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5 Dec, 2007

Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide Levels Highest On Record

In 2006, globally averaged concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere reached their highest levels ever recorded, according to the World Meteorological Organization’s (WMO) 2006 Greenhouse Gas Bulletin.

A series of  dispatches on the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change conference in Bali.

In this dispatch:











GENEVA (World Meteorological Organization) – In 2006, globally averaged concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere reached their highest levels ever recorded. The World Meteorological Organization’s (WMO) 2006 Greenhouse Gas Bulletin, published Nov 23, says it reached 381.2 parts per million (ppm), up 0.53 per cent from 379.2 ppm in 2005. The information is based on observations from the WMO Global CO2 and CH4 Monitoring Network, a comprehensive climate network recognized by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

The latest Bulletin precedes the 50th Anniversary of the Global Carbon Dioxide Record Symposium and Celebration (Kona, Hawai, 28-30 November 2007), co-sponsored by WMO, and WMO’s participation in the 13th session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (Bali, Indonesia, 3-14 December 2007).

After water vapour, carbon dioxide, methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O) are the three most prevalent greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere respectively. Greenhouse gases are major drivers of global warming and climate change. Concentrations of N2O also reached record highs in 2006, up 0.25 per cent from 319.2 parts per billion (ppb) to 320.1 ppb while methane remained almost unchanged at 1782 ppb.

The 36 per cent rise in CO2 since the late 1700s has largely been generated by emissions from the combustion of fossil fuels. Around one third of N2O discharged into the air is a result of human activities such as fuel combustion, biomass burning, fertilizer use and some industrial processes. Human activity such as fossil fuel exploitation, rice agriculture, biomass burning, landfills and ruminant farm animals account for some 60 per cent of atmospheric CH4, with natural processes including those produced by wetlands and termites responsible for the remaining 40 per cent.

Accurate atmospheric observations made globally by some 44 WMO Members are archived and distributed by the World Data Centre for Greenhouse Gases (WDCGG), located at the Japan Meteorological Agency. WMO prepares the Greenhouse Gases Bulletin in cooperation with WDCGG and the Global Atmosphere Watch Scientific Advisory Group for Greenhouse Gases with the assistance of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Earth System Research Laboratory (NOAA-ESRL).

A remarkable development in 2007 was the launch by the United States’ National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) of CarbonTracker, a global carbon cycle modelling tool that converts surface-based global greenhouse gas observations into best estimates of global distribution in the atmosphere and the net air-surface exchange of carbon dioxide.

For the full Bulletin: http://www.wmo.int/pages/prog/arep/gaw/ghg/ghgbull06_en.html

Information about the CO2 -50 Years celebration & Symposium on the global carbon dioxide record: http://www.wmo.int/pages/mediacentre/news_members/newsfromMembers_en.html and http://www.co2conference.org



Paris, 4 December 2007 – The impact of climate change and urban development could more than triple the number of people around the world exposed to coastal flooding by 2070, according to a new report by the OECD, co-authored by experts from academia and the private sector. Ranking port cities with high exposure and vulnerability to climate extremes finds that around 150 million people could be exposed to a 1 in 100 year coastal flood event by 2070, up from 40 million today. The estimated financial impact of such an event would also rise to USD 35 trillion by 2070, up from USD 3 trillion today.

Speaking in advance of his visit to the UN Climate Change conference in Bali, OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría emphasised the need for countries to act now to address the economic challenge of climate change. “Climate change is already happening, and concerted action is needed now to prevent its worst impacts” he said. To tackle it, “a range of economic policy options is available and political commitment is needed to implement them.”

The study analyses the exposure of people and property and infrastructure to a 1-in-100 year flood event in over 130 key port cities worldwide. A 1-in-100 year flood event is a commonly accepted risk assessment standard. The study aims to help policy makers determine where to focus adaptation strategies to climate extremes and to understand the potential benefits of mitigation policy. It is the first in a series of OECD reports looking at the economic impact of climate change on cities.

In its estimate of the impact of climate change, the study assumes mean sea level rise of 0.5 meters by 2070. This estimate includes the contributions from melting ice sheets that have proved important over recent decades and is consistent with a medium to high risk scenario.

Mitigation strategies will slow and limit the exacerbating effects of climate change on coastal flood risk, the report notes. This will bring precious time for cities to implement adaptation measures. Studies show that putting effective coastal defences in place can take 30 years or more. Adaptation will have to move to the top of the policy agenda today if it is to make a difference tomorrow.

Around half of the total population exposure to coastal flooding caused by storm surge and damage from high winds is contained in just ten cities today. Mumbai has the highest number of people exposed to coastal flooding. But by 2070, Kolkata (Calcutta) will be the most vulnerable, with the exposed population expected to increase over seven times to more than 14 million people.

Over the coming decades, the unprecedented growth and development of the Asian mega-cities will be a key factor in driving the increase in coastal flood risk globally. In terms of population exposure, Kolkata is closely followed by Mumbai, Dhaka, Guangzhou, Ho Chi Minh City, Shanghai, Bangkok and Rangoon (Myanmar). Miami is in ninth place and would be the only top ten city in a currently developed country, while Hai Phong in Vietnam is ranked tenth.

The cities with the highest value of property and infrastructure assets exposed to coastal flooding today are primarily in developed countries. Miami is the most exposed city today and will remain so in 2070, with exposed assets rising from approximately US$400 billion today to over US$3.5 trillion. By 2070, eight of the most exposed cities will be in Asia. Guangzhou is the second most exposed city in terms of assets, followed by New York, Kolkata, Shanghai, Mumbai, Tianjin, Tokyo, Hong Kong, and Bangkok, respectively.

Download an executive summary: [http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/16/10/39721444.pdf]



Source: http://www.foe.co.uk/resource/press_releases/airlines_flying_longer_dis_03122007.html

Friends of the Earth has expressed strong concern following BBC revelations that some airlines are avoiding air traffic control charges by flying longer, more indirect routes to and from the UK, and consequently pumping out more environmentally damaging carbon dioxide. Aviation is the UK’s fastest growing source of carbon dioxide emissions, and scientists have warned that air travel alone could be responsible for all of Britain’s carbon dioxide emissions target by 2050.

Friends of the Earth is also calling on the Government to include Britain’s share of international aviation and shipping emissions in its climate change bill, which is currently being discussed by Parliament. Friends of the Earth has led the campaign for the proposed new law which will be the first national legislation anywhere in the world to set legally-binding targets for cutting carbon dioxide emissions.

Richard Dyer, Friends of the Earth’s aviation campaigner said: “Despite their green claims, some airlines are clearly causing unnecessary pollution, and increasing their contribution to climate change. Action must be taken to stop this outrageous practice by removing these incentives to pollute.

“Unless we tackle growing emissions from the aviation industry UK targets for tackling climate change are unlikely to be met. There should be a freeze on airport expansion, and increased investment in high-speed rail, to provide a real alternative to short-haul flights. And Britain’s share of international aviation emissions must be included in the Government’s new climate change law.”

[1] http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/7124021.stm



New York, Dec 3 2007 – The UN World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has brought together more than 100 experts for the first international symposium on public weather services to discuss how to help protect communities from natural disasters and the adverse impact of climate change [http://www.wmo.ch/pages/index_en.html]. The three-day symposium, which started today in Geneva, is tasked with preparing a road map to help the national meteorological and hydrological services of countries deliver more useful, effective and relevant information about the weather to their customers. WMO said the estimated 120 symposium participants will analyze existing gaps in the service delivery of weather information providers, as well as the strengths of public weather services.

“Much has been done to raise awareness among governments on the importance of such services,” WMO said. “But, despite very good forecasts and warnings being available, people still die from weather-related hazards.” The agency said both governments and the general public need further education to better understand and use weather forecasts, particularly in case of emergencies following natural disasters. Already WMO is launching two-year pilot projects in Latin America, Africa and Asia to help poor countries in those regions improve their public weather services.



New York, Dec 3 2007 — The humanitarian situation in Bangladesh in the wake of last month’s devastating Cyclone Sidr is much worse than previously understood, United Nations aid agencies said today after revising their estimates of the number of people affected and the scale of the damage to homes and other infrastructure.

More than 8.5 million people are now estimated to have been affected by the storm, about 1.5 million more than originally thought, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). It said more funds may be needed from donors to help authorities cope with the situation. <http://ochaonline.un.org/Default.aspx?tabid=1080>

“As more information becomes available, an even grimmer reality is being revealed,” OCHA said in a press statement, noting that about 2.6 million Bangladeshis across nine districts of the South Asian delta country still need immediate life-saving assistance.

The death toll has increased slightly to 3,268, the number of people considered missing is 872 and the number of injured has been revised upward by 5,000 to almost 40,000. The material damage is also more severe than understood: nearly 564,000 homes have been completely destroyed, a leap of 200,000 on earlier reports, while another 885,280 houses have been damaged.

OCHA said at least 1.25 million livestock have been confirmed killed, more than twice the previous estimate, and the area of cropland damaged has risen to 2 million acres. Food, shelter and cash remain the three highest priority areas for emergency assistance, according to the latest UN humanitarian assessments, but sanitation, drinking water, electricity and livelihood assistance are also seen as critical.

So far the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) has disbursed $14.7 million to help with relief efforts in the most affected areas of Bangladesh, while international donors have contributed over $143 million <http://ochaonline2.un.org/Default.aspx?tabid=7480>. But OCHA said even more money could be needed to storm-affected Bangladeshis given the rising tolls and the identification of new needs among the population.



Beppu, Oita Prefecture, Japan — Water problems in the Asia Pacific region are severe, with one out of five people in the region not having access to safe drinking water, and half of the population without access to adequate sanitation. In addition, the region has increasingly suffered from water-related disasters.

Unless something is done soon, the severe water problems across the Asia-Pacific region will considerably worsen under the influence of climate change. This was the message from several Heads of State attending the first day of the 1st Asia-Pacific Water Summit [http://www.apwf.org/index.html].

Climate variability and change is already affecting water resources and their management in many parts of the region, as notably illustrated by the large-scale retreat of Himalayan glaciers and the growing threat of sea level rise to small island countries and low-lying areas.

Prime Minister of the Royal Government of Bhutan, His Excellency Lyonpo Dr. Kinzang Dorji, raised the effects of climate change faced by his country and brought about by global warming. “Our glaciers are rapidly receding thereby posing grave threats to human settlements in the downstream valleys caused by events such as the glacial lake outbursts and flash floods”, he explained.

The specific vulnerability to climate change for small islands was highlighted by the President Federated States of Micronesia, Mr. Emanuel Mori: “While we are blessed, with our natural surroundings, we are also faced today with daunting challenges that have now come to characterize how we, as small islands developing states, interact in the global arena. Climate change is the new buzz word around the globe, and it has now taken its rightful place at the forefront of the global agenda. There is no longer doubt in anyone’s mind that the adverse impacts of climate change are real and already happening”.

Representing another small island country, the President of Palau, Mr. Tommy Esang Remengesau, illustrated “how every country, no matter how large or small, depends for its very existence and livelihood on the availability of fresh water. Just as we must carefully manage our marine resources, we must carefully protect and manage our freshwater sources” he said, adding that “while it seems to rain a lot in Palau, we simply cannot count on freshwater literally falling from the sky and solving our water management problems.”

President Ludwig Scotty of Nauru, a country frequently plagued by water shortages due to the occurrence of extended periods of droughts, pointed out that studies and assessments to identify alternate water sources and the formulation of a master sanitation plan were examples of initiatives taking place in his country, as part of its wider strategy to improve water resources management and protection of the groundwater. He stressed that “although these activities have helped to strengthen and improve the overall governance of water on Nauru, much more needs to be done, particularly in the area of adaptation and mitigation to climate change”.

Palau is also aware of the necessity to prepare for natural disaster emergencies involving water. The large number of drought and tropical storms hitting small islands in recent years has significantly increased the need and demand for services of our National Disaster Management Offices.

Mr Tommy Esang Remengesau said explained that this office works closely with the private sector and civil society to ensure that national water rationing would be effectively enforced during times of drought. We need greater capacity in this area, as management of water resources in times of natural disasters must be addressed at the earliest possible time.

Mr. Remengesau concluded that “there is no more important topic than assuring an adequate and safe water supply to our region. The Summit’s priority themes, water financing, water related disaster management and water for development and ecosystems, encompass the urgent water issues and needs of the region well”.

Niue’s Premier Mr. Young Vivian strongly urged “those countries that are still yet to ratify the Kyoto Protocol to do so. It is the only means that is currently in place to address Adverse Impacts of Climate Change particularly on the small island states and low lying coastal areas of most developing countries”.

He further exclaimed that “already we have approximately 655 million people in the Asia Pacific Region that have no access to safe drinking water. To add more to that number as a result of the adverse impacts of Climate Change will pose a very difficult challenge for our governments to address now and in the future”.

The Asia-Pacific is the most vulnerable region in the world with regards to water-related disasters that hinder sustainable development and poverty reduction. Between 1960 and 2006, over 600 thousand casualties were recorded, accounting for over 80% of casualties from water-related disasters worldwide, in addition to US$8 billion worth of economic damage during the same period. Severe water-related disaster events such as floods, droughts, tsunamis, windstorms, landslides, storm-surges, water-born diseases and epidemics have escalated since the turn of the 21st century.

The Asia-Pacific Water Forum (APWF) is working to increase the region’s access to improved water supplies and sanitation, protect and restore river basins, and reduce people’s vulnerability to water-related disasters. The APWF champions efforts aimed at boosting investments, building capacity, increasing public outreach and enhancing cooperation in the water sector at the regional level.



BEPPU, JAPAN – Asian Development Bank (ADB) President Haruhiko Kuroda has called on all Asia-Pacific countries to make a fundamental change in the way they manage water to build a sustainable future. “We need to change the way we think about water – change to a broader perspective that considers all facets of economic and social development,” said Mr. Kuroda in his address to the first Asia-Pacific Water Summit.

ADB regards better water management as a crucial challenge for the Asia and Pacific region, where more than 600 million people lack access to safe drinking water and 2 billion people have inadequate, or are without, sanitation facilities.

Energy, food, environment and industrial policies are all intimately linked to water. Policies in all these areas will similarly be influenced by external forces like demographic transitions, advances in technology and communication, globalization and free trade. “All of these factors must be considered holistically in order to build a sustainable future toward and beyond Millennium Development Goals,” Mr. Kuroda said.

Calling for strong political will and practical, forward-looking actions, Mr. Kuroda stressed the need to move water higher up on the local, national, regional and international policy agendas. He noted that most of the region’s water problems are solvable through more appropriate planning and management. Specific solutions will vary according to each country’s particular circumstances.

However, Mr. Kuroda said, some fundamentals can apply across the board: reliable, accessible data on water; related social, economic and environmental factors; strong partnerships among governments, the private sector, civil society and others; water quality management; and capacity building for new skills, new approaches and new mindsets.

ADB expects to sharply increase its investments in the water sector through its Water Financing Program, which directs funds, reforms and capacity development programs at rural communities, cities and river basins. ADB published the Asia Water Development Outlook on November 29 – a report that assesses the region’s current and future water problems and proposes the policy measures that can help solve them. Download: [http://www.adb.org/Documents/Books/AWDO/2007/AWDO.pdf]



Bali/Nairobi, 4 December 2007— The way farmers in the Sudan, flood-prone communities in Argentina and disease-challenged islands in the Caribbean are beginning to adapt to climate change are distilled in a new report launched today. The five-year Assessments of Impacts and Adaptations to Climate Change provides new and inspiring examples of how vulnerable communities and countries may ‘climate proof’ economies in the years and decades to come.

In doing so, the assessments lay a foundation upon which at-risk nations and the international community can build and fund a credible and timely response to the climate change that is already underway.


The report underlines that factoring climate into development strategies is do-able but that in some cases hard choices may have to be made. In a modern re-run of Aesop’s famous fable, it highlights the case of tortoise and the rabbit rather than hare.

One study in South Africa’s world famous Cape Floral Kingdom—a unique and economically important ecosystem—indicates that climate change is likely to increase the risk of extinction of the highly endangered riverine rabbit.

However, adaptation measures might conserve the padloper tortoise highlighting how across sectors—from biodiversity to agriculture, water and infrastructure—investments in adaptation will need to be intelligently and cost-effectively targeted.

The more than $9 million assessment has been funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF), implemented by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and executed by the START secretariat in Washington DC and TWAS, the Academy of Science for the Developing World in Trieste, Italy.

Twenty-four case studies were carried out under the AIACC project, including eleven in Africa. They encompass food security in the Sahel; smallholder farmers and artisanal fishing communities in South America; coastal townships of small islands in the Pacific; pastoralists in Mongolia; rice farmers in the lower Mekong basin.

More than 350 scientists, experts and ‘stakeholders’ from 150 institutions in 50 developing countries and 12 developed ones took part. Pilot adaptation programmes have been drawn up in some cases and some of these have already been tested with many encouraging results.

The findings, stories and recommendations from the AIACC case studies are presented in two newly published books, Climate Change and Vulnerability and Climate Change and Adaptation. Results of the project are also summarized in the final technical report and detailed in a number of supporting reports available at www.start.org.


A key success of the assessment has been the increased awareness among the scientists, governments and local communities as to the importance of adaptation. It also highlights in many cases the need to develop early warning systems especially, but not exclusively in Africa, where weather and climate monitoring networks remain sparse, under funded or poorly maintained.

Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director, said: “2007 has, as a result of the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), been a year in which the science of climate change has reached a finality—it is happening, it is unequivocal. 2007 has also seen clear and cost effective strategies for cutting greenhouse gas emissions put on the table from improved energy efficiency in buildings to ones that address deforestation and agriculture,” he added.

“One of the big missing links has been adaptation, both in terms of adaptive strategies and in terms of resources for vulnerable communities. This assessment, involving experts across the developed and developing world, lays a solid and much needed foundation—a foundation upon which adaptation can become part of country development plans and built into international assistance including overseas development aid,” said Mr Steiner.

Monique Barbut, Chief Executive Officer and Chairperson of the GEF, said: “The GEF has a long history working with the world’s most vulnerable countries that want environmentally-friendly ways to adapt to changing climate without sacrificing key development goals”.

“As this wide sweeping assessment shows first hand, we are moving forward in a very focused way to weave adaptation strategies into daily practice. GEF money is working today to ensure that food security, access to drinking and irrigation water, sound public health and other basic needs are protected now and into the future,” she added.

Neil Leary of the International START Secretariat in Washington, who along with the Academy of Sciences for the Developing World in Trieste, have executed the project said: “Adaptation to climate hazards is not new. People have always been at risk from the climate and have continually sought ways of adapting. Still, variations and extremes of climate regularly exceed abilities to cope, too often with devastating effect, and give evidence of what has been called an adaptation deficit”.

“Now climate change threatens to widen the deficit, as shown by the AIACC studies. But the AIACC studies also find and document a variety of adaptive practices in use that reduce vulnerability. Building on and improving many of these practices can serve as a good starting point for adapting to the growing risks from climate change. Reducing emissions of the gases that cause climate change is necessary. But adaptation is necessary too,” he added.

The decision to carry out the assessments was at the request of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the IPCC said the peer reviewed reports had made a significant contribution to the IPCC’s landmark fourth assessment report published this year.

Read the rest of the report: http://www.unep.org/Documents.Multilingual/Default.asp?DocumentID=523&ArticleID=5715&l=en

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