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The threat of climate change

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The threat of global warming is not a supposition anymore, but scientific evidence supported by several studies * :

  • Greenhouse gasses emission increased by 70% from 1970 to 2004
  • Their level in the atmosphere is the highest in 650.000 years
  • Mitigation costs are estimated to 1% of global GDP per year
  • Costs of no action are estimated to 20% of global GDP per year

An overstressed world with 6.3 billion people is a risky place to be carrying out uncontrolled experiments with the climate; even the minimum predicted shifts in climate for the 21st century are likely to be significant and disruptive:

Facts
  • The average sea level rose by 10 to 20 cm during the 20th century, and an additional increase of 18 to 59 cm is expected by the year 2100
  • Numerous long-term changes in the climate have been observed, including extreme weather such as droughts, heavy precipitation, heat waves and the intensity of tropical cyclones
  • Most of the world's endangered species -- some 25 per cent of mammals and 12 per cent of birds -- may become extinct over the next few decades

Global warming almost certainly will be unfair: the poorer nations of the world have done almost nothing to cause global warming yet are most exposed to its effects:

  • Higher temperatures are expected to expand the range of some dangerous "vector-borne" diseases, such as malaria, which already kills 1 million people annually
  • The sea could overflow the heavily populated coastlines of such countries as Bangladesh, cause the disappearance of some nations entirely (such as the island state of the Maldives), foul freshwater supplies for billions of people, and spur mass migrations
  • Drying has been observed over large regions, i.e. the Sahel, the Mediterranean, southern Africa and parts of southern Asia
  • Africa is the continent most vulnerable to the impacts of projected changes because widespread poverty limits adaptation capabilities

The UN will also face the effects of non-action in front of climate change. In the coming years, the UN will have to deal with the enormous distress climate change will cause to vulnerable populations: extreme weather events, disruptions in food supply and mass migrations are just some examples of possible adverse consequences. Dealing with climate change will not be easy. Ignoring it will be worse.

Aguas Boat

* Information contained in this page is available at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change’s website