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6543Slowing Global Warming -- A Life or Death Issue?

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  • mtneuman@juno.com
    Dec 2, 2003
      -----Original Message-----
      From: Anatta [mailto:anatta@...]
      Sent: Tuesday, December 02, 2003 3:04 PM
      To: press releases national
      Subject: NCAR News - "No Doubt" Human Activity Is Affecting Global

      2003-49 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 2, 2003

      "No Doubt" Human Activity Is Affecting Global Climate,
      Top Scientists Conclude


      Anatta, NCAR
      Boulder, Colorado

      Cheryl Dybas, NSF
      Washington, D.C.

      BOULDER-Two of the nation's premier atmospheric scientists, after
      reviewing extensive research by their colleagues, say there is no longer
      any doubt that human activities are having measurable-and
      increasing-impacts on global climate. Their study cites atmospheric
      observations and multiple computer models to paint a detailed picture of
      climate changes likely to buffet Earth in coming decades, including
      rising temperatures and an increase in extreme weather events, such as
      flooding and drought. The study appears December 5 in Science as part
      of the journal's "State of the Planet" series.

      The coauthors-Thomas Karl, director of NOAA's National Climatic Data
      Center, and Kevin Trenberth, head of the Climate Analysis Section at the
      National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR)-conclude that industrial
      emissions have been the dominant influence on climate change for the
      past 50 years, overwhelming natural forces. The most important of these
      emissions is carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that traps solar radiation
      and warms the planet.

      "There is no doubt that the composition of the atmosphere is changing
      because of human activities, and today greenhouse gases are the largest
      human influence on global climate," they write. "The likely result is
      more frequent heat waves, droughts, extreme precipitation events, and
      related impacts, e.g., wildfires, heat stress, vegetation changes, and
      sea-level rise which will be regionally dependent."

      Karl and Trenberth estimate that, between 1990 and 2100, there is a 90
      percent probability that global temperatures will rise by 1.7 to 4.9
      degrees Celsius (3.1 to 8.9 degrees Fahrenheit), because of human
      influences on climate. Such warming would have widespread impacts on
      society and the environment, including continued melting of glaciers and
      the great ice sheets of Greenland, inundating the world's coasts. The
      authors base their estimate on computer model experiments by climate
      scientists, observations of atmospheric changes, and recorded climate
      changes over the past century.

      However, there is still large uncertainty in understanding the global
      climate and how it will change, says Karl. If temperatures rise 1.7
      degrees, the expected changes would be relatively small, whereas a
      4.9-degree increase could bring drastic impacts, some of which may be

      Carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere have risen by 31 percent since
      preindustrial times, from 280 parts per million by volume (ppmv) to over
      370 ppmv today. Other human activities, such as emissions of sulfate and
      soot particles and the development of urban areas, have significant but
      more localized climate impacts. Such activities may enhance or mask the
      larger-scale warming from greenhouse gases, but not offset it, according
      to the authors.

      If societies could successfully cut emissions and stabilize carbon
      dioxide levels in the atmosphere, temperatures would still increase by
      an estimated 0.5 degree C (0.9 degree F) over a period of decades, Karl
      and Trenberth warn. This is because greenhouse gases are slow to cycle
      out of the atmosphere. "Given what has happened to date and is projected
      in the future, significant further climate change is guaranteed," the
      authors state.

      If current emissions continue, the world would face the fastest rate of
      climate change in at least the last 10,000 years. This could potentially
      alter ocean current circulations and radically change existing climate
      patterns. Moreover, certain natural processes would tend to accelerate
      the warming. For example, as snow cover melts away, the darker land and
      water surface would absorb more solar radiation, further increasing

      Karl and Trenberth say more research is needed to pin down both the
      global and regional impacts of climate change. Scientists, for example,
      have yet to determine the temperature impacts of increased cloud cover
      or how changes in the atmosphere will influence El Ni´┐Żo, the periodic
      warming of Pacific Ocean waters that affects weather patterns throughout
      much of the world. The authors call for multiple computer model studies
      to address the complex aspects of weather and climate. The models must
      be able to integrate all components of Earth's climate system-physical,
      chemical, and biological. This, in turn, will require considerable
      international cooperation and the establishment of a global climate
      monitoring system to collect and analyze data.

      Because of the broad range of potential change in temperature, it's
      extremely important to ensure that we have a comprehensive observing
      system to track unforeseen changes and variations, says Karl.

      "Climate change is truly a global issue, one that may prove to be
      humanity's greatest challenge," the authors conclude. "It is very
      unlikely to be adequately addressed without greatly improved
      international cooperation and action."
      Visuals: Find this press release and accompanying images on the Web at

      160,000 Said Dying Yearly from Global Warming


      MOSCOW - About 160,000 people die every year from side-effects of global
      warming ranging from malaria to malnutrition and the numbers could almost
      double by 2020, a group of scientists said yesterday.
      The study, by scientists at the World Health Organization (WHO) and the
      London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said children in
      developing nations seemed most vulnerable.

      "We estimate that climate change may already be causing in the region of
      160,000 deaths...a year," Professor Andrew Haines of the London School of
      Hygiene and Tropical Medicine told a climate change conference in Moscow.

      "The disease burden caused by climate change could almost double by
      2020," he added, even taking account of factors like improvements in
      health care. He said the estimates had not been previously published.

      Most deaths would be in developing nations in Africa, Latin America and
      Southeast Asia, which would be hardest hit by the spread of malnutrition,
      diarrhea and malaria in the wake of warmer temperatures, floods and

      "These diseases mainly affect younger age groups, so that the total
      burden of disease due to climate change appears to be borne mainly by
      children in developing countries," Haines said.

      Milder winters, however, might mean that people would live longer on
      average in Europe or North America despite risks from heatwaves this
      summer in which about 15,000 people died in France alone.

      Haines said the study suggested climate change could "bring some health
      benefits, such as lower cold-related mortality and greater crop yields in
      temperate zones, but (that) these will be greatly outweighed by increased
      rates of other diseases."

      Russia is hosting a World Climate Change Conference this week to discuss
      how to rein in emissions of gases like carbon dioxide from factories and
      cars that scientists blame for blanketing the planet and nudging up

      Russian President Vladimir Putin, who opened the conference on Monday,
      suggested in jest that global warming could benefit countries like Russia
      as people "would spend less money on fur coats and other warm things."

      But Putin also backed away from Russia's earlier pledge to swiftly ratify
      the key Kyoto pact on curbing global warming, a plan that will collapse
      without Moscow's backing.

      He told 940 delegates to the conference Russia was closely studying the
      issue of Kyoto. "A decision will be taken when this work is finished," he
      said, giving no timetable.

      Haines said small shifts in temperatures, for instance, could extend the
      range of mosquitoes that spread malaria. Water supplies could be
      contaminated by floods, for instance, which could also wash away crops.

      Story by Alister Doyle

      Story Date: 1/10/2003

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