Consequences for Arctic in climate change to be dire, Swedish conference says

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Publish date: February 12, 2009

Written by: Anna Kireeva

JOKKMOKK, Sweden – An international conference devoted to the impact of climate change in the Arctic convened in this small Northern Swedish municipality, concluding that the earth faces dangerous consequences from a melting Arctic ice cap that is already well underway.

“All experts are in agreement that the Arctic region is feeling the full force of global warming with all the negative consequences,” said Oxford, England-based environmental writer Mark Lynas, author of the books “Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet,” and “High Tide: The Truth About our Climate Change Crisis.”

Lynas said that within this century, world ocean levels would rise significantly as a result of Greenland’s melting glaciers.

“The most serious threat of sweeping global warming is in the release of methane that comes of melting permafrost in northern regions,” he said, adding that the polar icecap is in danger of disappearing altogether during future summers.

The Jokkmokk conference drew scientists and climate researchers from Scandinavia, Great Britian Russia, Canada and the United States.

But while the Jokkmokk conference restated important issues relative to the consequences of the world’s melting northern ice, it did not seem to take into account that much of the data driving efforts to make deep emissions cuts might not be giving an accurate picture of just how bad things have gotten, as was suggested as a major climate summit held in New Delhi last week.

That summit, which ended on a dour chord, left doubt that countries would be willing to commit to even minimum International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) suggested emissions cuts of 50 to 80 percent by 2050, leaving the planet to the ravages of long term climate damage in exchange for short term savings in the midst of a world financial melt down.

The Kyoto Protocol

By the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012, signatory nations are obligated to reduce CO2 emissions by 5.2 percent in comparison with 1990 levels. European Union counties and Japan must reduce their emissions by 8 percent, and the United States by 7 percent in order to meet this goal. Under the protocol, which Russia signed in 2004, Russia is more or less free of trying to meet the protocols goal as its emissions did not exceed Kyoto limits in 1990.

“The Kyoto Protocol is only the first small step toward preventing global warming, said Wolfgang Mehl, head of the Austrian Climate Alliance. According to Mehl, more serious emissions cuts than are suggested by Kyoto must be affected.

According to IPCC’s data, the average temperature rise between 1990 and 2100 could vary between 1.4 and 5.8 degrees Celsius.

“In order to stabilise the rise of the average temperature on a level of more than two degrees, developed countries must reduce their CO2 emissions by 80 percent by 2050,” said Mehl.

80 percent not enough

But even the 80 percent cuts that Mehl was pushing for in Jokkmokk are already, according to members of the UN Climate Panel and other climate experts who met last week in New Delhi, insufficient.

The Delhi Sustainable Development Summit – one of the run-up gatherings to the Copenhagen climate talks in December, where ambitions are to pen an internationally binding and all encompassing successor to Kyoto – ended on a gloomy note.
Many experts convened there, chiefly the eminent German climatologist Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, who sits on the UN Climate Panel, said world nations must commit to deeper CO2 cuts of 85 to 90 percent by 2050.

Committing to even the 80 percent levels recommended by the IPCC, said Schellnhuber and others, would give the world only a one in five chance of evading the worst that climate change is predicted to dish out.

EU climate policy
In December, the EU officially adopted the so-called “20-20-20” directive on renewable energy. This document says that by 2020, the EU must reduce its emissions by 20 percent compared to 1990 levels, and increase its dependence on renewable energy to 20 percent of its energy mix.

“Overcoming the global climate crisis must be the number one concern of every state.  We already have the capabilities to stop the looming threat by means of renewable energy, increased efficiency in energy production and the introduction of CO2 sequestration technology, which could reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere by 40 percent,” said Nina Lesikhina, energy projects coordinator for Bellona Murmansk.

“An important tool that will lay the foundation for a global climate policy is an emissions trading scheme, as well as active investment in technological development directed at improving the environment,” she said.

Conference recommendations
During the conference young scientists, specialists and students of counties bordering on the Arctic developed a lists of recommendations, which they passed on to representatives of their respective governments.

Specifically, the youth in Arctic regions point to the necessity of sustainable development in northern countries, recycling programmes and creating ecologically cleaner public transport.  

Conference participants also recommended renewable energy received maximum development, reducing the environmental impact of oil and gas drilling, and forbidding the transport of toxic and radioactive waste through the Arctic Ocean.

Anna Kireeva reported and wrote from Jokkmokk, Sweden, and Charles Digges edited, translated and provided additional reporting.