Climate scientist's 'terrible frustration' at political inertia

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Climate scientist's 'terrible frustration' at political inertia

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Photo “Quelccaya Ice-Cap, Peru”: © Bobby Haas / Getty Images

One of the UN’s top climate experts has described the “terrible frustration” that scientists feel in the run up to the Copenhagen summit.

In an exclusive online interview with euronews, Jean-Pascal van Ypersele complained that urgent calls for action are not being turned into practice: “Many of us are terribly frustrated by the gap that exists between the clarity of our diagnosis, and the lack of global political will to take the ambitious measures that are needed to protect the human population and the ecosystems from excessive climate change.”

Writing ahead of the Copenhagen summit the Belgian professor underlined his call for action with a stark warning: “Climate change is accelerating, and each year without additional measures we will need to reduce global emissions at much higher rates later. It would be much better to start the reductions earlier.”

Van Ypersele is Vice-Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, which in 2007 shared the Nobel Peace Prize with climate campaigner Al Gore. Van Ypersele pointed to the IPCC assessment that to keep the global temperature increase below two degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels would mean radical steps to slash greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50 to 85 percent by 2050, and even more later.

The COP15 meeting aims to outline a new global treaty on cutting emissions which would come into force in the coming decade. “The first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol extends until December 31st, 2012. If we don’t have a ratified agreement in place the next day, parts of the carbon market will collapse,” warned Professor van Ypersele.

Van Ypersele

The physicist from the Université catholique de Louvain is an expert on the interaction of humans with their climate. He draws a direct link between global warming and human suffering. “Most world glaciers are melting. They are beautiful… but what is more important is that they are, in the Himalayas and the Andes, their region’s water towers. Because they feed rivers that are the source of life for one to two billion people, their existence is essential. When they will be melted by global warming, water will only be available in those regions when it rains or snows, and in low latitudes, that is only a few months per year. That effect of climate change might be one of the most dangerous.”

The surge in interest in climate-related reports in the media was applauded by Professor van Ypersele, who sees “much progress in awareness over the past five years”. But again he issued a warning to the public concerning coverage of global warming issues: “One trouble is that there are still powerful economic lobbies that diffuse incorrect information that suits their vested interests. Citizens should learn to be more critical of the information they receive.”

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  • “Quelccaya Ice-Cap, Peru”: © Bobby Haas / Getty Images