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Decade to avert climate catastrophe, experts say
Toronto Globe and Mail


December 06, 2007

The international community may have as little as a decade to bring greenhouse gases under control or risk catastrophic global warming that places millions of people at risk, warns a group of the world's leading climate scientists.

In a declaration released Thursday in Bali, Indonesia, where representatives from about 180 countries are attending a U.N. conference on climate change, the scientists say emissions need to peak and then start to decline within the next 10 to 15 years as a first step, and then be cut in half by 2050 from the level prevailing in 1990.

If releases aren't curbed soon, "millions of people will be at risk from extreme events, such as heat waves, drought, floods and storms; our coasts and cities will be threatened by rising sea levels; and many ecosystems, plants and animal species will be in serious danger of extinction," the scientists say in their declaration.

More than 200 leading researchers -- many of the world's pre-eminent climate scientists -- endorsed the statement. Its release was timed to put heat on the negotiators at the Bali climate-change talks.

Government officials from the countries taking part in the Bali talks have been meeting this week, but starting next week, with the arrival of ministers and other elected officials, the pace of the talks is expected to quicken. The leaders are trying to lay the groundwork for plans to curb greenhouse-gas emissions after the Kyoto Protocol expires at the end of 2012.

The declaration was organized by scientists at the Climate Change Research Center at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia.

Andrew Weaver, a climatologist from British Columbia's University of Victoria who signed the declaration, said it was prompted because many scientists have become alarmed at the precariousness of the world's weather system, and want to convey a sense of urgency to politicians about the need to do something to prevent dangerous changes.

Scientists are usually an "argumentative bunch" who "can't even agree on the time of day," yet more than 200 agreed to sign the statement, Weaver said in an e-mail. "I think it is a testament to the urgency of dealing with global warming."

(The text of the declaration is posted at

Biologist John Smol of Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, and one of the signatories, said he thinks scientists have done a good job alerting the public to the threat posed by climate change, but he worries that political squabbling at the talks may delay action.


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