A new report from the United Nation’s International Panel on Climate Change warns that global temperatures are rising much more rapidly than previous estimates had indicated and predicted disastrous environmental consequences as a result.
The new data forecasts that global average temperatures will rise by as much as 5.8°C, over 10° F, over the next 100 years. The increase is twice the rate that scientists had predicted as recently as five years ago.
The elevated temperatures would melt glaciers and polar ice caps, raising sea levels and flooding low lying islands, and coastal areas. Rainfall patterns, ocean currents and global wind flows would be affected, producing drought conditions in some areas, and more storms and heavy rainfall in others.
The IPCC meteorologists who compiled the report expressed the belief that a large portion of the rise in temperatures aren’t explainable in terms of natural weather cycles, but are due to industrial activity, chiefly the production of “greenhouse gases” caused by the burning of fossil fuels.
While this conclusion has been disputed, notably in the U.S. where President Bush, urged on by the energy industry, withdrew from the Kyoto protocol, it seems unlikely that the new data can be ignored by the U.S. and other industrialized nations.
Another effort to conclude a pact to reduce global emissions is scheduled to begin next week in Bonn, Germany. Representatives of some 150 countries will try to salvage at least part of the Kyoto accords, but without U.S. participation and agreement no one is expressing much confidence.
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