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Stakes are High at Climate Summit

The world is now meeting in Poland to tackle global warming - and Earthjustice is there. Read our daily dispatches.

The world is now meeting in Poland to tackle global warming - and Earthjustice is there. Read our daily dispatches.

More than 10,000 people have gathered in Pozna?, Poland this week for the United Nations Climate Change Conference, to advance negotiations that aim to set the world on a path toward a lower carbon future and minimize global warming and its effects on people and the planet. This conference is the critical mid-point between the break-through decision last December to adopt the "Bali Road Map" for an international agreement on climate change, and the 15th Conference of the Parties in Copenhagen next December when the governments are scheduled to seal a deal to address the climate crisis.

The stakes couldn't be higher. Recent reports show that global warming is happening more rapidly than scientists predicted, and that the effects are quicker and more extreme. One after another, representatives of small island states and least-developed countries have said during the opening days of the conference that climate change is already taking a tremendous toll on their people and their environments.

The 2007 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate reaffirmed what people in the Global South see around them every day – the poorest people who are least responsible for climate change are the most vulnerable to its worst effects as global warming exacerbates drought, floods and storms, disease transmission, and food insecurity. And new scientific evidence since that report underlines the need for even greater urgency. More of the Arctic ice cap melted away in summer 2007 than ever before in the history of recorded measurements, and this summer saw a record low in sea ice volume.

Political inaction has kept the world on a business as usual path -- which could lead to temperature increases of 3 to 7 degrees Celsius -- for far too long. To avoid the worst impacts of climate change, the increase in global average temperature must be kept to 2 degrees Celsius or less. In his opening speech, Yvo de Boer, Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC, stressed to the assembled governments and representatives from business, industry and environmental organizations that this conference must "deliver on on-going issues, especially issues that are important to developing countries." This includes delivering on financing and technology transfer so that the developing countries can implement climate mitigation and adaptation efforts, and delivering on ambitious GHG emissions reduction targets for the developed countries.

Although the challenges ahead are enormous, there is clearly a different mood at this conference as the world looks forward to a new administration in Washington that will be a full partner in facing this most urgent of global challenges. As President-elect Barack Obama said: "Now is the time to confront this challenge once and for all. Delay is no longer an option. Denial is no longer an acceptable response."

Tags:  science
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