Brussels, 04 Sep 2003
Paul Newman does not star in this version of the longest, hottest summer in living memory for most Europeans. The recent heat wave has rekindled the debate that greenhouse emissions may be accelerating climate change, despite concerted effort to curb them.
In the wake of Europe's hottest summer on record, several of the continent's leading scientists are suggesting the heat wave scorching southern and northern Europe signals climate change attributable to man-made CO2 emission, and they could be accelerating, not slowing. This is in contrast to the worldwide effort to curb greenhouse emissions under the Kyoto protocol.
Professor John Schellnhuber, who is head of the Tyndall Centre, Britain's leading group of climate scientists, is quoted as saying that, at the current pace of global warming, most scientists were predicting that protracted "hot spells", such as that witnessed in recent weeks, should only start to appear in 20 to 30 years' time. "But it's happening now," he told reporters.
Shellnhuber, who is former chief scientific advisor to the German government, is not alone in his alarm at the climatic phenomenon taking place this summer in Europe. Meteorologists report that temperatures across parts of Europe have consistently exceeded seasonal norms for this time of year, close to five degrees Celsius warmer than average for several months now. Have the climate watchers and policy-makers got their sums wrong in only demanding an 8% cut in greenhouse gas emissions below 1990 levels?
It's too darn hot!
"Two of the last five years have topped the charts as the warmest on record, upsetting seasonal patterns – often to devastating effect," according to 'Floods', a forthcoming publication by the Research DG. The evidence is there, but can the current measures for climate control stop this dangerous trend?
As reported in Headlines 2 June, the European Environment Agency's (EEA) mid-2003 report reveals a disturbing trend: "[G]reenhouse gas emissions for 2001 were 1% higher than the previous year. With an annual increase of 0.3% in 2000, this marks the second consecutive year-on-year rise," the report found.
"This means that the [EU] is slipping away from its obligations under the Kyoto protocol to reduce emissions of the six main greenhouse gases to 8% below their 1990 level by 2008-2012. The Union was 3.6% below the 1990 baseline in 1999. By 2001, emissions were only 2.6% lower," it continued.
Environment Commissioner Margot Wallström told delegates at a June conference on climate change that progress has been made, but more needs to be done to reverse this trend.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change at the United Nations, made up of 2000 leading climatologists, predicted temperature increases of up to five degrees over the next century. But with this ceiling already being reached, the upper limit could well be more, between seven and ten degrees, concluded atmospheric scientists at a recent conference in Berlin. "[T]he UN may have underestimated the cooling effect of atmospheric soot, the airborne industrial waste of the past," an article in The Age, 'Heatwave sparks greenhouse alarm', notes.
The article confirms that there is enough evidence suggesting "the heatwave affecting Europe and North America could not be explained by natural causes, such as sunspots or volcanoes…it must be partly due to man-made causes".