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Nobel Laureates Urge Action on Climate Change

"Building on the Potsdam Memorandum and the recent advances in the scientific understanding of climate change, the participants of the St James’s Symposium identified as key requirements an effective and just global agreement on climate change, low-carbon energy infrastructure and tropical forest protection, conservation and restoration."

HNF Bureau : June 10, 2009

The Nobel Laureate Symposium Series on Global Sustainability was initiated in 2007 at Potsdam and continued by the St James’s Palace Symposium this month in London. This Symposium series brings together Nobel Laureates of various disciplines, top-level representatives from politics and Non Government Organizations, and experts on sustainability. In Potsdam, the participants called for a Great Transformation aimed at bring about technical, economic, political and cultural changes to meet the double challenge of environmental destabilization and persistent underdevelopment.

The attendees concluded that the evidence of needed changes is compelling. "Climate risk avoidance, energy security, sustainable land use, population growth and equitable economic development constitute a key set of interacting challenges for humankind in the 21st century. The evidence is increasingly compelling for the range and scale of climate impacts that must be avoided, such as droughts, sea level rise and flooding leading to mass migration and conflict. The robust scientific process, by which this evidence has been gathered, should be used as a clear mandate to accelerate the actions that need to be taken".

Building on the Potsdam Memorandum and the recent advances in the scientific understanding of climate change, the participants of the St James’s Symposium identified as key requirements an effective and just global agreement on climate change, low-carbon energy infrastructure and tropical forest protection, conservation and restoration.

Detailed recommendations include, "Acknowledging the compelling evidence of science we should confine the temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius to avoid unmanageable climate risks. This can only be achieved with a peak of global emissions of all greenhouse gases by 2015 and at least a 50% emission reduction by 2050 on a 1990 baseline. This in turn means that developed countries have to aim for a 25-40% reduction by 2020. A robust measure of assessing the necessary emission reductions is a total carbon budget, which should be accepted as the base for measuring the effectiveness of short-term (2020) and long-term (2050) targets; Clear policy frameworks aimed at fostering innovation and the demonstration, scale up and roll out of low carbon technologies including globally coordinated investment frameworks, linked to economic recovery, with the emphasis on 'green growth'. Tropical forest protection was also seen as a critical issue: Tropical forests provide the ecosystem services essential for human well-being and poverty alleviation.

"In addition deforestation and forest degradation are substantially contributing to climate change and global biodiversity loss at the genetic, species and landscape level. Both locally and globally, protecting boreal and tropical forest cover is an essential tool for mitigation of, and adaptation to, climate change. Without a solution to rainforest protection, there is no solution to tackling climate change."

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Particularly topical in light of the forthcoming conference in Copenhagen, the St James's Palace Memorandum calls for a global deal on climate change that matches the scale and urgency of the human, ecological and economic crises facing the world today. It urges governments at all levels, as well as the scientific community, to join with business and civil society to seize hold of this historic opportunity to transform our carbon-intensive economies into sustainable and equitable systems. It concludes with a call to recognize the fierce urgency of now: “We know what needs to be done. We cannot wait until it is too late. We cannot wait until what we value most is lost.”

US Secretary of Energy and winner of the 1997 Nobel Prize for Physics Stephen Chu, who attended the Symposium commented, "The Nobel Laureate Symposium has been a valuable opportunity to collaborate with the world’s best scientists on the important energy, economic and climate challenges the world faces.

This Declaration by the Nobel Laureates reflects the consensus of scientists both that the threat of global warming is real and that it is not yet too late for us to take action to prevent the worst consequences.”

The Memorandum was signed by Literature Laureate, Wole Soyinka and Peace Laureate Wangari Maathai, as well as by Laureates in Chemistry, Physics and Economics. Responses to the Memorandum were given at the Symposium by The Rt. Hon Ed Miliband, MP, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change in the UK Government and by Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, Chair of the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

 

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