IPCC hopes final report will be manual for tackling warming
Nov 16, 2007, 11:42 GMT
Washington/Valencia, Spain - One month after being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is at it again, this time trying to boil down the wealth of information on climate change into one easy-to-read manual for policymakers.
The so-called 'synthesis' report of the IPCC, being released in Valencia, Spain on Saturday, is essentially a summary of three previous IPCC reports released in the spring, which sounded alarm bells that global warming was an 'unequivocal,' man-made phenomenon that needed urgent attention.
The task before government negotiators and researchers meeting in Valencia this week was a mammoth one: Take some 15,000 pages - compiled with the help of more than 2,000 scientists from around the world - and cut them to about 10.
That means every sentence takes on a new significance. For example, should the synthesis report focus on pre-2000 greenhouse-gas emissions blamed for global warming, which would spotlight Europe and the United States, or on post-2000 emissions for which developing countries like China and India have a greater responsibility.
The process has been painstaking and slow, with negotiators often haggling over individual words, said Greenpeace spokeswoman Gabriela von Goerne. The United States and other major polluters have been accused of trying to water down the final document.
The stakes are high, even if there is nothing essentially new in the IPCC's final report. That is because the UN-backed panel hopes its summary will act as a road-map on how to tackle climate change - prioritizing the more important lessons of previous reports - ahead of a crucial summit on the issue in Bali, Indonesia in December.
'The report is really a how-to guide. It will be viewed by all as the definitive report on the science and the impacts of climate change to date,' US Senator John Kerry, who will be leading a US congressional delegation to Bali, told reporters in a conference call Thursday. 'It is the blueprint for the Bali talks in December.'
Bali will serve as the culmination of what has been a banner year for the climate change movement - a fact the IPCC reports had no small part in promoting. Regional summits from Asia to the G-8 industrial nations to Latin America put tackling global warming at the heart of their agenda. The United Nations in September hosted an unprecedented one-day summit of world leaders on the topic.
Yet the Bali meeting is about the future - it kicks off the process of finding a global agreement that could replace the Kyoto Protocol. Kyoto for the first time placed limits on the greenhouse gas emissions of industrial nations, but was not signed onto by the United States. The treaty expires in 2012.
The IPCC and its head, Rajendra Pachauri, received a Nobel Peace Prize this year, along with former US vice president Al Gore, for raising awareness of the issue of climate change.
The first three IPCC reports each highlighted a different aspect of climate change: the science, the consequences - existing and future - and what can be done to stop it. Dr Kristie Ebi, who was a lead author of an IPCC chapter on human health, said the goal of the synthesis report is to clarify the 'links' between all three aspects.
Environmentalists say the IPCC's final gambit of the year drums home two key messages ahead of the Bali conference.
'First and most important, the (report) flatly says in its opening, evidence of warming today is unequivocal. There is no further question about the science and human causation of global warming,' said Philip Clapp, president of the National Environmental Trust, a US environmental action group.
The second message, said Clapp: 'This is no longer an environmental issue ... this is now a rapidly developing human disaster.'© 2007 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur