UN meet focuses on climate change

2nd September 2009, Comments 0 comments

Meteorologists opened the World Climate Conference in Geneva on Monday to help communities adapt to climate change.

Geneva -- Meteorologists opened the World Climate Conference on Monday in what a US official called a "critical" attempt to share information globally and help communities worldwide adapt to climate change.

Some 2,500 experts gathered to strike a global agreement on climate change at another conference in Copenhagen in December, which is marked by a division between rich and poor nations.

The Geneva conference would discuss how to improve long-term weather and climate forecasting, especially in Africa and developing nations, said Michel Jarraud, director general of the UN's World Meteorological Organisation (WMO).

"We have now come to the point that we feel there is a major gap that needs to be filled," he told journalists.

The proposed "Global Framework for Climate Services" under discussion in Geneva could influence decisions on water, agriculture, fisheries, health, forestry, transport, tourism, energy, and preparations for natural disasters.

It would largely rely on successful, existing international cooperation on weather forecasting to expand the range of climate predictions, Jarraud said.

Instead of looking days and weeks ahead, the aim was to "extend the window" and produce forecasts that look seasons and even decades ahead, a US weather official explained.

The Geneva conference is not part of the Copenhagen process, which includes talks on preventing or adapting to more extreme weather conditions produced by global warming, including finance for poor nations.

But officials said that allowing all countries to access information to help assess and adapt to changing weather would provide a key resource.

The outcome of the five-day meeting was "critical to coping with climate variability," White House associate director for environment Sherburne Abbott told reporters in Geneva.

During the conference scientists will share the latest research on issues such as the warming of the Arctic Circle and the potential social and economic impacts of climate change.

The WMO has warned that global warming is transforming thinking on issues such as flood defences, farming or power generation, which have often relied on experience of past weather patterns and sea levels.

"Now we need to anticipate change," said Jarraud before the conference. "We can no longer base ourselves on the past to take decisions for the future."

About 15 heads of state or government mainly from African, European and island states, as well as several dozen ministers, are due to attend from Thursday, led by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Chinese Vice Premier Hui Liangyu.

The United Nations has only held two World Climate Conferences before, the last of which was in 1990 years ago.

The first, in 1979, was credited with identifying a problem with carbon build-up in the earth's atmosphere and beginning a global approach to climate research.

AFP / Peter Capella / Expatica

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