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U.N. Science Panel Sees Faster Warming of Earth

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U.N. Science Panel Sees Faster Warming of Earth

U.N. Science Panel Sees Faster Warming of Earth

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Andrea Seabrook.

The Earth is warming faster and faster all the time. That's the conclusion released today of the U.N. panel of climate experts who won this year's Nobel Peace Prize. They issued their most comprehensive report yet on climate change at a conference in Valencia, Spain.

Reporter Jerome Socolovsky is covering the conference, and he joins me now.

Jerome, can you just sum up the main points of the report by the panel?

JEROME SOCOLOVSKY: Hello, Andrea. I can. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued not only it's most comprehensive report yet but it's strongest worded reports saying that the Earth is warming, that there's unequivocal proof of that, that it's warming faster than we thought. And that that's likely to cause some extreme weather events like floods, inundation of islands and things like that.

The U.N. secretary general, Ban Ki Moon, came here to close the one-week meeting. He said he came here from visits to Antarctica and the Brazilian rainforest, where he saw global warming already happening. And he compared it to a science fiction movie but said it was all the more terrifying because it's really happening.

He said that the threat of global warming of these extreme weather events will be the most grave to those who are already in a vulnerable position in developing countries or poor people in rich countries.

Secretary General BON KI MOON (United Nations): Melting glaciers will trigger mountain floods and lead to water shortages in Southeast Asia and South America. Rising sea levels could inundate small-island developing states, reduce the rain fall, will aggravate water and food insecurity in Africa.

SEABROOK: Jerome, that sounds pretty dire. Did the panel make any recommendations?

SOCOLOVSKY: No, it didn't make recommendations. The aim of this report is to synthesize the available knowledge on climate change and to spell out some scenarios if, you know, increasing emissions continue or if they are stabilized a bit. They estimate that with a two-degree increase in temperature there would be an extinction of 30 percent of animal species. If that increase were three degrees, we would talk about millions of people being subjected to floods and, at the same time, 30 percent of wetlands would be lost.

One of the positive things in this report is that it shouldn't cost all that much to counteract global warming or to reduce it. They're saying that it could cost as little as a 10th of a percent of global GDP to have an adequate response to climate change.

SEABROOK: So what happens now? Where does the report go next?

SOCOLOVSKY: Well, now and in a couple of weeks, the report will be presented to the climate change conference that will be held in Bali, Indonesia, with thousands of people attending it, including lots of political leaders. The aim there is to find a replacement for the Kyoto Protocol that was agreed back in 1997. If you recall, that protocol called for a 5 percent reduction in greenhouse gases from 1990 levels. And that protocol expires in 2012.

Now, the U.S. and China were not part of that protocol - are not bounds by it. A lot of countries haven't even met that 5 percent reduction. But this report should be quite influential there given that this panel got the Nobel Peace Prize and is picking it up in the coming weeks as well.

SEABROOK: Jerome Socolovsky in Valencia, Spain.

Thanks very much.

SOCOLOVSKY: You're welcome, Andrea.

SEABROOK: Yesterday, the American delegation to the Valencia Climate Conference weighed in. She was asked about rumors that the U.S. wanted to modify the climate panel's draft report to downplay the benefits of mandatory controls on greenhouse gases.

Dr. Sharon Hays, the leader of the American delegation, said her team wanted to get the science right.

Dr. SHARON HAYS (U.S. Delegation, Valencia Climate Conference): It is true that we asked lots of questions, and we engaged in an energetic discussion with other delegations and with the scientist authors. But ultimately, our goal is to get the science right and when the scientists have an opinion on that we listened to it very, very carefully.

SEABROOK: Dr. Hays also spoke about the evolution of the Bush administration's stance on global warming. She said the president's opinions have changed as the science supporting climate change has become more certain.

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