Published on Thursday, September 7, 2000 by Agence France-Presse
UN Panel: Global Warming Crisis Worse Than Thought
LYON, France - UN experts on climate change fear that air temperatures which have sparked the global warming crisis may increase by up to five degrees Celsius (10.5 degrees Fahrenheit) over the next century, much more than previously thought.

In a draft review of its data, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has boosted its estimate of the rise in the Earth's air temperature up to 2100, but stands by its prediction of the increase in sea levels this will cause, IPCC chairman Robert Watson said.

Mounting evidence suggests the Earth's atmosphere has been steadily warming for nearly 150 years as a result of carbon gas caused by burning oil, gas and coal.

The increase is projected to continue over the next 100 years -- but exactly how big the rise will be and what effect it will have are matters of deep controversy.

The IPCC, a UN-created network of scientists who collate data on global warming, predicted in its previous report in 1995 that the global air temperature would rise by between one and 3.5 degrees Centigrade (2.1 to 7.2 deg. Fahrenheit) over the next century.

"We've done some new emissions scenarios of different gases. The range is more likely to be one to five degrees degrees Centigrade" (2.1 to 10.5 degrees Fahrenheit), Watson said in an interview with AFP Wednesday.

The updates will be published early in 2001 in a scheduled five-year assessment of the latest data.

However, the estimated effect of a warmer atmosphere remains unchanged, Watson said.

As in 1995, the panel believes sea levels will rise by 15 to 95 centimetres (six to 37 inches), as warmer weather causes the polar ice caps to shrink and the oceans to expand.

Although climatologists agree that the air will be warmer, they remain divided as to how this trend will affect the world's weather, a highly complex, interlocking system of ocean currents and air flows.

Some believe that even figures at the lower end of the IPCC range spell disaster for small island states and low-lying delta regions, which could be drowned.

Darker scenarios predict brutal changes in regional weather, with severe storms and prolonged droughts that will wipe out habitats and create tens of millions of "climate refugees".

Some US conservatives say global warming is a creation of scare-mongering environmentalists that has no basis in fact.

Watson was speaking on the sidelines of negotiations in Lyon among signatories of the Kyoto Protocol, a 1997 agreement that sketches targets for trimming output of fossil-fuel gases by developed countries.

The Lyon talks are the last before final negotiations in The Hague, from November 13-24, that aim to build Kyoto's mechanisms.

The Kyoto process has been hobbled by a rift between Washington and the European Union, with US negotiators ruling out a regulatory approach to curbing greenhouse gases, such as laws to push up petrol prices or promote fuel efficiency.

The United States by itself acounts for about a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions, especially through road traffic.

The IPCC's draft temperature figures are compared to a base of 1990, and are based on a rough doubling of greenhouse gas emissions by 2100 as industrialisation spreads and the world's population increases.

They do not factor in any reduction of greenhouse gases as a result of Kyoto.

The protocol aims to cut these gases by at least 5.2 percent by 2008-12 compared with their 1990 levels, a goal deemed derisory by environmentalists.

Copyright 2000 AFP