Global greenhouse gas emissions already beyond 'worst-case' scenario
International Herald Tribune
The Associated Press
October 9, 2007

SYDNEY, Australia: Strong worldwide economic growth has accelerated the level of greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere to a dangerous threshold scientists had not expected for another decade, according to a leading Australian climate change expert.

Scientist Tim Flannery said a report by the United Nation's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change due to be released in November will contain new data showing that the level of climate-changing gases in the atmosphere has already reached critical levels.

"What the report establishes is that the amount of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere is already above the threshold that can potentially cause dangerous climate change," Flannery told Australian Broadcasting Corp. late Monday. "We are already at great risk of dangerous climate change, that's what these figures say, it's not next year or next decade, it's now."

Flannery is not a member of the IPCC, but said he based his comments on a review of the technical data included in the panel's three working group reports published earlier this year. The IPCC is due to release its final report synthesizing its findings in November.

According to Flannery, whose recent book "The Weather Makers," made best-seller lists worldwide, new and improved scientific data showed that the amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions had reached about 455 parts per million by mid-2005, well ahead of scientists' previous calculations.

"We thought we'd be at that threshold within about a decade, that we had that much time," Flannery said. "I mean, that's beyond the limits of projection, beyond the worst-case scenario as we thought of it in 2001," when the last major IPCC report was issued.

A spokesman for Australia's IPCC delegate Ian Carruthers said he was not able to comment on the contents of the November report because it was still in draft form.

The recent economic boom in China and India have helped to accelerate the levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, but strong growth in the developed world has also exacerbated the problem, Flannery said.

"It's a worldwide issue. We've had growing economies everywhere, we're still basing that economic activity on fossil fuels," he said. "The metabolism of that economy is now on a collision course clearly with the metabolism of our planet."

The new data will likely give added urgency to the next round of U.N. climate change talks on the Indonesian island of Bali in December, which will aim to start negotiations on a replacement for the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012.

Flannery said that with the level of greenhouse gas emissions already so high, the talks should also focus on preserving tropical forests in countries like Indonesia, Brazil and Papua New Guinea.

"We can reduce emissions as strongly as we like. Unless we can draw some of the standing stock of pollutants out of the air and into the tropical forests, we'll still face unacceptable levels of risk in 40 years time," he said.

Trees absorb carbon dioxide and dense tropical forests are believed to be particularly efficient at this

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