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2172Fw: Katrina fuels global warming storm

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  • Pat N self only
    Sep 9, 2005
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      ---------- Forwarded Message ----------
      Katrina fuels global warming storm
      Fri Sep 9, 2005 1:42 PM BST

      By Alister Doyle, Environment Correspondent

      OSLO (Reuters) - Hurricane Katrina has spurred debate about global
      warming worldwide with some environmentalists sniping at President
      George W. Bush for pulling out of the main U.N. plan for braking
      climate change.

      Experts agree it is impossible to say any one storm is caused by
      rising temperatures. Numbers of tropical cyclones like hurricanes
      worldwide are stable at about 90 a year although recent U.S. research
      shows they may be becoming more intense.

      Still, the European Commission, the World Bank, some
      environmentalists, Australia's Greens and even Sweden's king said the
      disaster, feared to have killed thousands of people in the United
      States, could be a portent of worse to come.

      "As climate change is happening, we know that the frequency of these
      disasters will increase as well as the scope," European Commission
      spokeswoman Barbara Helfferich said.

      "If we let climate change continue like it is continuing, we will
      have to deal with disasters like that," she said. She said it was
      wrong to say Katrina was caused by global warming widely blamed on
      emissions from cars, power plants and factories.

      Sweden's King Carl XVI Gustaf told reporters he was deeply shaken by
      the damage and suffering of millions of people.

      "It is quite clear that the world's climate is changing and we should
      take note," he said. "The hurricane catastrophe in the United States
      should be a wake-up call for all of us."

      Climate change policies sharply divide Bush from most of his allies
      which have signed up for caps on emissions of greenhouse gases under
      the U.N.'s Kyoto protocol. Bush pulled out of Kyoto in 2001, saying
      it was too expensive and wrongly excluded developing nations from a
      first round of caps to 2012.

      In July this year, Bush launched a six-nation plan to combat climate
      change with Australia, China, India, Japan and South Korea focused on
      a shift to cleaner energy technology. Unlike Kyoto, it stops short of
      setting caps on emissions.

      SEA LEVEL RISE

      U.N. studies say a build-up of greenhouse gases is likely to cause
      more storms, floods and desertification and could raise sea levels by
      up to a meter by 2100.

      Sea level rise could expose coasts vulnerable to storms because
      levees would be swamped more easily. Some scientists dispute the
      forecasts and the United States is investing more heavily than any
      other nation on climate research.

      In Australia, the opposition Greens party said Katrina was aggravated
      by global warming and criticized Bush for pulling out of Kyoto. The
      United States, the world's biggest polluter, and Australia are the
      only rich nations outside Kyoto.

      "It demonstrates the massive economic, as well as environmental and
      social penalties, of George Bush's policies," Greens leader Bob Brown
      told Reuters. He did not believe Bush would shift to embrace Kyoto-
      style caps on emissions.

      Concerns were also voiced in Germany.

      "The U.S. must be more involved," Gerda Hasselfeldt, a leading German
      candidate to become environment minister if the conservative
      opposition wins the September 18 election, told n-tv television.

      In the United States, the focus has been far more on tackling the
      human disaster than on links to climate change.

      "People are still reeling from the tragedy," said Katie Mandes, a
      director at the Washington-based Pew Center, a climate change think-
      tank. "Politically it's too early to tell what it will mean for
      Americans' views."

      Ian Johnson, the World Bank's top environmental official, said
      Katrina could also be a wake-up call for developing nations, many of
      which are vulnerable.

      An opinion survey published this week showed that 79 percent of
      Americans feel global warming poses an "important" or "very
      important" threat to their country in the next 10 years. Worries
      among Europeans were even higher.

      Taken before Katrina in June, the Transatlantic Trends survey showed
      that Americans felt more threatened than Europeans by terrorism,
      Islamic extremism, weapons of mass destruction and economic downturn.

      Some individual climatic disasters in the past have changed
      perceptions about climate change. Steve Sawyer, climate change
      director at Greenpeace, said that ice storms in Canada in the late
      1990s had dramatically raised public concerns.

      Greenpeace called Katrina a "wake-up call about the dangers of
      continued global fossil fuel dependency."

      Recent research by Kerry Emanuel, a leading U.S. hurricane
      researcher, shows the intensity of hurricanes -- the wind speeds and
      the duration -- seems to have risen by about 70 percent in the past
      30 years.

      "Globally a new signal may be emerging in rising intensity," said Tom
      Knutson, a research meteorologist at the U.S. National Oceanic and
      Atmospheric Administration. Higher water temperatures in future may
      lead to more storms. Hurricanes need temperatures of about 26.5 C
      (80F) to form.

      (Additional reporting by Michael Perry in Sydney, Elaine Lies in
      Tokyo, Jeff Mason and Paul Taylor in Brussels, Iain Rogers in Berlin,
      Timothy Gardner in New York)

      http://today.reuters.co.uk/News/NewsArticle.aspx?
      type=scienceNews&storyID=2005-09-
      09T124313Z_01_MCC945372_RTRIDST_0_SCIENCE-ENVIRONMENT-DC.XML

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