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World Temp to Reach 10,000 Year High

by Gustavo Capdevila

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(IPS) GENEVA -- Scientific data indicates that Earth's average temperatures will soon reach the highest point in 10,000 years, warned Godwin O.P. Obasi, secretary-general of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), as the United Nations agency celebrated its 50th anniversary last month.

Obasi stressed that climate change is quite real, and will have serious consequences on the world's physical, environmental and biological well-being.

It also threatens socio-economic stability, he said.

The conviction that the Earth's climate is undergoing major changes is based on research by scientists from the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), established by the WMO and the UN Environmental Program in 1988.

This group predicted five years ago that "planetary climate change will continue into the future," an assessment based on recognized research models.

Its simulations took into account the progression of socio-economic trends like demographic and economic growth, technological advances, energy demands and fuel usage.

The IPCC projections show that the average temperature of the Earth's surface will rise from 1.8 to 6.3 degrees Farenheit by the end of this century.

Impacts of global warming
The panel's predictions also indicate that sea levels worldwide will rise 15 to 95 centimeters, though "best estimates" place the average increase at about 20 inches.

Air pollution by humans and volcanic eruptions has contributed to the spread of aerosols (microscopic substances in liquid or solid form that are suspended in air or other gases), especially sulphate aerosols, which harm the radiant energy balance, according to the IPCC.

Another of the panel's predictions is that regional temperatures could vary considerably from the planet's average temperatures, creating extreme climate changes from region to region.

Given this outlook, many natural ecosystems will find it difficult to adapt as the Earth warms, which is likely to cause the disappearance of numerous plant and animal species.

These ecosystems include forests, plains, deserts, mountainous areas, lakes, river basins and wetlands, coastal regions and oceans. To protect them, the international community established the Convention on Biodiversity.

Global warming would have serious consequences for human populations living in low-lying coastal areas or islands, and would harm agriculture, wetlands, freshwater sources, seaports and economic activity in general.

Nearly half of the world's population lives in coastal areas and is at increased risk, especially from flooding resulting from storms, Obasi said.

The climate change phenomenon will affect the regional distribution of crops, though total world food production is not likely to decrease. Production is expected to diminish in some countries, but expand in others, he explained.

The consequences of the changing climate on health will be both direct and indirect. The increased incidence of malaria, dengue and yellow fever is one of the direct effects of global warming because these diseases are transmitted by mosquitoes in tropical areas, which will expand as world temperatures rise.

Even tiny climate changes can trigger major shifts in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather phenomena and, as a result, the number of natural catastrophes.

Rising temperatures intensify the hydrologic cycle, leading to severe droughts in some areas and flooding in others.

The risk of desertification will also increase as parts of the environment become more arid and the soil increasingly degrades as the result of erosion, flooding and human activities, according to the WMO.

These concerns require additional scientific clarification and raise a host of additional questions, stated Obasi.

The official declared that his agency is willing to provide support for international activities in the area of climate change and variability, oversight, policy implementation, research and forecasting.

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Albion Monitor April 3, 2000 (

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