On thinning Arctic ice, Ban warns of disaster

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called today for faster work on a new climate treaty to fend off what he said could be economic disaster and a rise in sea levels of up to 2 meters (6.5 ft) by 2100.
“We will pay a high price if we do not act,” he told a 155-nation climate conference in Geneva of a drive to agree a United Nations deal to combat global warming in December in Copenhagen, Reuters reports.
“Our foot is stuck on the accelerator and we are heading toward an abyss,” Ban said after a trip to view the melting Arctic ice off Norway, saying greenhouse gas emissions were still rising fast despite plans to rein in growth.
“Climate change could spell widespread economic disaster,” Ban said in the speech.
“By the end of this century, sea levels may rise between half a meter and two meters.”
His sea level projection is far above the range of 18 to 59 cms (7-24 inches) given in 2007 by the UN’s own panel of experts. Their estimates did not include the possibility of an accelerated melt of vast ice in Antarctica or Greenland.
“Despite the evidence, despite the science, despite the growing calls from enlightened business, we still face inertia,” Ban said of the climate talks. He said he had just been to the Arctic Ocean north of Norway and seen change at first hand.
“We cannot afford limited progress. We need rapid progress,” in the climate negotiations, he said. Ban said he hoped a summit of world leaders he will host in New York on September 22 would give a new push.
“Political support for climate action is growing. But still not fast enough,” he said.
The August 31-September 4 conference of about 1500 delegates in Geneva, including about 20 heads of state and 80 ministers, is agreeing a new system to improve monitoring and information of the climate to help everyone from farmers to energy investors.
It is not directly linked to the Copenhagen talks.
Climate services
The Geneva conference is agreeing to set up a “Global Framework for Climate Services” to help the world adapt to changes such as more floods, wildfires, droughts, rising seas or more disease.
Experts say better forecasting of rains in Botswana, for instance, is allowing doctors to deploy anti-mosquito nets to head off outbreaks of malaria before the insects appear.
And farmers want to know how a projected thaw of Himalayan glaciers will disrupt water flows in rivers in India or China. US investors in wind farms could also benefit from information on future wind patterns, rather than relying on historical trends.
The Geneva deal would “strengthen production, availability, delivery and application of science-based climate prediction and services,” a statement said.
Under the deal, the World Meteorological Organization would set up a task force of advisers who would then have a year to report with proposals about how it would work.
The Geneva talks are the third world climate conference. Meetings in 1979 and 1990 helped lay the foundations for more scientific observations and a UN 1992 Climate Convention.

Pic: Arctic Ice