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‘We Are Heading Towards an Abyss’

U.N. chief tells 150 governments that time running out on climate change


UN chief Ban Ki-moon (2nd right) talks during a press conference in Longyearbyen, Norway, September 2. The world is accelerating towards a climate catastrophe, Ban has warned, urging rapid progress in talks to cut emissions and tackle global warming. (AFP/Jacqueline Pietsch)

GENEVA - U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon told a meeting of some 150 governments on Thursday that time is running out for a new climate deal to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

The Copenhagen talks in December are looming and little real negotiating time is left "to resolve some of the most complex issues," the U.N. secretary general told the World Climate Conference. "We need rapid progress."

Only limited progress in the climate talks has been made for the meeting to hammer out a new accord to replace the 1997 Kyoto Proto

Meanwhile, climate change is advancing.

"Our foot is stuck on the accelerator and we are heading towards an abyss," said Ban, warning that climate change could spell widespread economic disaster.

He noted that he had just visited the Arctic and was alarmed by what he saw.

"The Arctic is warming faster than anywhere else on Earth," Ban said. "It may be ice-free by 2030."

Not only is the Arctic serving as a warning, the warming there is accelerating global climate change, he said.

"Instead of reflecting heat, the Arctic is absorbing it as the sea ice diminishes, thus speeding up global warming," Ban said. "Methane, trapped in permafrost and on the sea bed, is escaping into the atmosphere. Methane is a greenhouse gas 20 times more powerful than carbon dioxide."

He said the increased melt from the Greenland ice-cap threatens to raise sea levels and alter the flow of the Gulf Stream, essential to keep Europe warm.

The climate conference in Geneva is aimed at providing ways for the world to cope with global warming that will occur because of greenhouse gases already in the atmosphere, regardless of what the Copenhagen meeting achieves.

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