Climate change outracing EU targets, WWF warns
20.10.08 @ 09:29
BRUSSELS - Climate change is happening faster and its extent is wider than the world's leading scientists had predicted, according to a new report by pro-green group the WWF released on Monday (20 October), urging the EU to take ambitious action.
"It is clear that climate change is already having a greater impact than most scientists had anticipated, so it's vital that international mitigation and adaptation responses become swifter and more ambitious," Jean-Pascal van Ypersele - a professor of climatology at the Louvain university in Belgium and newly elected vice chair of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) - said, unveiling the study.
The WWF report says that global warming is accelerating beyond last year's IPCC forecasts, with the Arctic Ocean losing sea ice "up to 30 years ahead of IPCC predictions," and the sea level rise expected to "reach more than double the IPCC's maximum estimate of 0.59 metres by the end of the century, putting vast coastal areas at risk."
This could endanger summer sea ice, which could completely disappear between 2013 and 2040 - something which the WWF insists has not happened "in more than a million years" - and has already led to a significant reduction in food crops.
Additionally, strong winds, storms, rainfalls, as well as heat waves, are likely to increase in the next decades all over Europe.
"Under global warming, summer ozone levels are projected to be similar to those found during the summer of 2003 [when some 35,000 extra deaths occurred across Europe as a result of heat stress], with the largest increase projected to occur over England, Belgium, Germany and France," reads the research paper.
"Flood risk and its associated economic damages are projected to increase … Over 2 million people in nine countries, including residents of Vienna and Liege, would be affected," it goes on.
Marine ecosystems are to change as well, with the North and Baltic Sea warming up, and the Mediterranean experiencing an increase in the frequency of long-term droughts.
The climate change is also to have an impact on human health, food, agriculture and fisheries, the WWF warns.
EU urged to act
The WWF report was issued to coincide with a meeting of EU environment ministers in Luxembourg on Monday, who are to discuss new proposals aimed at tackling climate change.
It also comes days after EU leaders said they would by December reach an agreement on Europe's climate change package, based on goals to cut CO2 emissions by 20 percent and boost renewables and energy efficiency by 20 percent, all by 2020, with some EU states such as Italy and Poland already rejecting proposals for higher emissions cuts.
The WWF judges the 20 percent figure to be "insufficient" and urges the EU to commit to an emission reduction target of at least 30 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020, as well as to assist developing countries to cut their own emissions.
"If the European Union wants to be seen as leader at UN talks in Copenhagen next year, and to help secure a strong global deal to tackle climate change after 2012, then it must stop shirking its responsibilities and commit to real emissions cuts within Europe," according to Dr. Tina Tin, a climate scientist and the author of the WWF report.
Copenhagen will in 2009 host talks of the 170 countries taking part in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.