by Malcolm Curtis|Swisster|September 1, 2008|11:20
In Geneva, the Nobel-prize winning organization credited with informing the world about global warming — the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change — celebrates its 20th birthday. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon marks the occasion by urging the world’s nations to work for an agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that the IPCC says are changing the weather.
As the Gustav hurricane spins toward New Orleans, a meeting is under way in Geneva this week of the United Nations scientific body that linked a growing pattern of such extreme weather events with global warming caused by greenhouse gases. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is celebrating its 20th anniversary and holding its latest plenary session at a time when the environmental issue has mushroomed in importance.
Climate change “is developing into a large-scale crisis that threatens large spheres of human development,” said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. He was speaking at a ceremony on Sunday to mark the IPCC’s birthday at Geneva’s Bâtiment des Forces Motrices.
Ban called on countries to seize the opportunity in meetings planned in Poland this December to find an accord to replace and expand the Kyoto Protocol. The protocol aims to tackle global warming through targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Ban said the urgency is such that nations should not wait for the planned global climate change meeting in Copenhagen next year before taking action. The IPCC, whose secretariat is based in Geneva, and the scientists from around the world that form it, were awarded the Nobel peace prize last year. The prize was shared with Al Gore, environmental crusader and former US vice-president.
The technical body, chaired by Rajendra Pachauri, was lauded for its impartial collection of data that highlights the link between human activities, such as the burning of fossil fuels, and global warming. The IPCC was established by the World Meteorological Organization and the UN Environment Programme to provide decision-makers and the public with an objective source of information about climate change.
Moritz Leuenberger, Swiss energy, transport and communications minister, joined Ban in praising the work of the intergovernmental panel. But Leuenberger, a member of the socialist party, said that reducing carbon dioxide emissions makes sense even if, “contrary to what is stated by the vast majority of researchers, man-made CO2 emissions were not the cause fo global warming”.
Reducing emissions is “not damaging to our health or to the environment”and “it’s not damaging to the economy either,” he said. “New technologies thrive, they are sold and exported.” Companies can reduce their energy costs abd reliance on fossil fuels “and that’s not harmful to the economy either”.
Leuenberger also put in a good word for scientist Thomas Stocker, a candidate for co-president of the IPCC’s working group on the scientific aspects of the climate system. Stocker is head of the Climate and Environmental Physics Department at the University of Bern.
Among other research projects, he is involved in examining ice from cores drilled in Greenland to reconstruct the climate from the past 1,000 years.