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Climate science chief sees ‘huge gaps’ in research

December 03
22:33 2010

CANCUN: From the methane-laden tundra of the far north to the depths of the oceans, world governments need to spend more on cutting-edge research to “get a handle” on how much and how quickly the world will warm in decades to come, says the head of the UN climate science network.

“There are huge gaps in the effort as far as scientific research is concerned,” Rajendra Pachauri told The Associated Press, pointing to concerns that the Arctic’s thawing permafrost is releasing powerful global warming gases, and the oceans might eventually turn from absorbing carbon dioxide to spewing it into the atmosphere.

“What is being done today is certainly far from adequate,” said the chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the Nobel Peace Prize-winning organization whose twice-a-decade assessments of the latest climate research have been the authoritative guides to a warming world.

In its last detailed report, in 2007, the IPCC recommended that global emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, largely byproducts of fossil-fuel burning, be reduced by 25 per cent to 40 per cent of 1990 levels by 2020, to keep temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels.

Expert analysis of current pledges to rein in emissions finds they’ll go only 60 per cent of the way toward that goal. And those pledges are voluntary, with no guarantee even of that 60 per cent.

Deep-seated disputes within the conference continue to block agreement on a new binding global accord requiring rich nations and perhaps some emerging economies to reduce emissions. At best, the delegates are expected to concur in a handful of decisions on secondary issues.
Underscoring the need for action, the World Meteorological Organization reported at the conference that events of the past decade confirmed scientists’ predictions of 20 years ago that temperatures would rise and storms would become fiercer.

The unprecedented heat waves that struck Western Europe in 2003 and Russia this July will seem like average summers in the future, said Ghassam Asrar, head of the WMO’s climate research centre.

In a detailed announcement later this week, the WMO will report that 2010 is likely to end as the warmest year in the historical record, Asrar said.

In the AP interview, Pachauri was asked about the extreme events of 2010 the Russian heat wave and wildfires, unprecedented nationwide flooding in Pakistan, China’s worst floods and landslides in decades. He said the IPCC is working on a special report on the link between global warming and such extreme events.

-AP

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