UN report warns of widening climate gap

Associated Press Modified: November 21, 2012 at 4:30 am •  Published: November 21, 2012
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STOCKHOLM (AP) — A U.N. report on rising greenhouse gas emissions reminded world governments Wednesday that their efforts to fight climate change are far from enough to meet their stated goal of limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit).

The report by the U.N. Environment Program, released just days ahead of a major climate conference, said the concentration of heat-trapping greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is up about 20 percent since 2000.

Scientists say those emissions are contributing to climate change and that failure to contain them could have dangerous consequences, including rising sea levels inundating coastal cities, dramatic shifts in rainfall disrupting agriculture and drinking water, the spread of diseases and the extinction of species.

Emissions levels, driven by the burning of fossil fuels, need to come down by 14 percent by 2020 for the world to reach a pathway that could keep the global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius, compared with pre-industrial levels, UNEP said. That's the stated goal of U.N. climate negotiations, which resume next week in Doha, Qatar.

But it won't happen if countries don't come ahead with more ambitious plans to cut emissions than what's currently on the table.

The U.N. agency said if no swift action is taken, emissions are likely to hit 58 gigatons in 2020 — 14 gigatons too much to have a chance of limiting warming to 2 degrees. The projected gap is now bigger than it was last year and in 2010.

UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said that bridging the gap remains doable and that there are many "inspiring" actions at the national level on renewable energy, energy efficiency, protecting forests, and vehicle emissions standards.



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