includes the US and developing countries. According to recent reports, they have also seemed less eager than their American counterparts to focus on technological or voluntary solutions.


Domestic Debate Heats-Up: The latest international debate on climate action appears to have been mirrored within the US, with a raft of opinion pieces published on the subject in December. While some of the debate in the US has focused on calls for more action, a considerable number of articles have also been published dismissing mainstream scientists’ findings on global warming as “fiction.” Some have even alleged that a cooling trend is occurring, and that the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and other international bodies on man-made global warming are misleading. A new climate-skeptic novel about environmental terrorists by author Michael Crichton has also fueled the war of words between mainstream science and those who argue that the global warming threat has been exaggerated.


Links to further information

Australia alters stance on climate change, Melbourne Age, 20 December 2004

US deal offers climate action, The Observer, 19 December 2004

There is no man-made global warming, Toronto Free Press, 14 December 2004

New York Times book review on Crichton’s State of Fear, 13 December 2004

U.S. Climate Negotiators Justify Bush Position to the World, ENS, 9 December 2004

MSNBC news, 6 December 2004



The number of legal actions against governments and companies aimed at supporting action on climate change is on the rise, according to Friends of the Earth International. The conservation group claims that ten legal cases have been announced to date, but warns that this is just the tip of the iceberg.


“We will see a much longer queue of affected communities using the courts for compensation and justice unless we see deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions,” said Friends of the Earth spokesperson Catherine Pearce.


Meanwhile, a new report from British-based environmentalists asserts that future legal cases could easily exceed those against tobacco companies in terms of the damages sought if current warnings about future climate change prove correct.


Links to further information

Friends of the Earth International press release, 14 December 2004

Yahoo news report, 2 December 2004



The European Union has reached a deal with 11 countries in southeastern Europe that would allow them to join an EU energy treaty. The deal on the “Energy Community” would help integrate energy markets and standardize environment and trade regulations in the region. It could also help ensure more secure energy supplies and even assist some of the region’s less affluent states address poverty issues by ensuring affordable electricity, according to the deal’s supporters. While some of the fine print has yet to be negotiated, observers expect a final deal to be inked by mid-2005.


Links to further information

ENS new report, 14 December 2004





European politicians have sent a strong message that they want EU negotiators to take a strong line on climate change at a major UN conference taking place this month. Members of the European Parliament voted overwhelming for a resolution calling on EU delegates to take a leading role and push for further progress at the upcoming tenth Conference of Parties (COP-10) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. The conference, which is taking place in Buenos Aires from 6-17 December, is the last major climate meeting before the Kyoto Protocol enters into force on 16 February 2005, following ratification by the Russian Federation in November.


Blair Loses Green Support: Meanwhile, Greenpeace and other environmental groups have slammed British Prime Minister Tony Blair for his record on climate change, accusing him of not doing enough to cut emissions from automobiles and aircraft. Greenpeace’s Stephen Tindale, a former supporter of Blair’s Labor Party, labeled the Prime Minister’s record “pathetic,” accusing him of failing to keep his promises and of surrendering to industry pressure on emissions targets. Blair has previously had a positive relationship with environmental groups. The British leader recently announced that climate change would be one of the key issues on the agenda when the G8 meets under the UK’s presidency in 2005 – a decision that has reportedly caused friction between Blair and US President George Bush.


Links to further information

The Independent online, 21 November 2004

The Independent online, 19 November 2004

ENS news, 17 November 2004



Reducing emissions from trace gases such as methane could be the answer to keeping a lid on global warming, according to veteran climate experts James Hansen and Makiko Sato. The climate scientists from NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies at Columbia University’s Earth Institute argued in a recent report that an increased focus on trace gases such as methane, in addition to the emphasis on carbon dioxide, could help rein in global warming to less than 1° Celsius.


..While others concentrate on carbon sinks: Meanwhile, a prominent New Zealand researcher is calling for a global crop and tree planting exercise to avoid climate change. Labeling global warming “the mother of all catastrophes,” Massey University’s Peter Read has argued that it is easier to find ways to absorb more carbon than to cut our emissions.


Links to further information

Science Daily, 24 November 2004

Columbia University press release, 18 November 2004

New Zealand Herald, 22 November 2004



The climate debate has also crossed into discussion on World Heritage sites, with three developing countries calling on the World Heritage Committee to list their sites as being at risk as a result of global warming. The Belize Barrier Reef, Nepal’s Sagarmatha National Park, and the Huascáran National Park in Peru, are all up for consideration as endangered areas.


Links to further information

Climate Justice press release, 17 November 2004



Climate change is causing rapid and heavily destructive warming in the Arctic and the impacts will be felt far beyond the region, according to a major new survey. The research, compiled by 250 scientists involved in the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment, found that temperatures in the region are growing at twice the world average. Future impacts may range from the extinction of polar bears to damage to regional infrastructure such as roads and airports, and global sea level rise.


A major diplomatic meeting on the Arctic is scheduled to take place in Iceland on 24 November. However, splits have been reported on whether the meeting should produce a strong decision favoring action on climate change, with the US reportedly opposing such a move.


Links to further information

Arctic Climate Impact Assessment report, 8 November 2004

Study: Arctic warming at twice the global rate, CNN news article, 8 November 2004

U.S. Wants No Warming Proposal, Washington Post article, 4 November 2004

Arctic melts while industrialized countries fail to cut CO2 emissions, WWF press release, 2 November 2004



Russia’s formal ratification of the Kyoto Protocol earlier this month has further isolated the US on the issue, according to environmentalists. Russia’s decision means the treaty finally has sufficient global support to enter into force as a legally-binding agreement. Supporters have applauded the move as a major landmark in multilateral efforts to combat climate change. Among the world’s industrialized states, only John Howard’s coalition government in Australia has supported the Bush administration’s position that Kyoto is “fatally flawed.” However, both administrations were recently re-elected, meaning that two of the world’s major polluters are likely to remain opposed to the treaty for the foreseeable future.


“Intense international pressure must [now] be placed on President Bush and the United States to finally acknowledge the scale of the threat we now face and to take action to deal with it,” said Friends of the Earth International’s vice-chair, Tony Juniper. “The USA is the world’s biggest polluter and has a moral responsibility to reduce the pollution that is rapidly warming up the world. If it does not, its own economy and society will pay a heavy price,” he added. The US media has also picked up on the issue, with Washington Post columnist Sebastian Mallaby arguing that the US should show some flexibility on climate change as a way of engineering support from Europe on other issues.


Links to further information

Putin clears way for Kyoto treaty, BBC news article, 5 November 2004

How to Melt European Iciness, Washington Post article, 1 November 2004

Developing Countries Voluntarily Limit Greenhouse Gas Emissions, ENS, 13 October 2004 



The European Commission has approved a further batch of eight national allocation plans from EU countries as part of the region’s emissions trading scheme. The scheme, which begins officially on 1 January 2005, requires countries to set emissions limitations for a number of key economic sectors. The process has not been without controversy, with critics accusing Germany, the UK and several other countries of setting limits that are too easy, meaning they may have little positive impact on the environment. Most national allocation plans have now been accepted by the Commission, however. Meanwhile, the EU’s Environment Council has endorsed proposals to link the EU’s emissions trading scheme with a similar initiative developed by Norway. Other linkages with countries outside the EU-zone could be established in future.


Experts Applaud Anglo-German Leadership: In other news, the leading role played by Germany and the UK in combating climate change has been lauded at a recent conference held in early November in Berlin. Klaus Töpfer, UN Environment Programme Executive Director, singled out Britain and Germany as two of the leading nations in advancing the climate change cause. In the UK, even the Queen has recently joined the debate, announcing a series of initiatives aimed at combating global warming. Anglo-German discussions have also revived the issue of aviation fuel - a controversial issue for some policy makers (see “Aviation Tax Plan Grounded” article, 11 October 2004). Financing climate-friendly activities has also been a focus of talks between representatives of Europe’s two largest economies.


…while Danes Claim North Pole…and its Oil: Meanwhile, Denmark has raised eyebrows with a claim for ownership of the North Pole. The country is arguing that its possession of Greenland entitles it to the area around the North Pole – and its oil and gas. Russia and Canada have also argued for sovereignty of the polar region, with Canada’s claim dating back to the 1950s. Currently, the area is considered international territory.


Links to further information

EU welcomes link to Norwegian ETS, Netinform news articles, 19 October 2004

EC accepts 8 more allocation plans, Netinform news articles, 21 October 2004

UK ups allocation by 19.8 million tones, Point Carbon news reports, 27 October 2004

Key speeches from the Berlin conference, November 2004

Global Warming: Britain and Germany Chart the Way Forward, UNEP report, 4 November 2004

Britain, Germany Seek Lead on Climate Change, IPS News Agency, 1 November 2004

Denmark causes international chill by claiming North Pole, UK Daily Telegraph, 17 October 2004



Organizations that cut greenhouse gas emissions and introduce other climate-friendly initiatives are reaping significant financial rewards, according to new research. A report from the Climate Group found that public and private sector organizations have secured huge cost savings from introducing climate-friendly policies. The report, Carbon Down, Profits Up, dismisses as a “myth” the theory that cutting carbon dioxide emissions costs more money than it saves. According to the report, both governments such as Germany and Britain and major multinationals such as DuPont and IBM have achieved cost savings of billions of dollars. Germany’s support for renewable energy has also created 450,000 new jobs, which the authors say is further evidence that climate-friendly activities help, not hinder, the economy.


“The report shows for the first time that reducing greenhouse gas emissions not only does not have to cost the earth, but can result in real value creation,” said the Climate Group’s Steve Howard. The report.





The United States has recently boosted its support for renewable energy. In late October, the Energy Department announced that more than $75million had been awarded to fuel hydrogen research projects. A “hydrogen technology park” was also opened in Southfield, Michigan. The administration has also announced a new policy on solar energy. Although the budget for solar power has been cut in recent years, the government is now taking steps to encourage private investors to develop commercial solar energy sites on public land. The policy could have a particular impact in the southern and western regions of the country.


In other news from North America, Canada has announced a major increase in government support for wind power. The new policy involves support for a 400% rise in wind energy under the Wind Power Production Initiative, a government scheme. The government has also announced that it intends to purchase one-fifth of its electricity from renewable energy sources by 2006.


Meanwhile, Bush’s only anti-Kyoto ally, Australia, has been criticized for cutting its aid for renewable energy projects overseas. In a recent report, AidWatch, a non-profit group, alleged that funding for renewable energy “plummeted from $20 million in 1996/7 to a mere $647,000 in 2002/3.” The report urges donor agency AusAID to increase its support for renewable energy, particularly given the Pacific region’s vulnerability to climate change.


Links to further information

US Energy Department hydrogen funding, October 2004

Canadian Wind Energy Association press release, October 2004

Big Production Incentive Energizes Canada's Wind Industry, ENS, 20 October 2004

AidWatch report on Australia, 2004



Russia’s State Duma has approved the Kyoto Protocol, bringing the climate change treaty one step closer to becoming legally-binding. The Duma, which is Russia’s lower Parliament house, voted 334 in favor and 73 against on the issue; the upper Parliament house is expected to sign-off on the treaty shortly, following which President Putin’s signature and deposit of the instrument of ratification will officially trigger the Protocol’s entry into force. Under the complex rules agreed when the Protocol was negotiated in 1997, industrialized countries and former Soviet Bloc states representing at least 55 percent of this group’s total carbon dioxide emissions must ratify the treaty before it becomes legally-binding. Many of these countries, including Japan, Canada and members of the European Union, have ratified the deal. However, with the world’s largest polluter, the US, rejecting the treaty in 2001, Russian ratification was essential for the 55% threshold to be reached.


Environmental groups have applauded the Duma’s endorsement of the Kyoto Protocol. Jennifer Morgan, WWF Climate Change Programme Director, said “Entry into force of the Kyoto Protocol is the biggest step forward in international environmental politics and law that the world has ever seen … Russian ratification and entry into force demonstrates the political will, globally, to tackling this urgent and enormous problem.” Achim Steiner IUCN Director General hailed that “Today marks a turning point in the history of efforts to tackle climate change as a global community of nations. We now have a binding international agreement. It may just be a beginning but the costs of inaction would have been far higher to the increasingly vulnerable communities around the world”


Links to further information

Reuters, 22 October 2004

IUCN press release, 22 October 2004

WWF press release, 22 October 2004



The intensity and destructive power of hurricanes is set to rise as a result of climate change, according to new research. The new study, which was carried out using supercomputers at the US Commerce Department’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, found that the average hurricane could be half a point stronger on the 1-5 scale used to measure hurricane and storm strength in the coming decades. The amount of rainfall resulting from hurricanes is set to rise, too, by an average of 18 percent. While previous computer modeling projects have also found that hurricane strength could intensify, this was the most in-depth computer analysis conducted to date. The study did not determine whether the frequency of hurricanes would increase.


Links to further information

Impact of CO2-Induced Warming on Simulated Hurricane Intensity and Precipitation: Sensitivity to the Choice of Climate Model and Convective Parameterization, Journal of Climate, vol. 17 no. 18, 15 September 2004



The Australian Government has been accused of offering an oil company taxpayers’ money to sue environmental group Greenpeace. Plans to provide a subsidy to oil company Southern Pacific Petroleum “on the condition that the company take legal action against Greenpeace” have been alleged by Greenpeace Australia, which claims to have found evidence in official documents it obtained under the country’s freedom of information legislation. Suggestions from within the government that Greenpeace should be sued apparently arose following the green group’s campaign against Southern Pacific Petroleum, which produces shale oil. Greenpeace argues that shale oil is the “most greenhouse intensive of all fossil fuels.”


Australia to remain in anti-Kyoto camp: In other news, Australia seems certain to remain among the small group of countries opposed to the Kyoto Protocol following the re-election of John Howard’s Liberal-National coalition in early October. Many environmentalists and climate change campaigners had reportedly been hoping for a victory for the pro-Kyoto Labor Party. However, John Howard’s government won the vote comfortably. Howard has dismissed the Kyoto treaty on economic grounds.


Links to further information

Howard Government Offered Oil Firm Millions to Sue Greenpeace, ENS, 4 October 2004

Australian PM wins fourth term, BBC news service, 9 October 2004



An EU proposal to introduce a tax on aviation fuel has flown into a storm of controversy at a high-level meeting in Montreal. European delegates attending the 35th International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) meeting were reportedly forced to withdraw their fuel tax proposals after opposition from the US, Brazil, Russia, and China. The proposal was intended to help control growing greenhouse gas emissions from the aviation sector. However, global plans for a tax appear to have been placed in an indefinite holding pattern after ICAO agreed that no country could unilaterally impose a tax on foreign airline carriers using their airports. The ICAO session took place from 28 September to 8 October 2004.


Links to further information

European push for aviation tax falls flat, Point Carbon news service, 11 October 2004



Experts are disputing the possible implications of ongoing year-on-year increases in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide levels recently reached 379 parts per million, up from 376 ppm the year before. Some fear that an increase in the rate with which carbon levels are rising is a sign that rapid climate change is becoming likely.


“These results are deeply worrying, and indicate that the battle against global climate change could be even more pressing than was previously thought. The alarm bells are ringing,” said Friends of the Earth climate spokesperson Catherine Pearce in mid-October. Others are not so sure. Britain’s chief scientific adviser, Sir David King, has argued that the evidence for rapid climate change is not yet conclusive.


Speed of arctic melting snowballs: In other climate-related news, the ice covering the Artic Ocean is melting more rapidly than ever, according to new satellite evidence. The area covered by floating sea ice in the Arctic fell more than 13 percent below average in September 2004, according to researchers at the University of Colorado. It was the third straight year to register extreme ice losses. Another recent study also found the melting of glaciers in Antarctica to be accelerating.


Links to further information
Sharp CO2 rise divides opinions, BBC news service, 11 October 2004

Climate change fears grow as carbon dioxide levels soar, Friends of the Earth press release, 11 October 2004
Global warming clock ticks faster, Telegraph news, 11 October 2004

Arctic Sea Ice Decline Accelerates, ENS, 4 October 2004



Russia is close to ratifying the Kyoto Protocol after President Vladimir Putin and his entire cabinet signed-off on the treaty and forwarded it to parliament for its approval. Support from Russia’s legislators would mean the pact finally gains the weight of international law. Reports of President Putin’s endorsement of the deal were greeted with delight from the protocol’s supporters.


“The news that the Government of Russia has endorsed the Protocol and will present it to the Duma, the Russian parliament, is cause for celebration,” said Klaus Töpfer, who heads the UN Environment Programme.


Under the protocol, industrialized countries and members of the former Soviet Bloc must cut their emissions of carbon dioxide and five other greenhouse gases by an average of 5% between 1990 and the period 2008-2012.


“Russian ratification would ensure that the Protocol enters into force and launch an exciting new phase in the global campaign to reduce the risks of climate change,” said Joke Waller-Hunter, who heads the UN climate change secretariat. Under the complex rules agreed when the Protocol was negotiated in 1997, industrialized countries and former Soviet Bloc states representing at least 55 percent of this group’s total carbon dioxide emissions must ratify the treaty before it becomes legally-binding. Many of these countries, including Japan, Canada, and members of the European Union, have ratified the deal. However, with the world’s largest polluter, the US, rejecting the treaty in 2001, Russian ratification was essential for the 55% threshold to be reached. In recent years the Russian government has sent mixed signals on its intentions, with some pro-Kyoto commentators becoming increasingly skeptical that the treaty would ever command the support it needed to become law.


The latest news signifies a turning point for the future of the treaty, and reports of Russia’ impending ratification seem likely to spur an intense round of further discussions at the upcoming tenth Conference of the Parties to the climate change convention, scheduled for December 2994.


“Russian action to ratify it will breathe new life into the international climate negotiations, which resume in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in December,” said Klaus Töpfer.


Putin’s decision to press ahead with the Protocol was apparently influenced by discussions with EU officials over Russia’s desire to join the World Trade Organization, according to some news reports. The Russian President is believed to have struck a deal that will see Europe support Russian entry into the WTO in return for Russia inking the Kyoto deal. The latest news may also increase the pressure on political leaders in the US and Australia, who rejected Kyoto in 2001.


“[This news]… turns up the heat on President Bush and other world leaders who have refused to join the only international treaty that could help avoid a global catastrophe,” said Friends of the Earth’s climate spokesperson Catherine Pearce. The Protocol will enter into force as a legal document 90 days after Russian ratification.


Links to further information

Globe and Mail news report, 1 October 2004

BBC news report, 30 September 2004

UNFCCC press release, 30 September 2004

UNEP press release, 30 September 2004

Friends of the Earth press release, 30 September 2004

Point Carbon news, 24 September 2004





The European Commission is in dispute with Germany over Berlin’s plans to curb its emissions of greenhouse gases, according to news reports. Germany’s “national allocation plan,” which is required under EU law, sets emissions limits for key sectors of their domestic economy as part of efforts to tackle climate change through a regional emissions trading scheme. Germany is seeking the right to alter its original national allocations set earlier this year. However, the suggestions has been rebuffed by the EC, which claims that such adjustments are not permitted under the scheme, and that the changes would do little to help the environment. In late September, the German Government announced that it would be taking the Commission to the European Court to resolve the dispute.


Links to further information

Netinform news service, 8 September 2004

European Commission ruling, 7 July 2004



The US and Australia may be violating a major international treaty to protect the world’s heritage sites because they are failing to curb greenhouse gas emissions, according to a legal opinion issued by conservation groups. The controversial finding came from a group of international lawyers who claim that the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s World Heritage Convention carries obligations to cut greenhouse gas emissions. The Convention requires countries to protect important natural heritage sites, including coral reefs and glaciers, from harm. According to experts, both coral reefs and glaciers are being damaged as a result of climate change.


The report, which was published by the Sydney Center for International and Global Law, argues that Australia is in violation of its legal duties to protect the Great Barrier Reef under the World Heritage Convention by failing to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, which is designed to combat global warming. Both the US and Australia are parties to the World Heritage Convention, but have rejected the Kyoto pact. The report was commissioned by Greenpeace, Climate Action Network Australia, and the Environmental Defender’s Office (New South Wales) Ltd.


Links to further information

Media release by the authors, 21 September 2004

Report in full, 21 September 2004



An increase in natural disasters and a surge in the number of people vulnerable to their impact constitute a major global threat, according to a senior UN official. New figures released by experts at Louvain University in Belgium show that more than 254 million people were affected by natural hazards in 2003. In 1990, the figure was just 90 million.


The problem is set to worsen, according to the UN’s International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR) agency, as the number of extreme events increases due to climate change and other factors, and as a result of more people living in high-risk urban areas.


“The lack of facilities, schools and health centers in rural areas drives many individuals to move to urban slums or areas that are of great risk,” said ISDR director Sálvano Briceño. “Urban migrants settle in exposed stretches of land, either on seismic faults, flooding plains or on landslide prone slopes. The urban concentration, the effects of climate change and the environmental degradation are greatly increasing vulnerability. Alarmingly, this is getting worse,” he said.


The UN is holding a World Conference on Disaster Reduction in Kobe-Hyogo, Japan in January 2005 to address the issue, with a preparatory meeting scheduled for 11-12 October in Geneva.


Links to further information

UN ISDR press release, 16 September 2004



Klaus Töpfer, the head of the UN Environment Programme, has urged governments to cut down on their use of methyl bromide, a pesticide that damages the ozone layer. His comments, which were timed to coincide with the International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer, are the latest in an ongoing debate over the use of methyl bromide. The pesticide is one of the substances controlled under the Montreal Protocol ozone treaty. However, differences of opinion emerged during a major meeting held in November 2003 on exemptions allowing its ongoing use. While a compromise was reached in March 2004, the issue remains controversial.


In his latest speech, Töpfer spoke about the exemptions granted to allow the use of methyl bromide in controlling pests when it comes to exporting commodity crops, animal fodder, cut flowers, hides, and consignments in wooden pallets. The Montreal Protocol requires industrialized countries to stop using methyl bromide on farms by the end of 2004, but does not cover these other situations. Some exemptions have been granted for farm use, too. The matter is on the agenda for the next meeting of parties to the Montreal Protocol, scheduled for late November 2004.


Links to further information

UNEP press release, 16 September 2004

Ozone Secretariat press release, 16 September 2004



The leaders of Britain’s two largest political parties have both revealed ambitious new policies and targets on climate change. The war of words over which party could claim to have the most progressive policies began on 13 September with a speech by Conservative Party leader Michael Howard criticizing the Labor Government for not doing enough to tackle the problem. Howard pledged that a future Conservative administration would strengthen policy on climate change at home, while supporting an international carbon emissions trading scheme abroad. The Conservatives would also lobby the US to change its position on Kyoto, said Howard.


Prime Minister Tony Blair responded the following day with a speech labeling global warming the world’s “greatest environmental challenge.” He also pledged to push for aviation emissions to be incorporated into the European Union’s emissions trading scheme. Blair’s speech was followed-up by an announcement from Margaret Beckett, the Minister of State for the Environment, that the government would be reviewing its four-year old climate change policy. Meanwhile, Energy Minister Mike O’Brien declared that additional funding would be spent subsidizing the installation of solar panels in Britain’s homes, schools and offices.


In other news from the UK, the debate over the role of nuclear power continued with comments from Lord May, President of the Royal Society, that more nuclear energy was needed to help combat climate change. Neither Tony Blair nor Michael Howard commented on the nuclear option in their latest speeches.


Links to further information

BBC news service, 15 September 2004

BBC news service, 15 September 2004

Point Carbon news report, 16 September 2004

Tony Blair’s speech – the full text, 14 September 2004



Foreign ministers representing the European Union’s member states have signed-off on a directive formally linking the EU’s new emissions trading scheme to the Kyoto Protocol. The directive means European companies will be able to benefit from access to credits from the Kyoto Protocol’s market-based mechanisms, which were developed to help countries honor their emissions targets. While the directive is now certain to enter into force, some countries reportedly remain skeptical about the plan, with Austria opposing the deal, and France apparently arguing that it discriminates against hydro and nuclear energy.


Links to further information

E5 media monitor, 16 September 2004

European Commission background information, April 2004



The Bush administration has been accused of trying to block a report recommending urgent action to deal with global warming in the Arctic. The allegations were reportedly made by Sheila Watt-Cloutier, a leading figure in the native Inuit community of northern Canada, in an address to the US Senate’s Commerce Committee. The policy recommendations were apparently contained in a report resulting from the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment, an initiative launched four years ago by the US and other nations bordering the Arctic.
Watt-Cloutier warned the Committee that the Arctic is melting fast, but that the problems experienced so far are just the tip of the iceberg compared to what the future holds. Declaring that “the Earth is literally melting,” Watt-Cloutier outlined the major changes in climate and to flora and fauna experienced in recent decades in the Arctic, cautioning that it was a sign of things to come for the rest of the world. The presentation was widely perceived as part of Committee Chair John McCain’s continuing efforts to push for stronger action in the US on global warming.


New Studies Show Warming Risks

The Committee deliberations follow a recent international study showing that global warming will happen more quickly in the Arctic than elsewhere in the world, resulting in major changes both within the region and beyond. A separate study of the Arctic Ocean bed has also found that the Arctic has been considerably warmer in the past. The Arctic Coring Expedition discovered that temperatures in the Arctic were sub-tropical about 55 million years ago. The major shift in climatic conditions at the time is believed to have caused the extinction of a large number of species that occupied the area then.

Links to further information
Newsday online news, 16 September 2004
ENS Newswire, 16 September 2004

BBC News service, 7 September 2004

Planet Ark news service, 6 September 2004



China has announced plans to develop a major initiative to train over 10,000 experts from Africa and other parts of the Third World in applying solar energy technologies. The announcement will expand a smaller training scheme that has been running for more than a decade. China also recently launched a new wind power initiative with Greenpeace and the European Wind Energy Association.


Links to further information

SciDev news report, 20 August 2004

ENS news service, 17 September 2004



Australia and Mexico are set to sign an energy cooperation agreement on technology exchange and the sale of coal and gas. The memorandum of understanding is expected to be signed in November. According to Australian officials, the deal could result in an increase in Australian exports of liquefied natural gas to the Americas.


Meanwhile, Mexico has also launched a voluntary national partnership to measure and report on companies’ emissions of greenhouse gases. Organizers believe it is the first voluntary national programme to adopt internationally-accepted standards. The partnership also involves the World Resources Institute and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development. Mexico is the world’s 14th largest emitter of greenhouse gases.


Links to further information

Planet Ark news service, 10 September 2004

WRI press release, 25 August 2004





A new report from the US government’s Climate Change Science Program has caused waves after acknowledging that global warming is indeed resulting from human activities. In the past, President Bush and his officials have been criticized for downplaying the links between greenhouse gas emissions and global warming. However the new report, which was delivered to Congress in late August by Bush administration official James Mahoney, acknowledges the connection and outlines research on the risks posed by climate change. The report has been interpreted by some as signaling a shift in the US government’s approach to global warming.


“The Bush administration’s long overdue admission, in a new report to Congress, that global warming both exists and poses risks to people and the environment is a welcome step in the right direction,” said conservation group WWF’s US climate change director Katherine Silverthorne. “But belated recognition of a long-established scientific consensus on human-caused warming only helps if it leads to solutions,” she added. The new report was apparently criticized by some industry groups.


Links to further information

Report from the US Climate Change Science Program, August 2004

US Government press release, 25 August 2004

New York Times article, 26 August 2004

WWF press release, 26 August 2004



Heatwaves in North America and Europe will become more intense, last longer, and happen more often due to climate change, according to a new study. Scientists from the US National Center for Atmospheric Research have released details of a new modeling study that predicts that heatwaves will worsen over time as greenhouse gas concentrations increase. The West and South of the United States will be particularly affected, as will countries around the Mediterranean, France, Germany and the Balkans. The research predicts that the average number of heatwaves in the Chicago area will increase by 25 percent in the coming century. Meanwhile, in Paris, heatwaves will jump 31 percent annually.


Heatwaves will last longer, too. In Chicago, recent heatwaves have lasted from 5.39 to 8.85 days. In future, they will range from 8.5 to 9.24 days. In Paris, the length will increase even further, from between 8.33 to 12.69 days currently, to between 11.39 and 17.04 days in future.


Researchers raise specter of smog comeback

In related news, another team of US-based experts has found that warmer summers are likely to cause more smog for cities in the eastern US. Smog, which occurs when sunlight or heat combines with pollution from factories or motor vehicles, is believed to help cause asthma and other respiratory problems. In spite of efforts to improve air quality in recent decades, more than one in three Americans live in areas where smog concentrations are believed to be too high. In a recent study, researchers found that levels of ozone, which is the major ingredient in smog, were likely to rise by an average of 60 percent in 15 cities in the eastern United States: Atlanta, Baltimore, Buffalo, Charleston, Charlotte, Chicago, Cincinnati, Detroit, Indianapolis, Little Rock, Louisville, Monroe, Nashville, Pittsburgh, and Portsmouth.


Less water, less wine?

Other recent research by the European Environment Agency and the US National Academy of Sciences has also highlighted the hazards of global warming in Europe and North America. An EEA study found that Europe needs to pay more attention to adapting to the impacts of climate change, which are likely to include huge changes in water supplies, the disappearance of 75% of Swiss alpine glaciers, and the spread of vector-borne diseases. Meanwhile, California’s wine and dairy industries could be badly damaged and Los Angeles could see heatwaves increase in frequency by at least 400%, according to a US study.


Links to further information

BBC news reports, 17 August 2004 and 18 August 2004

UCAR press release, 12 August 2004

ENS news report, 5 August 2004



Technological solutions to combat climate change already exist – they just need to be implemented – according to a recent study published in Science magazine. The study, by Stephen Pacala and Rob Socolow, disputes suggestions that many years’ more research is needed before viable new technologies can be introduced. The authors list 15 current technologies to store carbon, generate non-polluting energy, or cut the greenhouse gases produced by fossil fuels. If existing technologies such as wind power and solar were “scaled-up” and transferred to the developing world, the authors argue, emissions could then be stabilized at their existing levels. On current trends, emissions are expected to double by mid-century.


Hydrogen gains highlighted

Meanwhile, hydrogen fuel cell technology appears to have taken another step closer to becoming commercially viable, according to recent reports from the UK. A British research company says it has successfully converted 8% of sunlight directly into hydrogen – close to the industry requirement of 10%. The company, Hydrogen Solar, claims to have doubled its efficiency in producing hydrogen power in the past two years, partially as a result of recent breakthroughs in nanotechnology.


In 2003, the Bush administration in the US announced that it would be investing US$1.7 billion into hydrogen power research. However, some experts remain skeptical that hydrogen will play a major role in replacing fossil fuel reliance, at least until after 2030.


Links to further information

SciDev news report, 13 August 2004

Science magazine, August 2004

BBC News report, 12 August, 2004



Disputes over the use of nuclear power as an alternative to fossil fuels have resurfaced. The nuclear option was mooted publicly by respected environmentalist James Lovelock in an article that appeared in the British press in June. This was followed by comments made by UK Prime Minister Tony Blair to a parliamentary committee in July that seemed to leave the way open for an increase in nuclear power. The proposal was criticized by environmental groups.


Meanwhile, a recent report from Norway has dealt a blow to suggestions that nuclear power could be used to help produced hydrogen. The study, written by Christian Solli of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, considered the environmental effects of producing hydrogen from natural gas and from nuclear power.


The problem of nuclear waste also continues to hamper the pro-nuclear cause. In the United States, the Bush administration’s decision to proceed with plans to bury large quantities of nuclear waste under Yucca Mountain in Nevada has been condemned by critics. Opponents of the plan have sought to put a halt to the controversial government initiative through legal action, arguing that safety standards do not plan far enough ahead. However, Deputy Energy Secretary Kyle McSlarrow recently told the Senate Energy Committee that the plan remains “on track.”


Links to further information

BBC News report, 8 July 2004

Report by Christian Solli, August 2004

ENS news report, 14 July 2004



The Sun has had only a minor impact on recent global warming, according to researchers. Experts working at the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research have downplayed theories that solar activity may have played a major role in recent climate change. While the Sun’s radiation can affect the climate, the team at the Max Planck Institute confirmed that human activities, not solar activity, was to blame for present global warming.


Links to further information

ENS Newswire service, 3 August 2004


JULY 2004



The United States has struck a deal with seven other countries to reduce methane emissions. The agreement, which includes other economic heavyweights such as Japan, India and the UK, commits countries to cut and capture their emissions of methane, a major greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. The Methane to Markets partnership will focus on forming alliances with the private sector to capture methane emissions resulting from various industrial processes. It will also encourage the use of methane as an energy source.


Methane is one of six greenhouse gases covered by the Kyoto Protocol, and contributes about 16 percent of all emissions caused by human activities. The other nations involved in the methane partnership are Australia, Italy, Mexico and Ukraine. The fine print of the new agreement will be discussed at a ministerial meeting scheduled for November. Officials claim that the new agreement could cut the equivalent of 50 million metric tons of carbon dioxide annually by 2015 – the same as removing 33 million cars from our roads.


Links to further information

EPA website information, July 2004

ENS Newswire service, 29 July 2004


A row has erupted in the Russian media over alleged anti-British comments made by Andrei Illarionov, an adviser to President Putin. According to the Moscow Times, Illarionov accused the UK of declaring “all-out and total war on Russia” over the Kyoto Protocol, and of pressuring the Russian Government with “bribes, blackmail and murder threats.” Illarionov has denied making these remarks, while acknowledging that he did criticize senior British officials for what he labeled their “outrageous” behavior at an international seminar on climate change and the Kyoto Protocol held by the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow on 7 and 8 July. Illarionov, who is known for his strong opposition to the Kyoto treaty, reportedly made his comments at a press conference following the seminar.


Links to further information

Moscow Times article and follow-up, 23 July 2004




The US oil and gas industry has spent nearly half-a-billion dollars lobbying politicians on Capitol Hill in recent years, according to a new report. The study reveals that some leading politicians have received significant industry support for their campaigns. The largest beneficiary appears to be President George Bush, who has reportedly received US$1.7 million in industry contributions since 1998.


The study, which was conducted by the Center for Public Integrity, seems set to spark further accusations from anti-Bush campaigners that the industry has gained excessive influence over the federal government.


“No industry in the history of the Republic has had former company executives sitting in the White House as President and Vice President, along with other very senior leadership positions,” said Charles Lewis, executive director of the Center for Public Integrity. The Center identifies itself as a “non-partisan” organization, while Lewis has denied that he has any “axe to grind” with the administration.


Links to further information

The Center for Public Integrity’s report, July 2004


ENS news service report, 16 July 2004




The European Union has registered a small drop in greenhouse gas emissions, but is still not on track to meet its emissions targets under the Kyoto Protocol, according to the European Environment Agency. The Agency noted a 0.5% drop in emissions from 2001 to 2002 – the latest years for which estimates have been compiled. However, current trends suggest that only four EU member states – France, Germany, Sweden and the UK – will meet their Kyoto targets in the coming years. Spain’s emissions are a particular concern, as they are almost 40% above 1990 levels. EU countries have pledged to cut their emissions by about 8% for the period 2008-2012 compared to 1990 levels.


Links to further information

BBC news report, 15 July 2004




The increase in carbon dioxide emissions over the past two centuries is causing a hidden transformation in the chemistry over our oceans, according to new research. Scientists have discovered that almost half the carbon dioxide entering our atmosphere is being absorbed by the oceans. While this has helped slow global warming on the Earth’s surface, it has also caused major changes in the chemistry of the sea, threatening marine life. Corals, mollusks and some types of plankton have been particularly affected so far. The oceans absorbed as much as 118 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide from 1800 to 1994.


In related news, researchers are struggling to explain an unexpected slump in cod stocks and sea bird numbers in the North Sea, as well as a northern migration of red mullet and other fish species into the area. The changes in various species numbers and preferred habitat appear to be connected, according to researchers. Some experts believe the changes are being caused by shifts in the populations and distribution of different types of phytoplankton due to climate change. Plankton are microscopic organisms that form a critical part of the marine food chain.


That sinking feeling

Meanwhile, sea-level rise could drown London, New York and New Orleans, according to Britain’s chief scientific adviser. Warning that greenhouse gas concentrations are at their highest in 55 million years – when there was no ice on the planet at all – government-appointed expert Sir David King has warned that a similar polar melting today would leave many coastal areas submerged. London and New York could be among the “first to go,” he warned.


Links to further information

BBC news reports, July 2004




ENS newswire report, 15 July 2004




The Canadian International Development Agency has issued a request for proposals for climate change policy projects. The Climate Change Unit in CIDA’s Policy Branch is interested in supporting initiatives that:

* contribute to increasing the participation of developing and EIT countries in global efforts to address climate change through strategic policy-related initiatives; or

* contribute to the development of policies (at various) levels on climate change and developing and EIT country issues through research and policy development initiatives; or

* contribute to the formulation and advocacy of mutually agreeable solutions to North-South issues within international climate change negotiations.

All proposals are due on 10 August 2004.

More information is available at: http://www.acdi-cida.gc.ca/climatechange



Severe droughts in India, malaria and malnutrition in Namibia, flooding in Nepal and water shortages in Australia are the latest threats identified in a succession of recent studies on the regional impacts of climate change.


India warns of disasters, health risks: A new report from the Indian Government predicts severe droughts and floods, as well as significant impacts on human health and food security. Rainfall is forecast to increase in the north and north-east of the subcontinent, areas that already receive a lot of precipitation. Meanwhile, drier areas in the west and centre of the country could get even less rain than they do now. Malaria is likely to spread across more of the country, including at higher altitudes. Meanwhile, the coasts will be subjected to more tropical cyclones and flooding, and seven million people could be forced from their homes as a result of sea-level rise. Other reports have raised the risks faced by Namibia, as well as countries bounded by the Himalayas.


UN focuses on flooding fears: In another recent study, researchers at the United Nations University have predicted that climate change, sea-level rise, population growth and other factors will cause the number of people who are vulnerable to extreme flooding to double by 2050, from one to two billion people, in dozens of countries across Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Pacific.


Pacific braces for sea-level rise…: Meanwhile, Paris-based writer Agnès Sinaï has highlighted the plight of small island states in the Pacific. In a recent issue of Le Monde Diplomatique, Sinaï drew attention to the life-and-death struggle facing some of these countries, arguing that the Kyoto Protocol largely ignores their plight. She criticized the Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism for rewarding only industrialized countries and “gas-guzzling giants” from the developing world, including China and India.


…while Australia suffers water shortages: In other news, the Pacific Island states’ neighbor, Australia, has been warned to expect increased water shortages, extreme weather events and disasters such as droughts and floods if it ignores pleas to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 60 percent by 2050. Australia’s per capita emissions are among the world’s highest. The warning was made in a new report launched by the Australian Climate Group, an alliance of scientists, the finance sector, and conservation group WWF. The report warns that other parts of the world, and particularly drought-prone countries such as those in southern Africa and the Indian subcontinent, could experience similarly harmful impacts unless urgent action is taken to address the problem. The report recommends a range of actions for businesses, governments, and communities designed to slow climate change and adapt to the changing environment.


Links to further information

Science and Development Network news, 8 July 2004


Tiempo Climate Newswatch, July 2004


WWF press release and report, 5 July 2004




The United States and the European Union should negotiate a trans-Atlantic climate trade agreement setting binding limits on greenhouse gases and establishing an emissions trading programme between the two continents, says a former US negotiator. Stuart Eizenstat, who led the US delegation at Kyoto in 1997, also suggested redirecting agricultural subsidies towards environmentally-friendly biofuels as part of a possible deal in current World Trade Organization negotiations. The proposals were made in an article co-authored by Eizenstat and environmental scholar David Sandalow and published in the International Herald Tribune. Other recommendations included the development of bilateral climate change agreements between the US and major developing countries. The authors stressed, though, that regional and bilateral deals should supplement rather than replace the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.


EU struggles with internal trading scheme…: Meanwhile, it appears the EU is not yet ready to introduce its own internal emissions trading scheme, according to a key official. Europe’s Environment Commissioner Margot Wallstrom has revealed that only five EU countries have prepared satisfactory plans for introducing an EU-wide emissions trading scheme. Other EU members, including economic heavyweights Germany and the UK, have been given three months to amend their draft plans, while some countries have yet to submit any plans at all. The trading scheme is intended to help members meet their commitments under the Kyoto Protocol to cut their emissions of greenhouse gases. Conservation group WWF recently criticized several countries’ plans on the grounds that they were too generous to major industries in allocating emissions rights. According to the WWF, the current proposals would not bring about meaningful emissions reductions.


…while the UK considers the nuclear option: In other news, UK Prime Minister Tony Blair has told a parliamentary committee that the country may need to increase its reliance on nuclear power if it is to keep its pledges to cut carbon dioxide emissions. The suggestion has been widely rejected by environmental groups, which generally support renewable energy sources such as wind and solar.


Links to further information

International Herald Tribune, 6 July 2004


UN Wire news service, 9 July 2004


WWF press release, 7 July 2004


BBC news service, 8 July 2004



JUNE 2004


The World Bank has rejected calls to end its funding of oil and gas projects. The independent Extractive Industries Review (EIR) launched in 2001 by the World Bank and headed by former Indonesian Environment Minister Emil Salim had earlier this year proposed ending Bank support for fossil fuel projects, urging a shift in focus to renewable energy. The EIR report was applauded by many civil society groups, but received a mostly lukewarm response from the business sector.


A new report outlining the Bank’s response to the EIR endorses some of the review’s findings, but resists the recommendation that the Bank should withdraw from investing in oil and coal in developing countries, arguing that such industries play a key role for many developing countries in achieving the MDGs. In spite of rejecting the EIR’s recommendation, the Bank did say it would be more selective in its future investments in extractive industries. The management response report is open for public comment until 19 July.


Links to further information

Draft World Bank Group Management Response: Striking a Better Balance - The World Bank Group and Extractive Industries: The Final Report of the Extractive Industries Review


The World Bank oil, gas, mining and chemicals website


Extractive Industries Review website



The head of oil multinational Shell has voiced his fears that climate change could cause unprecedented damage to humanity. Shell Chairman Ron Oxburgh told Britain’s Guardian newspaper he is “very worried for the planet” and expressed that without sequestration, he sees “very little hope for the world.” Oxburgh indicated that carbon sequestration technologies may need to be developed as a matter of priority to capture greenhouse gases and store them underground (see the “Key Publications and Online Resources” section for information on a new report on this issue).


Environmental groups applauded the comments acknowledging climate change as a major threat. However, Friends of the Earth cautioned that, unless Shell shifts away from the fossil fuel business, it “will continue to be a major part of the problem.” The comments coincided with a Friends of the Earth report slamming Shell for allegedly polluting communities, damaging wildlife habitats, and failing to keep its promise of environmental and social responsibility. Behind the Shine: The Other Shell Report, was launched by the environmental group in London on 23 June at the House of Commons. The report accuses the company of causing “a catalogue of misery from communities living next door to Shell’s operations around the world.”


Meanwhile, Shell’s shareholders are raising calls for more accountability at the company’s twin Annual General Meetings held in London and the Hague. These calls are being heard in light of the debacle that arose from the announcement in January that Shell had overstated its oil and gas reserves by 20 percent. According to Reuters, a group of shareholders in the Hague plans to oppose a typically routine resolution that protects management against prosecution for their actions in that year. Shareholders are also asking for clear answers as to what the company is doing to improve corporate governance.


“We regret that you are not going to present today a view on the changes to the corporate structure,” a representative of the Dutch pension fund ABP told the directors. “You are asking for more patience than the market has.”


Links to further information

Reuters news service, 29 June 2004


Guardian interview with Ron Oxburgh, 17 June 2004


BBC news report, 17 June 2004


Friends of the Earth press release and report, June 2004



Two environmental heavyweights sparred against each other recently over the hot issue of climate change. UNEP Executive Director Klaus Töpfer and unconventional Danish environmentalist Bjørn Lomborg, surrounded by some 300 spectators, exchanged intellectual blows over today’s environment and sustainable development priorities at Germany’s University of Mainz on 21 June.


Lomborg is best known for his controversial book “The Skeptical Environmentalist,” which was criticized by many for its allegations that climate change impacts have been exaggerated, but which also gained support from conservatives, particularly in the fossil fuel industry. Lomborg argues that money spent on combating climate change will be better used to address more immediate human needs, such as HIV/AIDS or hunger. He said “Implementing the Kyoto agreement on climate change would cost at least US$150 billion each year, yet would merely postpone global warming for six years by 2100 … The family in Bangladesh who will get flooded will have an extra six years to move.”


According to the AP, Töpfer countered with a response that “numbers and economics” alone should not determine the need for action to address climate change, and opposed Lomborg’s argument that people in the developing world are not concerned with the issue. He added that he did not want the family in Bangladesh to move six years later, but wished to “change what is now happening with climate change so that they don't have to move at all.”


Lomborg, who recently organized a conference in Copenhagen to support his views, also contends that on the whole the Earth is getting cleaner and humankind healthier and richer. According to the UN wire, Töpfer replied that “Things are not better in the last hundred years, they are worse.”


Links to further information

Reuters, 21 June 2004


Associated Press Worldstream, 22 June 2004


UN wire, 22 June 2004


The Guardian, 23 June 2004




Calls to replace environmentally-harmful asthma inhalers have raised health fears in the United States. In a major pro-environment initiative announced in mid-June, United States officials from the Food and Drug Administration are considering a ban on ozone-depleting asthma inhalers, as two new ozone-safe inhalers have recently become available.


But the proposal has been greeted with concern among some health groups, who fear that the higher prices of the new inhalers could, quite literally, leave some asthma sufferers gasping. Some experts fear the higher prices may be unaffordable to many lower income asthma sufferers, thus raising serious health risks. The FDA is seeking public comments on the matter.


Links to further information

ENS, 14 June 2004


US FDA rule changes report, June 2004




An enormous release of gas into the atmosphere from the Atlantic Ocean tens of millions of years ago could provide insights into today’s global warming, according to experts. Norwegian scientists suspect that a huge “belch” of hydrocarbons due to underwater activity 55 million years ago caused a dramatic rise in global temperatures in a relatively short space of time. Researchers had previously been unable to explain the rapid changes believed to have occurred at that time. The latest theory could help provide insights into the latest changes detected in our climate—just as with current global warming, the events of 55 million years ago appear to have been influenced by a dramatic rise in heat-trapping “greenhouse” gases.


Links to further information

Planet Ark news service, 4 June 2004




A new set of standards for certifying land use projects that tackle climate change also successfully address biodiversity and poverty issues, according to their publishers. It is believed to be the first time such standards have managed to address all three issues together. The standards, which were produced in a collaborative effort supported by academia, conservation groups and the private sector, have been released for peer review. The collaboration was undertaken by the Climate, Community and Biodiversity Alliance. The new standards take a “multiple benefit” approach that factors in climate, environmental and socio-economic issues. The Alliance includes a wide range of organizations, including several large multinational companies. The standards can be reviewed and commented on online at: http://www.climate-standards.org


MAY 2004



Multinational corporations are taking more interest in climate change and its potential impacts, according to a new report. The Carbon Disclosure Project, which is organized by a non-profit group that advises a number of institutional investors, surveys the world’s 500 largest public companies annually. The results of its latest report, released in late May, showed an increased interest in climate change as companies wake-up to the risks and opportunities they will soon be forced to face.
Links to further information
Environment News Service, 25 May 2004



Russian President Vladimir Putin has come out in support for the Kyoto Protocol, ending months of speculation on the country’s position. According to reports, the President’s support for Kyoto was part of a deal struck with European Union officials that would also see the EU back Russia’s entry into the World Trade Organization. Russian officials have been sending mixed signals over the country’s intentions regarding the Kyoto Protocol over the last year. With the current US administration rejecting Kyoto in 2001, Russian ratification is vital if the Protocol is to enter into force as a legally-binding international treaty.


“We are for the Kyoto process, we support, but we have certain concerns as to the liabilities we shall be expected to assume,” Putin told reporters in late May. In spite of these concerns, Putin added that Russia would be speeding up the process of ratifying the treaty.


Links to further information

BBC News reports, 21 May 2004


Itar-Tass News Service, 21 May 2004


Reuters News Agency report, 21 May 2004




A new Hollywood blockbuster about a world ravaged by abrupt climate change is heating up debate over its scientific accuracy. The new film, The Day After Tomorrow, was released worldwide on 28 May. Starring Dennis Quaid and Lord of the Rings star Ian Holm, the film depicts New York in the near future devastated by flooding, storms and an ice age brought on by the slowing down of the North Atlantic current, which helps warm part of North America and Europe.


While the film has been hailed by some environmental groups as an opportunity to raise public awareness about climate change, some have been quick to condemn the movie as pure fantasy. Controversial writer Bjørn Lomborg dismissed the film as “far-fetched” and lacking credibility, adding that “none of it could happen.” However, some scientists have pointed out that, while unlikely, the film’s depiction of a scenario involving abrupt climate change is not altogether impossible.


“While it mixes science with a Hollywood-sized dose of artistic license in the way it depicts climate change, many environmentalists are nevertheless hoping it will bring the seriousness of the problem home to American audiences,” observed one commentator.


Meanwhile, dozens of spiritual and scientific leaders meeting in Washington, DC have called on the US government to take action to address global warming. The call was made by leaders of a wide range of religious and spiritual groups, including representatives of various Christian denominations and leading Jewish theologians.


Links to further information

BBC News reports, 21 May 2004


The Daily Telegraph newspaper (London), 25 May 2004


The Dominion Post (Wellington), 23 March 2004


ENS News Service, 21 May 2004



APRIL 2004



Russia has again been sending mixed signals on its intention to ratify the Kyoto Protocol. According to Russia’s Kommersant news agency, President Vladimir Putin will declare his support for the Protocol sometime in next few weeks. However while some ministers have appeared sympathetic towards the treaty, a number of advisors, including Andrey Illarionov, a key Putin aide, have been critical of Kyoto’s economic implications. Illarionov has recently dismissed the Protocol as an economic death sentence, or “Auschwitz,” for his country. Russian ratification would mean that the Protocol would have sufficient multilateral support to become a legally-binding treaty.


Links to further information

Pakistan Daily Times, 21 April 2004


The Washington Times, 20 April 2004


The Russia Journal online, 15 April 2004




Demand for energy supplies will double in Asia over the next 20 years, according to a US government agency. A new report from the US Energy Information Agency predicts a 91 percent jump in energy demand in developing countries from 2001-2025, led by countries in Asia. The leap in demand far exceeds the 33 percent rise forecasted for industrialized countries. The report expects world net electricity consumption to double by 2025, while oil use will increase from 77 million to 121 million barrels per day. Natural gas and coal will continue to be widely used, while nuclear power will also experience an increase in use, particularly in developing countries. The report also predicts modest increases in the production of renewable energy. While some of this will come from wind power production in industrialized countries, much of it is expected to come from large-scale hydroelectricity projects in Asia.


In what might be seen as an attempt to support the Bush administration’s call for developing countries to set targets on controlling their greenhouse gas emissions, the report argues that, even if industrialized countries reduce their carbon dioxide emissions, global emissions would still increase significantly.


Links to further information

ENS, 15 April 2004




The world’s seas could rise by seven meters (23 feet) over the next millennium, leaving entire regions submerged, according to a new report. The predictions were made by Jonathan Gregory, a climate expert at the University of Reading in the UK. Gregory and his associates have published new research showing that Greenland’s ice sheet is likely to melt due to climate change. If this occurs, massive amounts of water would be released, threatening any land less than seven meters above sea level. The findings were reported in the latest issue of Nature magazine.


Links to further information

Planet Ark news service, 8 April 2004




The US House of Representatives is to consider a bill to restrict carbon dioxide emissions. The Climate Stewardship Act, a bipartisan proposal endorsed by both Republicans and Democrats, would place limits on greenhouse gas emissions from the energy, manufacturing, and transport sectors – the first time such a measure would be imposed in the US. The legislation is similar to the McCain-Lieberman bill, which was introduced in the Senate last year. Although the bill was voted down, it received limited bipartisan support. Green groups have welcomed the new initiative, while noting that it may be some time before such a measure becomes law.


Meanwhile, research in the US on climate change is becoming highly politicized, according to a new report. The findings of the report, published in the Financial Times, suggest that science is being exploited for ideological reasons, resulting in “Republican science and Democrat science.”


Links to further information

Pew Center briefing, April 2004


WWF press release, 30 March 2004


UN Wire new service, 2 April 2004




The European Union has introduced new legislation to control the amount of harmful solvents permitted in paints and varnishes, while rejecting proposals to tighten laws governing the gases used in refrigerators and air conditioners. The new law on solvents, passed by the European Parliament in late March, is expected to reduce emissions of volatile organic compounds. These compounds contribute to ground level ozone, which is better known as smog.


Europe’s parliament however has turned down proposals to tighten controls on fluorinated gases – also known as “f-gases.” This group of gases, which includes hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6), are now widely used in refrigerators, air conditioners, and medical sprays. In recent years, f-gases have replaced ozone-depleting substances such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). However, although f-gases do not damage the ozone layer, they are believed to contribute to global warming. Environmentalists have criticized the EU decision not to take further action on these gases, calling it a “serious setback for Europe’s obligations under the Kyoto Protocol.”


Links to further information

Planet Ark new service, 1 April 2004


ENS Newswire, 1 April 2004


Greenpeace statement, March 2004




The Government of Canada has launched a new initiative to increase public participation in combating climate change. The “One-Tonne Challenge” calls on individual Canadians to cut their greenhouse gas emissions by one tonne, or 20 percent of their current annual contribution. The new initiative, which seeks to take the message of reducing emissions to a wider audience, makes a range of simple, straightforward suggestions to allow every citizen to play a part in responding to climate change.


“Obviously, for Canada to address climate change effectively, we all have to take action. The One-Tonne Challenge is about building partnerships that will help individuals do their part,” said John Efford, Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources.


The new initiative appears to be part of a growing trend on the part of governments to take the climate change message directly to the public. Other recent campaigns include the “Four Million Careful Owners” programme launched by the New Zealand Government earlier this year. Like the Canadian initiative, the scheme challenges all of New Zealand’s four million inhabitants to take action to reduce their emissions.


Links to further information

Canada’s “One-Tonne Challenge” website


New Zealand’s “Four Million Careful Owners” website



MARCH 2004



Dust and sand storms are occurring nearly five times more frequently in Northeast Asia than in the 1950s, according to the UN Environment Programme. The storms, which are affecting northern China, Mongolia, the Korean Peninsula and Japan, are also growing in intensity. They are believed to be having a significant impact on local economies, as well as on people’s health. UNEP plans to support a network of monitoring stations throughout the region to collect information on the phenomenon. UNEP’s Executive Director Klaus Töpfer believes the storms are part of a global trend towards more extreme weather events.


Links to further information

UNEP press release, 31 March 2004




The European Union is “not on track” to cut its carbon dioxide emissions under the Kyoto Protocol, according to a leading conservation group. WWF has voiced concerns that the EU’s plans to cut emissions have been “severely weakened due to government inaction and powerful industry pressure.” In particular, WWF fears that national allocation plans prepared recently by some EU countries are not sufficiently ambitious. The allocation plans are part of an EC Emissions Trading Directive, a major component of the EU’s efforts to meet its Kyoto commitments. Germany, in particular, has been criticized for its new plan.


“This is a surrender before the coal lobby,” said Stephan Singer, Head of Climate and Energy Policy at WWF’s European Policy Office. “Germany has turned from a climate policy leader to one which openly supports new coal-fired power stations at the expense of cleaner energies.” The German Government has rejected suggestions that its plan is not ambitious enough.


WWF has also accused industry lobby groups of weakening the allocation plans of Finland and France. The EU has consistently been one of the strongest supporters of the Kyoto treaty.


Links to further information

WWF press release, 30 March 2004




New measurements by scientists in the US have once again broken previous records for atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations, heightening fears that climate change may be spiraling out of control. The latest statistics continue a trend of sharp rises in recent years, with current carbon dioxide levels at 379 parts per million (ppm), up from 376 ppm the previous year. Concentrations have already jumped by 22 percent over the past fifty years, but the rate of growth has been particularly dramatic since the late 1990s. While US scientists have not yet drawn any firm conclusions from the new data, there are now fears that the spike in carbon growth is an early sign that global warming is “feeding on itself” in a cycle that could lead to abrupt climate change.


Links to further information

The Independent newspaper, 28 March 2004


New Scientist news service, 22 March 2004




Scientists have discovered a new source of carbon pollution in the atmosphere. The carbon-bearing particles, which have been labeled “tar balls,” were identified in air pollution in places as diverse as Hungary and southern Africa. The “tar balls” apparently come from wood fires and agricultural and forest burning. Scientists believe they could contribute to climate change, and also reduce air quality. While similar to soot, researchers say the tar balls have a different internal structure.


Links to further information

American Geophysical Union press release, 19 March 2004




The mathematical model used for decades by many countries to predict coastal erosion from sea-level rise is seriously flawed, according to a new report. Experts from the US and Ireland have criticized the “Bruun rule” used for determining shoreline erosion, labeling it a “hazard to society” that is wildly inaccurate. The report, which is published in the latest issue of Science, calls for a new qualitative method that extrapolates past rates of erosion while factoring in future development and various other influences. However, it warns that it is not yet possible to make accurate predictions when it comes to erosion resulting from sea level rise.


Links to further information

SciDev.net article with link to Science study, 19 March 2004



Combating climate change could bring huge economic rewards, according to UN Environment Programme Executive Director Klaus Töpfer. In an article released on the tenth anniversary of the UN Framework Convention of Climate Change’s entry into force, Töpfer compared the energy sector today to the computer industry fifty years ago, when few could have imagined the transformation that would soon make computers a household item.


“We are now on the verge of another, separate but related industrial leap forward where the inefficient use of fossil fuels such as coal and oil is being reduced, and where, like the typewriter and the punch card machine of yesteryear, new competition is starting to make its mark,” Töpfer claimed. Noting the growth in alternative energies, he argued that the Climate Change Convention and Kyoto Protocol presented major long-term economic opportunities that vastly outweigh any short-term costs.


“The Kyoto Protocol is not a recipe for economic disaster, quite the contrary. In the long run, it is likely to generate prosperity and financial savings rather than economic suicide,” he said.


Links to further information

UNEP press release, 19 March 2004




The European Union should take the lead in protecting the Arctic region from unsustainable development, pollution and climate change, according to a new report. The report, which was prepared by the European Environment Agency and the UN Environment Programme, highlights the impact of climate change, toxic substances, oil spills, radioactive contamination and other environmental threats to the Arctic region. Arguing that industrialized countries such as those in Europe are responsible for much of the damage to the region, the report calls on the EU to take the lead in supporting Arctic countries combat the threats to their environment. The EU recently developed its second Northern Dimension Action Plan, which deals primarily with the Baltic, but also addresses circumpolar issues.


Links to further information

EEA/UNEP report, March 2004


ENS News Service, 17 March 2004




Increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere appear to be changing the ways forests grow and the species that inhabit them, according to a new study. The findings, `which were reported in Nature, come from a team of researchers from Brazil and the US studying the Amazon. They found increased dynamism in forest growth, with existing trees dying faster and new trees growing more quickly. The researchers concluded that changes in carbon dioxide levels were responsible for the alterations in the Amazon. They also suggested that such changes could contribute to climate change, as fast-growing trees generally capture less carbon than slow-growing ones, meaning forests’ carbon storing capacity could be reduced.


Links to further information

SciDev Network News, 12 March 2004




The European Union has passed new legislation to turn all provisions of the Kyoto Protocol into European law. The decision by the European Parliament and Council of Ministers means the treaty is now legally-binding in its entirety on all members of the EU. It will also apply to the ten other countries that are set to join the European Union in May.


The decision, which completes the process of making all of the treaty legally-binding in the region, commits the EU to implementing the Protocol even though it has yet to enter into force internationally as a binding treaty. With the Bush administration in the U.S. rejecting Kyoto in 2001, Russian support is now needed for this to happen.


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European Commission press release, 10 March 2004




Rapid economic growth could make it too costly for Russia to join the Kyoto Protocol, according to a new report in Science magazine. Earlier forecasts had predicted that Russia stood to gain financially from ratifying the Kyoto treaty, because economic slowdown during the 1990s made it likely that Russia would produce far less greenhouse gas emissions than it is entitled to under Kyoto. This would allow it to sell emissions credits to countries unable to meet their targets. However, new UN predictions suggest recent economic growth could cause an increase in emissions in Russia, leaving the country with little incentive to ratify the treaty – at least financially.


European leaders have been trying to persuade their Russian counterparts to join them in supporting the Protocol. However, a decision is unlikely until after Presidential elections scheduled for mid-March.


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Science magazine, 5 March 2004




The Bush administration has gone on the offensive over its environmental record, according to news reports. Officials have used recent speeches to rebut criticism that the U.S has not been doing enough to tackle global warming. In a series of meetings across Europe, John F. Turner, Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, has assured audiences of the administration’s commitment to engaging with the world community to combat environmental degradation in developing countries. Meanwhile, Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs, Paula Dobriansky, has been busy emphasizing the government’s commitment to the goals of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Both officials stressed the role of the Earth Observation System, and Dobriansky reportedly noted the importance of nuclear power as a “safe source of electricity.”


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ENS News Service, 8 March 2004


John Turner's speech to the Stockholm School of Economics, 2 March 2004






Ukraine’s parliament and president have ratified the Kyoto Protocol. The country’s parliament, or rada, ratified the treaty a few weeks ago, with President Leonid Kuchma signing the new law in late February, according to news reports. Ukraine will be the 121st country to ratify the Protocol. However, under the complex deal agreed in Kyoto in 1997, the Protocol will only enter into force as a legally-binding treaty when industrialized countries and former eastern Bloc states representing at least 55 percent of greenhouse emissions for the year 1990 have ratified the deal. With the Bush administration in the US rejecting the treaty in 2001, ratification by the Russian Federation remains essential if Kyoto is to reach the 55 percent threshold.


Russia has still to finalize its position on the Protocol. However, the latest statement by presidential adviser Andrei Illarionov has cast further doubt on whether the country will eventually ratify. At a meeting held in mid-February, Illarionov, who is known to oppose the treaty, reportedly described the Kyoto deal as an “economic Auschwitz for Russia,” adding that it would “transform Russia into an economic dwarf.”


In recent months, Russian officials have sent mixed signals about the Protocol, with a number of senior figures appearing to be leaning towards ratification.


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Novosti News Agency, 24 February 2004


Rosbalt News Agency, 24 February 2004




Rapid climate change could bring the world to the brink of disaster within two decades, according to a new report by defense officials in the United States. Experts from the Pentagon have warned that abrupt climate change poses a major worldwide security threat that could result in wars, nuclear conflict, large-scale droughts, famine, and other disasters. Under the worst-case scenario, millions would die, and global stability would be seriously undermined.


The warnings, which were part of a report obtained by several news agencies earlier this month, warns that parts of Europe and North America could be hit by arctic temperatures as a result of the vagaries of climate change. Meanwhile, other countries could be reduced to anarchy as people fight over shrinking supplies of water, food and energy, and more countries develop nuclear deterrents to protect these diminishing resources. According to The Observer newspaper, the report argues that these possible scenarios show that climate change “should be elevated beyond a scientific debate to a US national security concern.”


In the past, the Bush administration has been criticized by some experts for not taking climate change seriously enough. The new report prompted calls by several senior climate scientists for the US to take further action on climate change, including ratifying the Kyoto Protocol. The report follows a recent statement by Sir John Houghton, a former head of the UK’s Meteorological Office, comparing the threat of climate change to terrorism.


Meanwhile, the Bush administration has been attacked for failing to heed scientific findings that fail to coincide with its political views. The accusation was made by the Union of Concerned Scientists, a US based institution whose membership includes many prominent scientists.


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An Abrupt Climate Change Scenario and Its Implications for United States National Security, October 2003


The Observer newspaper, 22 February 2004

BBC News Service, 19 February 2004
Fortune magazine, 9 February 2004



Plans by the U.S. Government to make hydrogen-powered fuel cell vehicles affordable by 2020 have been labeled unrealistic by experts. A new report from the National Academy of Sciences has found that the Bush administration’s 2020 deadline is unlikely to be achieved. The report argues that the complex scientific, technical, and economic challenges faced in making hydrogen power affordable mean it will probably not replace oil and other fossil fuels for many decades. Instead, the report suggests a strategy focusing more on energy efficiency and alternative energy sources. Some environmental groups have also criticized the administration’s focus on hydrogen.


Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham however has defended the government’s plans. “We are probably ahead of where the Academy thinks we are in integrating our hydrogen work across [the department’s] programmes,” he said. The Bush administration plans to spend US$1.2 billion to support hydrogen production in the coming years as a way of cutting emissions of greenhouse gases and reducing dependence on foreign oil.


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Environment News Service, 6 February 2004




The European Union’s member states are being urged to rein in allocations for the new regional emissions trading scheme. The warning came from the head of the European Commission’s Environment Directorate, Catherine Day, who advised countries to impose tight controls when developing their National Allocation Plans. The plans will establish how industry will operate under a new European-wide trading scheme to combat global warming. Under the plans, countries will allocate allowances for industries to trade in greenhouse gases.


“For the market mechanism of emissions trading to work, there must be an underlying scarcity as in any market,” Day told participants attending a recent meeting in Dublin, Ireland. This scarcity will be established by individual countries in their National Allocation Plans, rather than through the EU’s Emissions Trading Directive. European Union members must produce their allocation plans by the end of March, while new member countries will need to produce theirs by the beginning of May. The UK, which announced its allocations last month, was recently praised by conservation group WWF for taking on tougher national goals than those set out under the Kyoto Protocol.


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Point Carbon news bulletin, 4 February 2004


WWF press release, 21 January 2004




France and Germany have kept up the pressure on Russia to ratify the Kyoto Protocol with a joint statement from the two countries’ environment ministers. The statement renewed appeals to Russia to join the agreement on climate change, which has now been ratified by 120 countries. With the Bush administration rejecting the treaty in 2001, Russian ratification is essential if the agreement is ever to enter into force as a legally-binding document. Russian officials have recently said the country would make a final decision on the issue after reviewing how its national interests can best be served.


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UN Wire News Service, 4 February 2004




The World Bank has rejected a proposal to stop funding oil and coal projects in developing countries, according to news sources. The recommendation was made as part of an independent review commissioned by the World Bank to assess its involvement in oil, coal and gas mining. The review, which was drafted by Emil Salim, Indonesia’s former Environment Minister, followed a two-year study of the Bank’s activities.


According to the Financial Times, some of the review’s key recommendations have been rejected by the Bank’s management team. Specific suggestions to be ignored include a call for the World Bank to phase out its involvement in oil projects within five years in favor of renewable energy. The Bank has reportedly argued that some fossil fuel projects actually stimulate economic growth and reduce poverty, two of the institution’s main aims. Environment and conservation groups have called on the Bank to adopt all of the review’s recommendations.


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UN Wire News Service, 3 February 2004






Illegal trade in a major ozone-damaging substance has been uncovered in Asia, according to a BBC report. The trade in chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, a chemical found in aerosols and refrigerators, has been uncovered on the borders between Afghanistan and Pakistan. CFCs have been banned in many countries due to the damage it causes the ozone layer and are being phased-out under the Montreal Protocol. But the director of a Karachi-based company has told BBC reporters that at least 20 to 25 Pakistani businesses are now engaging in black market smuggling of CFCs from Afghanistan and China. The alleged trade route is the same as the one reportedly used for smuggling heroin.


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BBC News Service, 31 January 2004




The British Government has announced its proposals for how industry will operate under a new European-wide trading scheme to combat global warming. The proposals, set out in its National Allocation Plan, allot allowances for industries to trade in greenhouse gases. The allocations are part of a European Union scheme designed to use market-based mechanisms to help countries and industries reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases that contribute to global warming. While the UK is the first country to release its plan, all 15 EU member countries must do so by 31 March, while the 10 eastern European countries soon to join the EU have a deadline of 1 May.


“The EU Emissions Trading Scheme will be a vital measure in our drive to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases across Europe,” the UK’s Environment Minister, Margaret Beckett, told reporters. The announcement pushes the UK’s efforts to reduce emissions beyond the levels set out under the Kyoto Protocol.


“We have set the overall number of allowances for UK industry at a level which moves us beyond our Kyoto Protocol commitment towards our tougher national goal and which recognizes the need to preserve the competitive position of UK industry,” Beckett said.


Conservation group WWF responded positively to the UK’s announcement, claiming it set a high standard for other EU members. “Other countries must follow suit with similarly stringent targets if Europe is to meet [its] Kyoto obligations and gain from the system in the longer term,” said Stephan Singer, who heads WWF’s European Climate Change Unit.


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ENS News Service, 20 January 2004


WWF press release, 21 January 2004




The summer heatwave that left 20,000 Europeans dead last year could become a regular event, according to Swiss scientists. Their research suggests that the 2003 heatwave, which was widely considered to be an unusual occurrence, could happen as frequently as every second summer by the end of the century. The scientists claim that increasing weather variability, brought on by climate change, is to blame.


�The European summer climate might experience a profound increase in year-to-year variability in response to greenhouse forcing. Such an increase might be able to explain the unusual European summer of 2003, and would strongly affect the incidence of heatwaves and droughts in the future,� warned the scientists in an online edition of the journal, Nature.


However, some scientists said more evidence for this kind of variability was needed before such conclusions can be drawn. �I am not an alarmist � I deal with real data, and the data don�t show this kind of effect,� argued Professor John Christy, director of the Earth System Science Center at the University of Alabama in the US.


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BBC News Service, 12 January 2004




The consequences of climate change pose a much greater threat to world safety than terrorism, according to a top British scientist. Widespread flooding, drought, hunger, and disease will affect millions unless immediate action is taken to combat global warming, warned Sir David King, the UK Government�s chief scientific adviser.


In a recent interview, Sir David called for international action to deal with the problem, and criticized the United States for not taking the lead. �At present the US Government is failing to take up the challenge of global warming,� he told the American magazine, Science. Sir David called on the US to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, an international treaty for cutting emissions, warning that any delay in taking action would only make the problem worse. �If we do not begin now, more substantial, more disruptive, and more expensive change will be needed later on,� he said.


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BBC News Service, 9 January 2004




Climate change could drive over a million species into extinction by 2050, according a new report published in the science journal, Nature. The study found that up to 37% of animal and plant species in six regions around the world could face extinction within 50 years because they will be unable to adapt to the changes expected to the climate over the next few decades.


�Our analyses suggest that well over a million species could be threatened with extinction as a result of climate change,� said lead author Chris Thomas of the University of Leeds in northern England.


Responding to the report, environmental group IUCN � the World Conservation Union called for renewed efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in order to minimize the impacts of global warming. �Just when the evidence of climate change is mounting, international momentum to combat it is waning. Russian ratification of the Kyoto Protocol is absolutely needed this year if we are going to protect society and nature from the potentially devastating effects of climate change,� said Brett Orlando, IUCN�s Climate Change Adviser.


Klaus T�pfer, head of the United Nations Environment Programme, has warned that mass extinctions will also cause billions of people to suffer because of their reliance on flora and fauna for food, shelter and medicines.


Meanwhile, conservation group Friends of the Earth said the implications of the report were �terrifying,� and urged government action on climate change, in particular from the United States, which is the largest emitter of greenhouse gases.


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BBC News Service, 7 January 2004


ENS News Service, 8 January 2004



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