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Amid charges of global warming hoax, new warning on climate change

A report Tuesday on the latest climate-change research shows emissions rising quickly and ice caps melting faster than projected. The report comes amid a controversy over hacked scientists’ e-mails that some say point to a global warming hoax.

By Peter N. SpottsStaff writer of The Christian Science Monitor / November 25, 2009

Global carbon-dioxide emissions are rising fast, global temperatures continue to climb at a pace in line with projections, and polar regions are losing ice faster than climate models have projected.

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These are some of the recent research findings highlighted by a group of 26 climate scientists in a report released Tuesday dubbed The Copenhagen Diagnosis.

The purpose of the effort, say researchers from eight countries, including the US, is to update policymakers and the public about the pulse of the planet ahead of the climate-treaty negotiations scheduled to begin in the Danish capital Dec. 7. The assessment comes amid a controversy over hacked e-mails of climate scientists – including a few who contributed to this effort – that global warming skeptics are using to question climate science.

The new report's bottom line: If the goal is to try to hold global average temperatures to an increase of 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above preindustrial levels, global greenhouse-gas emissions need top out sometime between 2015 and 2020.

To stabilize the climate around that 2-degree goal, the global economy needs to reduce average carbon-dioxide emissions to less than 1 metric ton per person per year by 2050, the group adds. This is equivalent to cutting per capita emissions by 80 to 95 percent below 2000 levels in developed countries by 2050.

The report highlights results from some 200 recent studies in hopes of influencing upcoming climate negotiations in Copenhagen, the researchers say. The benchmarks it sets out for reaching the 2-degree neighborhood aren't significantly different from those the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) set out two years ago.

Still, "we felt that we needed to call attention of the delegates to the scientific case for urgent action," says Richard Somerville, professor emeritus at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego, a lead author of the IPCC's 2007 volume on climate science, and a contributor to this report. "If you want to stabilize the climate at a reasonable amount of global warming, then you cannot delay indefinitely."

The group's effort is independent of the UN-sponsored IPCC, which publishes reports on global warming roughly every five years, the last one in 2007. The Copenhagen Diagnosis aims to fill the gap on research since mid-2006 – the deadline for the 2007 IPCC report.

"There's new science and there's also three more years of data. In many instance, the observations show that climate change has accelerated," Dr. Somerville said in a briefing Tuesday on the report.

Controversy over hacked e-mails