News / Science & Technology

UN Chief Warns of Perils Ahead of Climate Change Conference

Suzanne Presto
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says climate change poses a "clear and urgent" challenge the international community must address. Negotiators from nearly 200 countries, including the United States, will meet in Doha, Qatar, for a U.N. climate change summit later this month, November 26 to December 7.

The first decade of this century was the hottest on record, and the vast majority of scientists attribute the changes to greenhouse gases that trap heat in the lower atmosphere. Those gases can be generated naturally or emitted by human activities, such as the burning of fossil fuels.   

Extreme weather due to climate change is "the new normal," said U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon earlier this month.

"Our challenge remains clear and urgent - to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, to strengthen adaptation to the even larger climate shocks we know are on the way no matter what we do, and to reach a legally-binding climate agreement by 2015 as states agreed to do last year [at the climate change conference] in Durban," said Ban.

The existing agreement to reduce emissions is called the "Kyoto Protocol," and its adoption in 1997 set binding targets for industrialized countries. The first commitment period expires at the end of this year, and negotiators will work on an extension at the climate conference in Doha.

The United States is not a party to the agreement, but President Barack Obama said the U.S. has taken steps to reduce emissions. Obama said the U.S. has doubled the production of clean energy and doubled fuel efficiency standards for cars and trucks in the past four years.

"I am a firm believer that climate change is real, that it is impacted by human behavior and carbon emissions. And as a consequence, I think we've got an obligation to future generations to do something about it," said the president.

Obama said the U.S. will not try to curb climate change at the expense of economic growth.

The Kyoto Protocol does not require developing countries to reduce emissions. That includes China, the world's largest greenhouse gas emitter.

Scientists have long warned about the dangers of ignoring the changing climate, said Ban.

"Our own eyes can see what is happening. There can be no looking away, no persisting with business as usual, no hoping the threat will diminish or disappear," said Ban.

Most climate scientists agree that human activities play a role in climate change.

But they debate how much these activities affect the planet, said Patrick Michaels, a climate scientist with the Cato Institute in Washington.

"If you look at the temperature history, there are two warmings that occur. One is from about 1910 to about 1945. That could not have much to do with carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases because we hadn't put very many in the atmosphere by then. The second one begins around 1977 and ends in the late 1990s. Both warmings are of the same magnitude," said Michaels.

Some industrialized nations say future agreements to limit emissions should apply to all major economies.

You May Like

Video In US, Columbus Day Still Generates Controversy

Holiday marks date Columbus discovered Americas, but some are offended by legacy because he enslaved many natives he encountered More

Video Through Sports, Austria Tries to Give Migrants Traction

With 85,000 people expected to claim asylum in Austria this year, its government has made integration through joint physical activities a key objective More

Video Kickboxing Champion Shares Sport With Young Migrants

Pouring into Europe by hundreds of thousands, some migrants, especially youngsters, are finding sports a way to integrate into new host countries More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Climate Change
November 22, 2012 10:07 AM
Dangers of ignoring the changing climate mean precious little in Zimbabwe, given what they have been through and are currently experiencing, especially with impending elections. It is hoped the UN doen't lose its focus then and concentrate on climate change?mmmmm or the DRC.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemeni
Henry Ridgwell
October 12, 2015 4:03 PM
The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemen

The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video No Resolution in Sight to US House Speaker Drama

Uncertainty grips the U.S. Congress, where no consensus replacement has emerged to succeed Republican House Speaker John Boehner after his surprise resignation announcement. Half of Congress is effectively leaderless weeks before America risks defaulting on its national debt and enduring another partial government shutdown.

Video New Art Exhibit Focuses on Hope

Out of struggle and despair often comes hope. That idea is behind a new art exhibit at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. "The Big Hope Show" features 25 artists, some of whom overcame trauma and loss. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Columbus Day Still Generates Controversy as US Holiday

The second Monday of October is Columbus Day in the United States, honoring explorer Christopher Columbus and his discovery of the Americas. The achievement is a source of pride for many, but for some the holiday is marked by controversy. Adrianna Zhang has more.

Video Anger Simmers as Turks Begin to Bury Blast Victims

The Turkish army carried out new air strikes on Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) targets on Sunday, a day after the banned group announced a unilateral cease fire. The air raids apparently are in retaliation for the Saturday bombing in Turkey's capital Ankara that killed at least 95 people and wounded more than 200 others. But as Zlatica Hoke reports, there are suspicions that Islamic State is involved.

Video Bombings a Sign of Turkey’s Deep Troubles

Turkey has begun a three-day period of mourning following Saturday’s bomb attacks in the capital, Ankara, that killed nearly 100 people. With contentious parliamentary elections three weeks away, the attacks highlight the challenges Turkey is facing as it struggles with ethnic friction, an ongoing migrant crisis, and growing tensions with Russia. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Afghanistan’s Progress Aided by US Academic Center

Recent combat in Afghanistan has shifted world attention back to the central Asian nation’s continuing civil war and economic challenges. But, while there are many vexing problems facing Afghanistan’s government and people, a group of academics in Omaha, Nebraska has kept a strong faith in the nation’s future through programs to improve education. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Omaha, Nebraska.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video In 'He Named Me Malala,' Guggenheim Finds Normal in Extraordinary

Davis Guggenheim’s documentary "He Named Me Malala" offers a probing look into the life of 18-year-old Malala Yousafsai, the Pakistani teenager who, in 2012, was shot in the head by the Taliban for standing up for her right to education in her hometown in Pakistan's Swat Valley. Guggenheim shows how, since then, Malala has become a symbol not as a victim of brutal violence, but as an advocate for girls’ education throughout the world. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.

Video Paintable Solar Cells May Someday Replace Silicon-Based Panels

Solar panels today are still factory-manufactured, with the use of some highly toxic substances such as cadmium chloride. But a researcher at St. Mary’s College, Maryland, says we are close to being able to create solar panels by painting them on a suitable surface, using nontoxic solutions. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs