News

    Growing Scientific Consensus on Climate Change Ahead of Copenhagen Conference

    Causes and solutions remain in dispute

    Droughts, floods, hurricanes, typhoons, retreating glaciers, and melting polar ice caps are just some of the occurrences scientists say are becoming more common and intense, or accelerating with alarming speed
    Droughts, floods, hurricanes, typhoons, retreating glaciers, and melting polar ice caps are just some of the occurrences scientists say are becoming more common and intense, or accelerating with alarming speed

    Multimedia

    Michael Bowman

    This month's UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen comes amid growing scientific consensus that global temperatures are rising, and that the warming trend is having a measurable impact on life on the planet. According to a 2007 UN intergovernmental panel report on climate change, 11 of the previous 12 years were the warmest on record. Although disagreements persist on the extent to which human activity is responsible for climate change, the Earth's warming no longer appears in doubt, and the long-term consequences look increasingly grim.

    Searing droughts. Epic floods. Devastating hurricanes and typhoons. Retreating glaciers. Melting polar ice caps. These are just some of the occurrences scientists say are becoming more common and intense, or accelerating with alarming speed.

    In Kenya, the lack of rain this year, decimated livestock and crops. "The drought has become unbearable," a farmer said. "There is no food, we have no water. It is like we have no tomorrow."

    Elsewhere, too much water. Torrential rains in Brazil late last year left dozens dead and thousands homeless.  "My parents have been living here for 58 years, and never saw rain like this," flood victim Osnir Starke stated.

    Even in regions long-accustomed to violent weather, such as the Philippines, the frequency and severity of massive storms is on the rise. Earlier this year, a series of cyclones devastated much of Bangladesh. "It will become impossible to live in this land, if cyclones keep battering us like this, one after the other. We are poor people, and after this third cyclone, we have nothing left," cyclone victim Tajul Islam.

    Are these disasters freak occurrences, or part of a pattern foreshadowing a bleak future for man and animals? No one can say for sure, but some indicators are plain to see. From Alaska to Switzerland to Argentina, glaciers that predate humanity are in rapid retreat. At both of the Earth's poles, ice is melting at what scientists say is an alarming rate, endangering numerous species. Over time, rising sea levels are projected to redraw the boundaries of Earth's terrain, placing atolls and vast stretches of low-lying countries under water.

    Debate continues as to whether human activity alone accounts for climate change, but most scientists list carbon emissions from fossil fuels as a major contributor. Whatever the causes, experts say, the costs of a warming planet will be high -- particularly for the world's poorest and most vulnerable.

    "According to our estimation, 75 percent to 80 percent of the estimated damage will be borne by developing countries," World Bank Chief Economist Justin Lin said. "For the developing country, climate change is something they cannot ignore."

    For years, people around the world have heard increasingly stark warnings from the scientific community about climate change, punctuated by a growing body of anecdotal evidence pointing to a warming planet and worrisome examples of the tragic consequences it could bring. But the warnings and recent events have yet to spark a coordinated, worldwide effort to confront climate change, according to former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, who won the Nobel Peace Prize for his subsequent efforts to raise awareness about global warming.

    "It is up to us to heed those warnings, to react to those warnings, and to take appropriate steps in order to prevent that damage," Mr. Gore said. "We have everything we need to act, except perhaps the political will."

    That political will is sure to be put to the test in Copenhagen.

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growthi
    X
    February 10, 2016 5:54 AM
    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Civil Rights Pioneer Remembers Struggle for Voting Rights

    February is Black History Month in the United States. The annual, month-long national observance pays tribute to important people and events that shaped the history of African Americans. VOA's Chris Simkins reports how one man fought against discrimination to help millions of blacks obtain the right to vote
    Video

    Video Jordanian Theater Group Stages Anti-Terrorism Message

    The lure of the self-styled “Islamic State” has many parents worried about their children who may be susceptible to the organization’s online propaganda. Dozens of Muslim communities in the Middle East are fighting back -- giving young adults alternatives to violence. One group in Jordan is using dramatic expression a send a family message. Mideast Broadcasting Network correspondent Haider Al Abdali shared this report with VOA. It’s narrated by Bronwyn Benito
    Video

    Video Migrant Crisis Fuels Debate Over Britain’s Future in EU

    The migrant crisis in Europe is fueling the debate in Britain ahead of a referendum on staying in the European Union that may be held this year. Prime Minister David Cameron warns that leaving the EU could lead to thousands more migrants arriving in the country. Meanwhile, tension is rising in Calais, France, where thousands of migrants are living in squalid camps. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clowns

    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Families Flee Aleppo for Kurdish Regions in Syria

    Not all who flee the fighting in Aleppo are trying to cross the border into Turkey. A VOA reporter caught up with several families heading for Kurdish-held areas of northern Syria.
    Video

    Video Rocky Year Ahead for Nigeria Amid Oil Price Crash

    The global fall in the price of oil has rattled the economies of many petroleum exporters, and Africa’s oil king Nigeria is no exception. As Chris Stein reports from Lagos, analysts are predicting a rough year ahead for the continent’s top producer of crude.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.