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 One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
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.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs