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Speech by Achim Steiner, UNEP Executive Director to John Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies

Distinguished guests, colleagues, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to thank you for being here and thank the Paul H. Nitze School of Advance International Studies and the Pew Environment Group, for making this gathering possible.

Washington, 25 September 2009 - We meet three days after the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon's high level, heads-of-state meeting in New York on climate change and as the G20 nations meet in Pittsburgh.

We also meet less than 80 days before the crucial UN climate convention meeting in Copenhagen.

Certainly the tempo of rhetoric on climate change over the past days and months has never been higher, nor have the stakes.

Yesterday here in Washington UNEP in collaboration with leading scientists launched a Compendium of Climate Science.

It is based on peer-reviewed research papers that have been published since the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) landmark 2007 fourth assessment.

If one thought the IPCC's findings and forecasts were sobering, I would urge you to glance through the Compendium.

This is not consensus science, but science at the frontiers-a snap shot if you will of what the cutting edge is telling the world.

The science is telling us that the upper limits of the IPCC are fast becoming the norm or will become the norm soon-that we are pushing, if not pushing past limits.

A sea level rise of one to two metres-and glaciers upon which perhaps a fifth of the global population depend disappearing.

The researchers talk about "irreversible changes"- about events thought likely to happen decades in the future, happening now - upwellings off the coast of California of sea water corrosive enough to undermine the ability of marine organisms to build shells.

Thus the whole marine food chain perhaps at risk as a result of the build up of carbon dioxide making the seas and oceans more acidic.

Scientists are also talking more frequently of tipping points-the equivalent of the straw breaking the camels back-in this case the potential collapse of ecosystems such as the Amazon forest.

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Further Resources

Climate Change Science Compendium 2009

UNEP: Green Economy Initiative

Global Green New Deal - G20 Update

The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB)

UN's Billion Tree Campaign Hits its Seven Billion Goal Target

UNEP: Billion Tree Campaign


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