The Heat Is Online

De Boer: E-mails Undermine Copenhagen Hopes

UN climate chief: Hacked e-mails are damaging

The Associated Press, Dec . 6, 2009

COPENHAGEN - The world is entering talks on a new climate pact with unprecendented unity and leaders must seize the moment to create a turning point in the battle against global warming, the U.N.'s top climate official said Sunday. At a news conference, Yvo de Boer called on the 192 nations represented at the U.N. climate summit starting Monday "to deliver a strong and long-term response to the challenge of climate change."
Even so, he worried that e-mails pilfered from a British university would fuel skepticism among those who believe that scientists exaggerate global warming.
"I think a lot of people are skeptical about this issue in any case," de Boer told The Associated Press earlier Sunday. "And then when they have the feeling ... that scientists are manipulating information in a certain direction then of course it causes concern in a number of people to say 'you see I told you so, this is not a real issue.'"
E-mails stolen from the climate unit at the University of East Anglia appeared to show some of world's leading scientists discussing ways to shield data from public scrutiny and suppress others' work.
Those who deny the influence of man-made climate change have seized on the correspondence to argue that scientists have been conspiring to hide evidence about global warming.
"This correspondence looks very bad," de Boer said, but noted that the matter was being investigeted by the university, police and the head of the U.N.'s expert panel on climate change. He also defended the research — reviewed by some 2,500 scientists — that shows man has fueled global warming by burning fossil fuels.
"I think this is about the most credible piece of science that there is out there," he said.
U.S. climate negotiator Jonathan Pershing called the science on global warming "very robust, very substantial." He told AP that the controversy surrounding the leaked e-mails came at an "unfortunate" time, just before the long-awaited U.N. talks, "but has no fundamental bearing on the outcome."
Climate skeptics meeting in downtown Copenhagen for a panel discussion organized by a Danish nationalist party said the leaked e-mails highlighted the limitations of global warming research.
"There has been a lot of this kind of activity going on, there has been suppression of view points," said Roger Pielke, Jr., a professor of environmental studies at the University of Colorado.
Negotiators in Copenhagen are trying to set targets for controlling emissions of carbon dioxide and other global-warming gases, including by the leading contributors, China and the United States. They will also seek agreement on how much rich countries should pay to help poor nations to deal with climate change.
De Boer told a news conference that Copenhagen must be a "turning point" in the international response to climate change. He said climate targets announced in the runup to the summit were boosting the chances of success — even though they fall short of what scientists say is needed to avoid dangerous levels of warming.
"Never in the 17 years of climate negotiations have so many different nations made so many firm pledges toghether," De Boer said. "It's simply unprecdented."
De Boer told AP "it's going to be two weeks of thorough negotiation to try and get the ambition level up and to get the financial specifics on the table."
The emissions cuts offered have disappointed scientists and poorer nations facing damaging climate change. They say greenhouse gases, by 2020, must be reduced by 25 to 40 percent below 1990 output to keep temperatures in the less dangerous range of 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F) above preindustrial levels.
The European Union approaches that target, pledging to cut emissions by 20 percent below 1990 levels, and more if others agree. Awaiting U.S. congressional action, however, the Obama administration could make only a provisional offer of a 17 percent reduction by 2020 from 2005 levels. Against 1990, that represents only a 3 to 4 percent cut, experts say.
The developing world, for the first time, is offering its own actions: clean energy projects and other steps to slow the growth of their emissions.
China says it will, by 2020, reduce gases by 40 to 45 percent below "business as usual," that is, judged against 2005 figures for energy used versus economic output. India offers a 20 to 25 percent slowdown in emissions growth.
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.