Experts turned up the thermostat on negotiators at climate change talks as new studies showed this decade was probably the warmest on record and estimated that 1 billion people could be driven from their homes over the next 40 years. The dire warnings lent greater urgency to the talks as negotiators debated the framework for a new environmental treaty and squared off over the level of responsibility developed nations should bear for reducing emissions of carbon dioxide, the key cause of global warming.
This year will rank as the fifth warmest since 1850, the head of the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) said on Tuesday. Those findings undermined widely circulated suggestions by some scientists that the planet has cooled slightly in the past two years. "The decade 2000-2009 is very likely to be the warmest on record, warmer than the 1990s, which were in turn warmer than the 1980s," said Michel Jarraud, the WMO secretary general.
The report coincided with estimates by the International Organisation for Migration that showed changes in weather patterns and flooding could displace people within poor countries and across international borders. "Further climate change, with global temperatures expected to rise between 2°C and 5°C by the end of this century, could have a major impact on the movement of people," the report said.
Each year of delay in coming to an agreement would cost US$500 million (Dh1.83 billion) as the scope of the problem increased, said Nobuo Tanaka, the executive director of the International Energy Agency, a group of energy-consuming nations based in Paris. That's the cost for "investment needed to make up for non-action", he said. Concern over rapid climate change formed the basis of calls by poorer nations for their well-heeled brethren to do more to slow emissions, continuing a battle that has been waged in the months leading up to the UN talks.
Developing nations and environmentalists attacked a leaked proposal from Denmark for a compromise at the talks, saying it did not place enough responsibility on industrialised countries. The top UN climate official, Yvo de Boer, said the proposal was not an official document under debate. That did little to appease poorer states. The draft was a "serious violation that threatens the success of the Copenhagen negotiating process", said Lumumba Stanislaus Dia Ping, the top representative of the Group of 77 developing countries. "We can't accept a deal that condemns 80 per cent of the world population to further suffering and injustice," he added.
The Alliance of Small Island States, a group of countries that will bear the brunt of any rise in sea level, called for total emissions to be cut by 45 per cent by 2020 from 1990 levels, far more than most proposals by richer countries. Brazil's negotiator, Sergio Serra, said his country would not agree to a long-term goal of halving emissions by 2050, considered a staple of the talks, unless wealthier countries made bigger commitments.
"The 50 per cent cut by 2050 makes no sense unless you have a mid-term target (for rich nations). With a mid-term target it can be a reasonable figure," Mr Serra said. * with agencies @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org More on climate talks, b12