Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Climate change to cost developing countries billions

By South East Asia correspondent Karen Percy

ABC News Online,  Wed Sep 30, 2009
The World Bank estimates that it will cost $85 billion to $113 billion a year for developing countries to adapt to climate change.
It has underscored the need for solid results in UN-backed climate talks currently underway in Bangkok.
Financing to assist developing countries in dealing with climate change is at the heart of the two-week long talks in Bangkok.
The World Bank expects that about 30 per cent of its projected expenditure - or as much as $35 billion - will be needed every year by East Asian and Pacific countries alone to adapt to the effects of climate change.
The costs would include improving infrastructure to mitigate flooding, protecting coastal areas and similar projects.
The World Bank report centres on one of the most comprehensive studies of the economics of adapting to climate change.
The figures are based on a 2 degree warming over the next 40 years.
Additional money will then be needed to help developing nations cut carbon emissions.
These talks are aimed at setting the framework for the Copenhagen meeting in December.

The climate change ball is in Rudd's court, not Turnbull's 30 Sept 2009  

Australian Greens Deputy Leader, Senator Christine Milne writes:

With all the focus on the chaos in the Liberal Party, it is easy to lose sight of the fact that the fundamental decision on what climate path Australia takes will be made by the Government, not the Opposition.

It is up to the Government to decide whether to wedge Malcolm Turnbull, or give him enough rope to hang himself, or, tragically least likely, actually take meaningful action to avert the climate crisis.

If Prime Minister Rudd and Minister Wong decide that the best political outcome for them is to tick the climate change box with a weak scheme, they will do any deal they need to do with the Opposition. The dodgy deal they made over the Renewable Energy Target and the noises recently made about a Morgan Stanley report recommending even more handouts to polluters, show that the Government will sell their own grandmothers to get the scheme through if they decide that is where the best politics lie.

On the other hand, if Rudd and Wong want to keep wedging Malcolm Turnbull by refusing to negotiate, they are perfectly capable of doing that.

The stark reality, of course, is that both of those options condemn Australia, our region and the planet to a future that none of us want to live in.

The UK Met Office's warning overnight that "if we get a weak agreement at Copenhagen then there is not just a slight chance of a 4C rise, there is a really big chance" should be a wake up call to all those who still argue that we just need to do something about climate change, regardless of how weak and insubstantial that something might be.

At both the Australian domestic and global levels right now, we are heading for an agreement to fail. The political and media pressure to reach an agreement – any old agreement – is in serious danger of swamping the pressure to reach an agreement that will actually deliver a safe climate outcome.

Thankfully there is now, at the eleventh hour, a growing chorus of voices joining the Greens in saying that a weak deal is worse than no deal at all as it will lock in failure. Last week, Sir David King and Lord Stern told the Financial Times that it would be far better that no global climate deal is reached this year than that we get a weak deal that will be very difficult to unravel.

Now, the Global Humanitarian Forum meeting in Geneva, involving Kofi Annan, Mary Robinson, Rajendra Pachauri, James Wolfensohn and many other global luminaries, has come to the same conclusion, that: "No deal is better than a bad deal": it would be more constructive to avoid conclusion at the 2009 UN Climate Conference at Copenhagen of any climate change agreement that would not provide for basic levels of safety, equity and predictability.

Just as the theatre of Liberal Party disintegration distracts us from the fact that it is Labor's job to govern, the prospect of some kind of agreement distracts us from the main game. We have to remember that our goal is not simply to reduce carbon pollution. Our goal must be to pass on to our children, and our children's children, the safe climate that has nurtured us and made human civilisation possible.

As Winston Churchill said, "It's no use saying we are doing our best, we have to succeed in doing what is necessary."

At last week's UN meetings, it was China and India who held out the olive branch by clearly committing to action if rich countries lead. The leaders of the developed world, including Prime Minister Rudd, failed to move. Now is the chance – China and India have given us an open invitation. If countries like Australia move to serious emissions targets and commit to meaningful financing, Copenhagen could still deliver the outcome we need.

Likewise, at home, the Greens have offered five clear Senate votes in favour of the kind of strong scheme that the climate needs and the community wants. With the Opposition so fractured, the Government could find the support it needs for such an outcome in the Senate.

The climate change ball is in Mr Rudd's court.

Hell in Australia: Get ready for a warmer world

BY 2055, climate change is likely to have warmed the world by a dangerous 4 °C unless we stop pumping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere the way we do now. This is the startling conclusion of a study by the UK Met Office, unveiled at a conference in Oxford this week.

Why so soon? Because temperature rises caused by greenhouse gas emissions are expected to trigger dangerous feedback loops, which will release ever increasing amounts of greenhouse gases. The nature and scale of these feedback loops is a subject of vigorous debate among climate scientists, but warmer oceans, for instance, may liberate more dissolved CO2, and plants may decay faster in a warmer climate. The Met Office ran 17 different models with these feedbacks. All concluded a 4 °C world by 2055 was likely if emissions continue to rise. Even if we are lucky, we are still likely to hit 4 °C by 2070.

What will a 4 °C world look like? Brace yourself: the picture painted by the 130 climate researchers at the Oxford conference is not pretty. An average global increase of 4 °C translates to a rise of up to 15 °C at the North Pole. Summers in parts of the Arctic would be as balmy as California's Napa valley. Sea levels would rise by up to 1.4 metres, according to Stefan Rahmstorf at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Germany. Even the less pessimistic estimate of a 0.65-metre rise by 2100 would put at least 190 million people a year at risk from floods, says Rahmstorf's colleague Jochen Hinkel.

The glimmer of hope? It doesn't have to be this way. If politicians at the UN climate change talks in December agree to cut emissions by 3 per cent every year, the world can limit temperature rise to a "safe" 2 °C, the Met Office says.

The Amazon - gone

In a 4 °C world, climate change, deforestation and fires spreading from degraded land into pristine forest will conspire to destroy over 83 per cent of the Amazon rainforest by 2100, according to climatologist Wolfgang Cramer at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany. His climate models show global warming alone converting 30 per cent of the Amazon into degraded shrub land and mixed woodland by 2100. Even this grim estimate is based on the hopeful assumption that extra CO2 in the atmosphere will "fertilise" the forest, buffering it from drought. But we can't be sure this will happen, says Cramer. "If we've overestimated the magnitude of CO2fertilisation, we risk losing the entire Amazon."

Water lifeline cut

Millions of people in India and China depend on monsoon rains to water their crops and for drinking water. Climate change could sever this lifeline. Anders Levermann at Potsdam University in Germany has developed a model which reflects the physics that drives monsoons. His simulations suggest that in a 4 °C world there will be a mix of extremely wet monsoon seasons and extremely dry ones, making it hard for farmers to plan what to grow. Worse, the fine aerosol particles released into the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels could put a complete stop to the monsoon rains in central southern China and northern India. Monsoons are generated by sharp heat gradients in the atmosphere where warm land meets cool ocean. By blocking solar energy, aerosols cool the coastal atmosphere and sap monsoons' strength.


Lack of water, crop failure and rising sea levels could force up to 200 million people from their homes by 2050. Attention in rich western nations has focused on the prospect of millions of climate migrants clamouring at their borders. The reality is likely to be harsher, says François Gemenne, a migration expert at the Institute of Sustainable Development and International Relations in Paris, France. From a study of the impact of 23 recent environmental disasters he concludes that the people most vulnerable to a 4 °C rise are also least able to escape it. "At 4 °C, the poor will struggle to survive, let alone escape," he says. Invariably, the poor can't afford to flee, and they lack the social networks which would otherwise facilitate migration, Gemenne says.

Climate change is already forcing people to migrate, says Gemenne. Sea level rise is driving an exodus from Tuvalu, Kiribati, Papua New Guinea and the low-lying Carteret Islands, while water stress is forcing people in Mauritania, Sudan, Ghana and Kenya to migrate. Melting permafrost is pushing people out of parts of Alaska and floods are forcing others out of the delta regions of Bangladesh and Vietnam.

Gremenne's research, conducted in conjunction with the EU Commission'sEACH-FOR project, will be published in the Journal of International Migrationnext year.

Fire down under

Projections for Australia present a conundrum. It looks likely to escape extreme temperatures rises of 10 °C or more seen elsewhere (see map, top right), but rainfall projections paint a more troubling picture. There was very little consensus between the different models run by the UK Met Office. More alarmingly, a study of the probability of forest fires suggests that the number of "extreme fire danger days" per year - when uncontrollable fires are likely to break out as a result of low humidity, strong winds and high temperature - will treble by 2050. "Even under a low warming scenario, the frequency rises by 10 to 50 per cent," says David Karoly of the University of Melbourne, who reviewed a range of wildfire projections. "We are unleashing hell on Australia."

Interactive feature: Explore the 4 °C world in Google Earth

Monday, September 28, 2009

4 degrees warming 'likely' without carbon cuts

ABC News Online, Mon Sep 28, 2009

Global temperatures may be 4 degrees Celsius hotter by the mid-2050s if current greenhouse gas emissions trends continue, a new study says.
The study, by Britain's Met Office Hadley Centre, echoed a United Nations report last week which found climate changes were outpacing worst-case scenarios forecast in 2007 by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
"Our results are showing similar patterns [to the IPCC] but also show the possibility that more extreme changes can happen," said Debbie Hemming, the co-author of the research which was published at the start of a climate change conference at Oxford University.
In July leaders of the main greenhouse gas-emitting countries recognised a scientific view that temperatures should not exceed 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels, to avoid more dangerous changes to the world's climate.
The IPCC shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for its fourth assessment report, or AR4. One finding was that global temperatures could rise by 4 degrees by the end of the 2050s.
Today's study confirmed that warming could happen even earlier, by the mid-2050s, and suggested more extreme local effects.
"It's affirming the AR4 results and also confirming that it is likely," Ms Hemming said, referring to 4 degrees warming, assuming no extra global action to cut emissions in the next decade.
One advance since 2007 was to model the effect of "carbon cycles".
For example, if parts of the Amazon rainforest died as a result of drought, that would expose soil which would then release carbon from formerly shaded organic matter.
"That amplifies the amount of carbon dioxide that goes into the atmosphere and therefore the global warming. It's really leading to more certainty," Ms Hemming said.
Some 190 countries will try to reach an agreement on how to slow global warming at a meeting in Copenhagen in December.

'I don't think it's hit home'

Temperature rises are compared with pre-industrial levels. Scientists say the world warmed 0.7 degrees last century.
A global average increase of 4 degrees masked higher regional increases, including more than 15 degrees in parts of the Arctic and up to 10 degrees in western and southern Africa, Monday's study found.
"It's quite extreme. I don't think it's hit home to people," Ms Hemming said.
"There are potentially quite big negative implications."
As sea ice melts, the region will reflect less sunlight, which may help trigger runaway effects.
Ms Hemming said such higher Arctic temperatures could also melt permafrost, which until now has trapped the powerful greenhouse gas methane, helping trigger further runaway effects.
The study indicated rainfall may decrease this century by a fifth or more in parts of Africa, Central America, the Mediterranean and coastal Australia, a finding worse than the IPCC's findings in 2007.
"The Mediterranean is a very consistent signal of significant drying in nearly all the model runs," Ms Hemming said.
She says a decrease of 20 per cent or more is "quite a lot in areas like Spain already struggling with rainfall reductions in recent years".

Climate update points to 2060 nightmare rise

The Age, September 29, 2009
GLOBAL temperatures could rise 4 degrees in the next 50 years - faster than previously predicted - if greenhouse gas emissions increase unchecked, according to a report for the British Government.
The climate science update, prepared by British Met Office scientists, found that the increase this century could top 15 degrees above pre-industrial levels in the Arctic and be up to 10 degrees for parts of Africa.
In Australia, rainfall is projected to decline by at least one-fifth along parts of the coastline, worsening drought.
The Met Office Hadley Centre's head of climate impacts, Richard Betts, said the most severe scenarios outlined in the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report now looked conservative.
''We've always talked about these very severe impacts only affecting future generations, but people alive today could live to see a 4-degree rise,'' Dr Betts told The Guardian.
Where the panel said a probable scenario without action to stop emissions was 4 degrees of warming by 2100, the new report says that level could be reached by 2060 in an extreme case.
The warning came as more than 2000 officials from about 190 countries met in Bangkok for the start of two weeks of climate talks crucial to shaping December's prospective Copenhagen agreement.
Analysts hold little hope of significant progress in Thailand after world leaders offered few concrete proposals at last week's meetings in the US.
Green and welfare groups expressed frustration yesterday after it was revealed that the G20 leaders' meeting in Pittsburgh watered down a climate-change communique at the last minute.
The Age understands proposals about a funding plan to help poorer countries reduce emissions and adapt to the effects of climate change were removed.
An earlier draft said rich nations needed to substantially increase spending to help the poor cope. It also stressed the importance of carbon markets and said oversight should be increased.
The final communique said G20 finance ministers would come up with options in November. US President Barack Obama had previously charged the G20 with coming up with a range of options by last week.
A finance deal is regarded as crucial to a new treaty.
Australia is yet to reveal its position on climate financing beyond promoting the use of revenue from carbon markets, but it is understood not to have argued for the change.
Australian Conservation Foundation climate change spokesman Tony Mohr said he believed the Government had expected the G20 to give direction on climate finance.
''It's hugely frustrating and a real missed opportunity,'' Mr Mohr said. ''We need Australia to start forming its position and doing our bit for financing during these two weeks in Bangkok, but the negotiating team is hamstrung without a political announcement from the Prime Minister.''
A spokeswoman for Climate Change Minister Penny Wong said countries had begun to agree on broad principles but not details.
Officials in Bangkok will this week attempt to reduce a 180-page negotiating draft text into a manageable document.
Points of disagreement include emissions targets for the wealthy, climate aid and sharing of clean energy technology.

UK Met Office warns of catastrophic global warming in our lifetimes

David Adam, Guardian environment correspondent

The Guardian, Monday 28 September 2009

Unchecked global warming could bring a severe temperature rise of 4C within many people's lifetimes, according to a new report for the British government that significantly raises the stakes over climate change.

The study, prepared for the Department of Energy and Climate Change by scientists at the Met Office, challenges the assumption that severe warming will be a threat only for future generations, and warns that a catastrophic 4C rise in temperature could happen by 2060 without strong action on emissions.

Officials from 190 countries gather today in Bangkok to continue negotiations on a new deal to tackle global warming, which they aim to secure at United Nations talks in December in Copenhagen.

"We've always talked about these very severe impacts only affecting future generations, but people alive today could live to see a 4C rise," said Richard Betts, the head of climate impacts at the Met Office Hadley Centre, who will announce the findings today at a conference at Oxford University. "People will say it's an extreme scenario, and it is an extreme scenario, but it's also a plausible scenario."

According to scientists, a 4C rise over pre-industrial levels could threaten the water supply of half the world's population, wipe out up to half of animal and plant species, and swamp low coasts.

A 4C average would mask more severe local impacts: the Arctic and western and southern Africa could experience warming up to 10C, the Met Office report warns.

The study updates the findings of the 2007 report of theIntergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which said the world would probably warm by 4C by 2100 if greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise. The IPCC also listed a more severe scenario, with emissions and temperatures rising further because of more intensive fossil fuel burning, but this was not considered realistic. "That scenario was downplayed because we were more conservative a few years ago. But the way we are going, the most severe scenario is looking more plausible," Betts said.

A report last week from the UN Environment Programme said emissions since 2000 have risen faster than even this IPCC worst-case scenario. "In the 1990s, these scenarios all assumed political will or other phenomena would have brought about the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by this point. In fact, CO2 emissions from fossil-fuel burning and industrial processes have been accelerating."

The Met Office scientists used new versions of the computer models used to set the IPCC predictions, updated to include so-called carbon feedbacks or tipping points, which occur when warmer temperatures release more carbon, such as from soils.

When they ran the models for the most extreme IPCC scenario, they found that a 4C rise could come by 2060 or 2070, depending on the feedbacks. Betts said: "It's important to stress it's not a doomsday scenario, we do have time to stop it happening if we cut greenhouse gas emissions soon." Soaring emissions must peak and start to fall sharply within the next decade to head off a 2C rise, he said. To avoid the 4C scenario, that peak must come by the 2030s.

A poll of 200 climate experts for the Guardian earlier this year found that most of them expected a temperature rise of 3C-4C by the end of the century.

The implications of a 4C rise on agriculture, water supplies and wildlife will be discussed at the Oxford conference, which organisers have billed as the first to properly consider such a dramatic scenario.

Mark New, a climate expert at Oxford who has organised the conference, said: "If we get a weak agreement at Copenhagen then there is not just a slight chance of a 4C rise, there is a really big chance. It's only in the last five years that scientists have started to realise that 4C is becoming increasingly likely and something we need to look at seriously." Limiting global warming to 2C could only be achieved with new technology to suck greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. "I think the policy makers know that. I think there is an implicit understanding that they are negotiating not about 2C but 3C or 5C."

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Australians back climate action

Sydney Morning Herald, September 28, 2009
THREE-QUARTERS of Australians believe that the price of fossil fuels should be increased to deal with climate change and 92 per cent believe a legally binding global climate deal is urgent and should be made at the conference to be held in Copenhagen in December.
Their views are echoed by people from most other countries who took part in a simultaneous global consultation on climate change at the weekend organised by the Danish Board of Technology.
The project, Worldwide Views on Global Warming, had demographically representative groups of citizens deliberating in 38 countries, sending strong messages to their political leaders on the issue of climate change action.
Chinese bucked the trend, with only 51 per cent believing a global deal should be made at the United Nations climate conference. This compared with 90 per cent of Americans, 67 per cent of Russians and 91 per cent of Indonesians.
A surprisingly consistent majority (about two-thirds to three-quarters) in most countries believed that fossil fuel prices should be increased, although about half the respondents in China and Indonesia believed prices should be increased only in high-income countries.
Russia was an exception, with a significant minority of 36 per cent against any regulation of prices.
An overwhelming majority of respondents globally (Australia 94 per cent, Indonesia 92 per cent, US 90 per cent, China 89 per cent and Russia 86 per cent) believed their government should give high priority to joining any deal made in Copenhagen.
Worldwide, 4400 people took part in the consultation.
Kelsey Munro

End to fossil fuel subsidy won't affect Australia

Sydney Morning Herald, September 28, 2009
WASHINGTON: The Government and the Opposition have both rushed to stress that the G20's agreement to end billions of dollars' worth of global subsidies on fossil fuels will have no effect on Australia.
The Treasurer, Wayne Swan, said yesterday he did not believe the phasing out of subsidies was an issue for Australia.
''We are putting a price on carbon via the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme and we are, of course, putting in place transitional assistance for both households and industry over time.
''But I don't believe it has implications for us,'' Mr Swan told theMeet The Press program.
''It is aimed particularly at some massive subsidies elsewhere in the world which do need to be removed over time.''
In Australia it has been argued that big state government contributions to the cost of mining companies getting their coal to ports amount to a significant subsidy.
But the biggest subsidy comes in the form of the concessional fringe benefits tax treatment of company-provided cars.
The Opposition's spokesman on emissions trading, Ian Macfarlane, said Australia would not be affected by the recommendation for an end to subsidies.
''We do not subsidise fossil fuels'' as some countries did, he said. T he G20 move showed how far ahead Australia already was.
''For Australia really our focus is on how we lower the emissions from fossil fuels, particularly in relation to coal, how we progress with our emission coal technology but also in terms of energy efficiency and using more efficient motor cars.''
On Friday, G20 leaders committed to phasing out fossil fuel subsidies over the medium term and asked finance ministers to report back at the next meeting in Canada next June.
The OECD and the International Energy Association have estimated that if fossil fuel subsidies were eliminated by 2020, greenhouse gas emissions would be reduced by 10 per cent by 2050 - the year in which the world has pledged to cut emissions by between 50 and 80 per cent.
The main target of the changes are some developing nations that directly subsidise the cost of petrol as part of their social welfare and economic development policies.
The cost of fuel in Mexico, Indonesia and India is kept at artificially low levels because of government programs driving its use. But developed nations also have several indirect subsidies which drive the use of fossil fuels.
According to Chris Reidy, a researcher at the Institute for Sustainable Development, who did his PhD on subsidies to fossil fuel industries, Australia is not a huge offender. Nonetheless, it forgoes about $9 billion a year in tax revenues and the biggest concession is through the treatment of company cars, at a cost of $1.1 billion in 2007 dollars.
Mr Macfarlane said the Coalition's first challenge was to see if it could delay the vote on the Government's emissions trading legislation until after the Copenhagen climate change meeting.
''It's simply crazy to rush ahead of countries like the US, Canada, the EU, in fact, all the G20 countries'', which would not have legislation in place by Copenhagen, he told the Nine Network.
''So our challenge is to firstly see if we can talk Kevin Rudd into common sense and then secondly, if we can't do that, to put forward practical amendments that will protect jobs and industries in Australia.''
with Brendan Nicholson

Friday, September 25, 2009

Climate Change Speeding Toward Irreversible Tipping Points

Environment News Service, 25 September 2009
WASHINGTON, DC, September 25, 2009 (ENS) - The speed and scope of global warming is now overtaking even the most sobering predictions of the last report of the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change, finds a new report issued by the United Nations Environment Programme, entitled "Climate Change Science Compendium 2009."

A set of facts compiled in association with scientists around the world, the report comes less than 75 days before the crucial UN climate convention meeting in Copenhagen. There world leaders are expected to agree on a new treaty limiting greenhouse gas emissions to replace the Kyoto Protocol, which expires at the end of 2012.

This new analysis of the latest, peer-reviewed science indicates that many predictions at the upper end of the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change's forecasts are becoming more likely. Some events thought likely to occur in the long-term are already happening or will happen far sooner than had previously thought, the report shows.

The report underlines concern by scientists that the planet is now committed to damaging and irreversible impacts as a result of the greenhouse gases already in the atmosphere.

The growth in carbon dioxide emissions from energy and industry has exceeded even the most fossil-fuel intensive scenario developed by the IPCC at the end of the 1990s. Global emissions were growing by 1.1 percent each year from 1990-1999 and this accelerated to 3.5 percent per year from 2000-2007.

Yet the scientists documented in the Compendium suggest that it may still be possible to avoid the most catastrophic impacts of climate change, but only if there is immediate, cohesive and decisive action to both cut emissions and assist vulnerable countries to adapt.

In his foreword to the Compendium, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon writes, "The science has become more irrevocable than ever: Climate change is happening. The evidence is all around us. And unless we act, we will see catastrophic consequences including rising sea-levels, droughts and famine, and the loss of up to a third of the world's plant and animal species."

"We need a new global agreement to tackle climate change, and this must be based on the soundest, most robust and up-to-date science available," writes the secretary-general. "We need the world to realize, once and for all, that the time to act is now and we must work together to address this monumental challenge. This is the moral challenge of our generation."

UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said, "Many governments have asked to be kept abreast of the latest findings. I am sure that this report fulfils that request and will inform ministers' decisions when they meet in the Danish capital in only a few weeks time."

The Compendium reviews 400 major scientific contributions to the understanding of Earth systems and climate change that have been released through peer-reviewed literature, or from research institutions, over the past three years.

It shows that researchers have become increasingly concerned about ocean acidification due to the absorption of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide in seawater and its impact on shellfish and coral reefs. Water that can corrode a shell-making substance called aragonite is already welling up along the California coast, decades earlier than predicted.

The observed increase in greenhouse gas concentrations is raising concern among some scientists that warming of between 1.4 and 4.3 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial surface temperatures could occur.

This exceeds the range of between one and three degrees perceived as the threshold for many "tipping points," including the end of summer Arctic sea ice, and the eventual melting of Himalayan glaciers and the Greenland ice sheet.

There is growing concern among some scientists that thresholds or tipping points may now be reached in a matter of years or a few decades, including dramatic changes to the Indian sub-continent's monsoon rains, the Sahara and West Africa monsoons, and climate systems affecting the Amazon rainforest.

The report indicates losses of tropical and temperate mountain glaciers affecting from 20 to 25 percent of the world's population in terms of drinking water, irrigation and hydro-power.

Shifts in the hydrological cycle are projected to result in the disappearance of regional climates with related losses of ecosystems, species and the spread of drylands northwards and southwards away from the equator.

Until the summer of 2007, most models projected an ice-free September for the Arctic Ocean towards the end of the current century. Reconsideration based on current trends has led to speculation that this could occur as soon as 2030.

Losses from glaciers, ice-sheets and the Polar Regions appear to be happening faster than anticipated, and melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet surface also seems to be accelerating. In the summer of 2007, the rate of melting was some 60 percent higher than the previous record in 1998.

Some scientists are now warning that sea levels could rise by up to two meters (6.5 feet) by 2100, drowning low-lying countries and coastal cities.

The loss of ice from West Antarctica is estimated to have increased by 60 percent in the decade to 2006, and by 140 percent from the Antarctic Peninsula in the same period.

Recent findings show that warming extends south of the Antarctic Peninsula, to cover most of West Antarctica, an area of warming much larger than previously reported.

The hole in the ozone layer has had a cooling effect on Antarctica, and is partly responsible for masking expected warming on the continent. The report warns that recovery of stratospheric ozone, due to the phasing out of ozone-depleting substances, is projected to increase Antarctic temperatures in coming decades.

Perennial drought conditions already have been observed in southeastern Australia and southwestern North America. Projections in the Compendium suggest that persistent water scarcity will increase in southern and northern Africa, the Mediterranean, much of the Middle East, a broad band across Central Asia and the Indian subcontinent.

A recent study projecting the impacts of climate change on the pattern of marine biodiversity suggests that ecosystems in sub-polar waters, the tropics and semi-enclosed seas will suffer numerous extinctions by 2050, while the Arctic and Southern Oceans will experience severe species invasions.

Marine ecosystems as a whole may see a species turnover of up to 60 percent, the Compendium indicates.

Up to 39 percent of the Earth's land surface could experience previously unknown climate conditions by 2100 and existing climates could disappear over as much as 48 percent of the planet's land surface.

Many of these "disappearing climates" coincide with biodiversity hotspots, and with the added problem of fragmented habitats and physical obstructions to migration, scientists project that many species will struggle to adapt to the new conditions.

Managing the effects of intensified global warming will require new measures, the Compendium indicates.

Management alternatives suggested include large-scale translocation or assisted colonization of species; eco-agriculture, in which landscapes are managed to sustain a range of ecosystem services, including food production; and the use of biochar, biologically-derived charcoal that is mixed in soils, increasing fertility and potentially locking up carbon for centuries.

Experts increasingly agree that active protection of tropical forests is a cost-effective means of cutting global emissions. An international mechanism of reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, REDD, is likely to emerge as a central component of a new agreement in Copenhagen.

Still, many issues need to be resolved, such as how to verify the reductions and ensure fair treatment of local and indigenous forest communities.

To download the full report, visit: