Delegates attending the Third World Climate Conference in Geneva have presented an apocalyptic vision of the future if nations do not enact strong measures to stop climate change. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon launched a two-day high-level segment by warning the planet faces environmental, social and political disaster if the world's climate is not stabilized.
Outside the Conference Center, a Swiss couple dressed in traditional garb, play the mournful tones of the Alpine Horn. They are alerting delegates who are arriving that Switzerland's mighty glaciers are melting, putting at risk its famed ski resorts.
"The Arctic is warming faster than anywhere else on Earth. It may be virtually ice-free by 2030," said Ban.
Ban just returned from a trip to the Arctic, where he says he witnessed the sober reality of climate change with his own eyes.
"It has been said that the Arctic is our barometer, the canary in the coal mine. But, it is much more than that," he said. "Changes in the Arctic are accelerating global climate change."
The U.N. Chief told delegates at the conference that time is running out to seal a deal on cutting greenhouse gas emissions. Only three months remain before governments meet in Copenhagen to achieve a climate change agreement to replace the 1997 Kyoto Protocol on gas emissions.
He says increased melt from the Greenland ice cap threatens to raise sea levels and alter the flow of the Gulf Stream that keeps Europe warm. He warns the world is heading towards an abyss.
"We are not just changing the environment. Climate change is altering the geopolitical landscape," added Ban. "We see this in the new scramble for Arctic resources as the Northwest and Northeast passages open up. We see it in increased migration from the dry lands that are home to two-billion people. And, we see it in rising sea levels."
Ban notes scientists have been accused for years of scare-mongering. But the real scare-mongers, he says, are those who say nations cannot afford climate action, that it will hold back economic growth.
He calls these critics wrong. He says climate change could spell widespread economic disaster. And, investing to achieve emissions targets now will cost a lot less than it will later. He urges a shift to so-called "green" technologies.