An Arctic alert on global warming
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The report details current and projected changes that could affect everything from shipping, agriculture, and the livelihoods of indigenous people to breeding grounds for migratory birds, many of which are considered endangered. One aspect on which researchers are keeping their eye: the release of methane and carbon dioxide as permafrost thaws and tundra decomposes. Even if the advance of forests to higher latitudes soaks up some of this released CO2, this still leaves methane - a much more potent greenhouse gas - free to enter the atmosphere.Skip to next paragraph
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Monday, the Pew Center on Global Climate Change issued its own study of global warming's effect on the US. The report largely focuses on warming's impact on ecology and biodiversity.
The Arctic study also comes at a time of growing momentum internationally to address the climate change.
Last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a bill passed by parliament that ratified the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. His signature was the final act required for the pact to take effect. The accord requires industrial countries party to the pact to reduce their CO2 emissions by an average of 5.5 percent between 2008 and 2012. While climate researchers agree that the pact's target will have little effect on atmospheric CO2, the agreement establishes mechanisms for achieving emissions targets, such as emissions trading, that may be a foundation for future agreements.
Perhaps just as important, supporters say, once the protocol takes force, it requires countries to begin looking ahead to follow-on agreements that would have a more significant impact on emissions.
In a statement released following Mr. Putin's signing, Eileen Claussen of the Pew Center on Climate Change noted that talks are set to begin next year on a post-Kyoto agreement. Now that the protocol is in effect, it "sets the stage for a new round of negotiations that can produce a broader, more durable agreement," she said. "New approaches will be needed to better engage the United States and major developing countries in the ... effort."
The new report is likely to add to pressure building on the Bush administration to take firmer actions to curb America's carbon emissions. British Prime Minister Tony Blair has signaled that climate will be one of his top priorities when he takes over as president of the G-8 group of industrial nations in January.
In a recent interview with Reuters, David King, Britain's chief science adviser, noted that during the summer, White House policymakers "fully accepted the scientific arguments for climate change and are keen to play a leadership role. So far we've been focusing on Russia. Clearly now the spotlight is going to move."
President Bush withdrew the US from the Kyoto treaty in 2001. The administration has said it views global warming as a serious threat, but that the Kyoto approach puts too much of the carbon-reduction burden on the US and other industrial countries, putting millions of jobs at risk.
The administration is spending several billion dollars each year to research technologies such as clean-burning coal and hydrogen-fueled cars. And while Bush hasn't signed on to the Kyoto goals, the administration talks of reducing the economy's "carbon-intensity" - the amount of carbon needed to produce each dollar of economic output.
"It is of importance to the president that we continue to make progress" on climate change, EPA administrator Mike Leavitt told the Associated Press Friday.