Climate Change is a burning issue these days. In October 1985, at an International meeting in Villach, Austria convened by United Nations agencies, a group of Scientists decided it was time for the World to take action. The meeting concluded that there was a need to combat the perceived danger of global warming that would result from increasing concentrations of so-called green house gases in the atmosphere. This green house gas concentrations, particularly those of carbon dioxide ( a product of burning coal, oil and other fossil fuels ) are increasing as a direct consequence of a range of human activities.
The Villach Statement and its threat of global warming became an international forum for actions to curb emissions of green house gases to the atmosphere. Around the World a diverse range of interest groups, especially across the environment movement, co-operated to raise public awareness of the greenhouse climate change threat. Later a series of Government and National and International conferences of invited experts were widely reported in the media and ensured a raised public recognition of the issue. So, successful was the awareness- raising campaign that within 3 years the United Nations, through its agencies UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme) and WMO (The World Meteorological Organization), had established an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which we know as IPCC. This organization was empowered with:
a) “Assessing the scientific informaton that is related to the various components of the climate change issue, such as emissions of major green house gases and modification of the earth’s radiation balance resulting therefrom, and that needed to enable the environmental and socioeconomic consequences of climate change to be evaluated.
b) Formulating realistic response strategies for the management of the climate change issue.
3 . Working groups were established to address the IPCC objectives. The tasks of Working Groups I, II and III were respectively to:
i) Assess available scientific information on climate change.
ii) Assess environmental and socio-economic impacts of climate change.
iii) Formulate response strategies.
The working group did confirm the Villach conclusions and found a serious anthropogenic threat to the Global Climate. After a period of less than 18 months, in July 1990, the IPCC WG1 published their findings following an assessment of the available scientific literature. The principal findings of the report were:
i) There is a greenhouse effect because a range of gases occurring naturally in the atmosphere, such carbon dioxide, keep the earth’s surface warmer than it would otherwise be.
ii) The concentrations in the atmosphere of a range of greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide, are increasing because of human activities.
iii) The increasing concentrations of certain greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, such as carbon dioxide will lead to global warming but neither its magnitude, timing nor regional characteristics could be determined.
Later the United Nations General Assembly took up the challenge presented by the IPCC scientific assessment and the Statement of the second World Climate conference. An Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee was convened to develop a Framework Convention on Climate Change in time for the June 1992, Earth Summit at Rio de Janeiro. The committee, open to all member countries of the United Nations, met six occasions between 1991 and May 1992 before finally a reaching agreement. At the Earth Summit, representatives of more than 150 countries signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Cimate Change (UNFCCC) that result from negotiations. More countries signed subsequently. The Convention requires countries to take actions necessary for “Stabilisation of green house gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.”Despite the perceived threat posed by anthropogenic global warming, the short period available for negotiations meant that agreement could not be reached on binding mechanisms for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and commitments that individual countries should make. Counter balancing the global warming threat were the immediate economic and social costs that would be experienced by many countries if they took action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The IPCC continued its work and issued its Second Assessment Report in 1995. Contemporary experiments using computer models of the climate system and various natural and anthropogenic forcing functions pointed to anthropogenic signals that could be detected in the observed Global Warming Pattern. The IPCC in its Second Assessment Report, concluded that the balance of evidence suggested that a discernible human influence on global climate could be detected.
The public interest in the anthropogenic global warming issue and the perceived need for action did not abate. More than 10,000 people, made up mostly of non-government lobby groups and representatives of the World media, converged on Kyoto, Japan in December 1997 for the third meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC. They were there to witness Government delegates negotiate a Protocol to stem the unconstrained emission of green house gases into the atmosphere. The Protocol was expected to give teeth to the Convention.
But the rush to judgement met stiff resistance at Kyoto. The negotiations were tense and the final text of the Protocol was agreed to by a number of developed countries with reservation. Still now, Kyoto, the Protocol could not come into force.
Notwithstanding the stalled action on the political front, the scientific work has continued. The IPCC issued its Third Assessment Report in 2001, claiming that most of the warming of the previous 50 years has been caused by human activities. IPCC moved forward with its mission of the SAVE THE PLANET with its new reports. Its a great news to all that this year’s (2007) NOBLE PEACE PRIZE went to Mr. Al Gore, former US VICE-PRESIDENT and Mr. R K Pachauri, Chairman IPCC.
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