Saturday, February 21, 2009

Climate Change Taking Shape for Major Global Activity in 2009

To coin a relevant phrase, the world appears to have reached a tipping point when it comes to taking action on climate change. After many years of debate and non-action, a threshold seems to have been attained in which governments worldwide are acknowledging that action is necessary.

While the 5th Assessment Report of the IPCC isn't due until 2014 (the 4th report was released in 2007), the organization has already begun the outlining process, which involves climate change experts from all relevant disciplines and users of IPCC reports, in particular representatives from governments. Input from governments and organizations is expected at the 30th Session of the IPCC to be held April 21-23, 2009, in Turkey. The scoping meeting of experts to define the outline is scheduled for mid July 2009.

Meanwhile, the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) just published its 2009 yearbook, in which it calls for "an intensified sense of urgency for responsible governance in the face of approaching critical thresholds and tipping points" related to climate change and five other major developments in the changing environment. Facts like the breaking up of ice caps, retreating of glaciers, and melting of permafrost in Sweden, Alaska, Canada, and northern Russia only heighten the concern.

In the US, President Obama's filling of key environmental positions has had a distinctly "climate change" based feel to it. New EPA administrator Jackson, several White House advisors, and other key people in the administration all have atmospheric and climate experience and an avowed interest in dealing with the problem. Even Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has gotten into the act, agreeing today to begin high-level talks with China relative to combating both the global economic crisis and climate change. With her on this first official state visit is Climate Change Special Envoy Todd Stern, the point person for the U.S. in climate treaty negotiations.

All of this leads up to an international meeting scheduled for December in Copenhagen, Denmark, in which a new global climate treaty is expected to be adopted.

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