Statement by Klaus Toepfer, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme
NAIROBI, 8 November 2004 - The Arctic Climate Impact Assessment, an unprecedented four-year scientific study, confirms worrying predications and earlier research on global warming.
The report, conducted by an international team of 300 scientists, provides clear evidence that the Arctic climate is warming rapidly now and, of even greater concern, that much larger changes are projected for the future.
Increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases from human activities are projected to contribute to additional warming of 3-9 degrees over the next 100 years. The global impacts, such as sea-level rise, will be staggering.
The Arctic region, the barometer on global climate change, is like an environmental early warning system for the world. What happens there is of concern for everyone because Arctic warming and its consequences have worldwide implications.
Among its many and detailed scientific findings, the ACIA predicts that Arctic vegetation zones and animal species will be impacted. Retreating sea ice is expected to reduce the habitat for polar bears, walrus, ice-inhabiting seals, and marine birds, threatening some species with extinction.
Such changes will also impact on many Arctic indigenous communities who depend on such animals, not only for food, but also as the basis for cultural and social identity.
And, beyond the region, as the Arctic glaciers melt and the permafrost thaws, it will be developing countries, with limited means to adapt to environmental change that suffer most.
The recent decision by Russia to ratify the Kyoto Protocol was an important step in the international fight to check global warming. But, as the ACIA reveals the battle is far from over.
I want to congratulate the Arctic Council for their decision to commission the report. We now have a clear scientific consensus that the Arctic is warming and the resulting affects on global climate will be serious.
With these facts before us, we need, more than ever before, a concerted and renewed international efforts to combat the climate change problem, one of the most series threats to humankind today.
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