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CLIMATE SCIENCE
UN climate talks open amid 'sobering' typhoon
by Staff Writers
Warsaw (AFP) Nov 11, 2013


Expect increasingly violent cyclones, weather experts warn
Paris (AFP) Nov 11, 2013 - Meteorologists have yet to formally link global warming to typhoons like the one that devastated the Philippines, but they expect increasingly extreme weather phenomena due to a rise in ocean temperatures.

The trail of death and destruction left in the wake of Super Typhoon Haiyan was at the forefront of a new round of United Nations climate talks that opened Monday in Poland, as Philippine authorities warned some 10,000 people may have died.

Haiyan -- the most powerful typhoon to make landfall ever recorded -- swept over the Philippines Friday, just days before the 12-day UN climate talks opened in Warsaw to a slew of warnings about potentially disastrous warming with increasingly extreme weather phenomena.

"There is a tendency of (oceans) warming up and an increase in the intensity of cyclones is part of the risks," said Herve Le Treut, a Paris university professor and climatologist.

Typhoons, hurricanes and cyclones are different names given to the same powerful weather phenomenon according to the region it hits, but meteorologists use the generic term "cyclone" when talking generally about these super storms.

In September, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), mandated by the United Nations to make scientific assessments about the risks of climate change, concluded in a report that it was "virtually certain that the upper ocean... warmed from 1971 to 2010".

It is estimated that temperatures rose by around 0.1 degrees Celsius par decade down to a depth of 75 metres (246 feet), and even warmed a little further down.

Meteorologists believe that the upper ocean also got warmer during the first half of the 20th century, but whether the rise in ocean temperatures is caused by man or by natural changes on the planet is still being debated.

Fabrice Chauvin, a researcher at France's National Centre for Meteorological Research, pointed out that there were no satellites to track cyclones before the 1970s, which has hindered in-depth research on the phenomenon.

The IPCC however said in 2007 that based on climate models, it was "probable" that cyclones would become more intense and generate more rain than before.

Drawing energy from the seas

Cyclones are formed from simple thunderstorms at certain times of the year when the sea temperature is more than 26 degrees Celsius (79 Fahrenheit) down to a depth of 60 metres, and draw their energy from the heat.

Chauvin said that higher temperatures at the surface of oceans would create a bigger source of heat energy for cyclones.

"There will therefore be a tendency to have slightly more violent cyclones," he said, while pointing out that computer-generated climate models nevertheless predict fewer such super storms in the future.

Steven Testelin, a forecaster at national weather service Meteo-France, added that the warming of oceans was "far from uniform".

"Some seas warm up quicker than others, which can lead to more intense cyclones in some areas," he said.

The UN climate talks in Warsaw aim to work towards a deal to cut Earth-warming greenhouse gas emissions, due to be signed in 2015 in Paris, and Haiyan was at the forefront of Monday's opening session.

In an emotional appeal to delegates, Philippine climate negotiator Naderev Sano pledged to fast at the talks until concrete progress is made towards fighting the climate change he blames for the typhoon that battered his own home village.

"What my country is going through as a result of this extreme climate event is madness. The climate crisis is madness. We can stop this madness right here in Warsaw," he said.

"I speak for the countless people who will no longer be able to speak for themselves."

Nations launched a new round of talks Monday for a 2015 deal to cut Earth-warming greenhouse gas emissions, in the aftermath of a devastating Philippines typhoon the UN's climate chief labelled "sobering".

Christiana Figueres urged progress at the notoriously fractious talks amid a slew of new warnings of potentially disastrous global warming as a Filipino negotiator made a tearful undertaking to fast until the talks yield a tangible result.

"What happens in this stadium (talks venue) is not a game. There are not two sides but the whole of humanity. There are no winners and losers, we all either win or lose in the future we make for ourselves," said Figueres, head of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

"The recent very painful events of cyclone Haiyan... have reminded the countries gathered here... of the urgency of coming to a resolution of how all countries are going to collaborate with each other to address climate change in a timely manner."

The meeting was taking place under the weight of many "sobering realities", of which Haiyan in the Philippines was one, said Figueres.

The typhoon is feared to have killed 10,000 people, with Filipino delegate Naderev Sano among those anxiously waiting for news on loved ones.

"In solidarity with my countrymen who are struggling to find food back home and with my brother who has not had food for the last three days... I will now commence a voluntary fasting," he told fellow negotiators as the 12-day talks got underway.

"I will refrain from eating food during this COP (conference of parties) until a meaningful outcome is in sight" -- which could include pledges of money for a Green Climate Fund meant to disburse resources to developing countries for coping with climate change.

Sano was given a standing ovation.

The UN has set a target of limiting global average warming to two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) over pre-Industrial Revolution levels -- at which scientists believe we can avoid the worst effects of climate change.

The world seeks to reach that goal by curbing emissions of invisible, heat-trapping gases from burning fossil fuels which provide the backbone of the world's energy supply today.

Reducing this pollution requires a costly shift to cleaner, more efficient energy, which partly explains why the UN negotiations have been such a battlefield.

Last week, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) said the chances of meeting the two-degree goal were "swiftly diminishing", while the World Meteorological Organisation reported that atmospheric levels of greenhouse gases hit a new record high in 2012.

In September, the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicted global surface temperatures could climb on average by as much as 4.8 C (8.6 F) this century -- a recipe for catastrophic heatwaves, floods, droughts and sea-level rise.

"We are clearly trending towards a substantial increase in the temperature of the surface across the globe," IPCC chairman Rajendra Pachauri told the Warsaw negotiators Monday.

The UNEP has said that in order to contain warming to two degrees C, greenhouse gas emissions must drop to 44 gigatonnes of CO2 equivalent by 2020 and then halve by 2020.

"We must get to global peaking of emissions this decade and to zero net emissions by the second half of this century," said Figueres.

Though the stakes are high, no specific targets have been set for this round of the annual talks, hosted by one of the world's biggest coal polluters just two years before the tortuous global process must deliver a global deal.

Observers hope negotiators will do some legwork for the much-trumpeted agreement, due to be signed in Paris in 2015 for implementation five years later.

The Warsaw talks are scheduled to wrap up on November 22, at ministerial level.

The gloves are expected to come off over help for poorer nations to cope with climate change.

Rich economies have yet to show how they intend to meet a pledge, made back in 2009, to muster $100 billion per year from 2020.

"The tragic aftermath of Supertyphoon Haiyan... serves as a stark reminder of the cost of inaction on climate change and should serve to motivate our work in Warsaw," said the Alliance of Small Island States (Aosis) -- a grouping of countries at high risk of climate change-induced sea level rise.

"Science has confirmed that unless we begin to reduce emissions immediately, the opportunity to keep global warming below the critical 1.5 degree threshold could be irrevocably lost."

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CLIMATE SCIENCE
UN climate talks amid new warnings of dire warming
Paris (AFP) Nov 08, 2013
UN climate talks resume in Warsaw on Monday amid a slew of warnings about a potentially disastrous rise in greenhouse-gas emissions. Though the stakes are high, no specific targets have been set for this round, hosted by one of the world's biggest coal polluters just two years before the tortuous global process must deliver a new deal. "There is no doubt that we have to act and that we h ... read more


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