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Plenary 2 - Climate Change Consequences (morning session),
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22/10/2009 17:00

Climate change proposals due to be presented at the Copenhagen summit, from the world's major carbon emitters, will not prevent substantial temperature and sea level rises, delegates were warned today.

During the morning session of the second plenary, Robert Corell, Chair of the Climate Action Initiative, told participants that the reductions offered by 25 nations ahead of the Danish climate conference will still lead to an average global temperature rise of 3.5 degrees and a sea level increase of 0.7 metres by 2100.
The 2007 Nobel Peace Prize winner explained that these projections are "optimistic" and that the Earth is heading towards a future "very different from anything experienced in human history".
To improve the prospects of world leaders preventing this catastrophe, Mr Corell called for greater input from the scientific community into international climate change negotiations.
This viewpoint was reiterated by George Schmidt, senior scientist of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, who predicted that the planet will warm "significantly", even with mitigation more aggressive than governments have presently agreed to.
He informed delegates that environmental policy decisions should be made by world leaders on an issue-by-issue basis - with particular emphasis placed on the reduced use of coal and biomass for domestic burning in Asia.
"We will not be able to stop climate change in our lifetimes," he said. "All we can do is decide whether it will be more or less serious".
Speaking on behalf of the Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, Graeme Kelleher, chairman of the Great Barrier Relief Marine Park Authority for 16 years, also chose to emphasis the need for cooperation on climate change issues.
The veteran of a number of Religion Science and Environment symposia explained that climate alterations will "accelerate" without "dramatic interventions" by politicians.
Peter Bridgewater, Chairman of the Joint Nature Conservation Committee, presented a less catastrophic view, and remarked that an unsuccessful Copenhagen Climate Conference in 45 days time would not bring about the end of the world.
Under the gaze of the 'healing patriarch' HAH Ecumenical Bartholomew, the former Secretary General of the Ramsar Convention on the international importance of wetlands said that humanity could support its ecosystems with the "right governance, solutions and will".
However, he too expressed fears that the resilience of the "global garden's" ecosystem will be exceeded by climate change drivers thanks to the ineptitude of its gardeners.
The plenary, chaired by the Lord Bishop of London, also explored the issue of water resources thanks to a speech by Minik Rosing, Professor of Geology at the University of Copenhagen.
Mr Rosing told participants that climate change is causing the redistribution of water into different areas of the world, which he explained is "without consequence" from a planetary perspective, but will bring problems to our species as we become unable to adapt.
The Greenland-born geologist also admonished humanity's "stupid" methods of obtaining energy through oil and coal instead of the sun, suggesting that existing technologies can easily meet the 25 megawatts per m2 required to sustain our societies.
Held in the aptly-named Riverside Conference Centre in the New Orleans Hilton, the plenary was given a local perspective by Brigadier General Michael Walsh of the US Army Corps Engineers and Robert Harriss, President and Chief Executive of the Houston Advanced Research Centre.
Brigadier General Walsh spoke of the need to find a balance in the water management of the Mississippi Valley among the competing demands of scientists and politicians, while Dr Harriss suggested that enhanced capabilities are required to reduce the threat posed by natural disasters to the Gulf Coast.
"We are going to have to raise the level of discussion about adaptation", he said. "Now is the time to bring this to the fore."