Observing the effects of climate change on this vulnerable region, Clinton noted, “The waters don’t freeze, even in the dead of winter. The ice shelves that have crumbled no longer protect coastlines from erosion. Species are at risk.”
Clinton urged fast action to reduce short-lived climate pollutants (SLCP) and encouraged support for the Climate and Clean Air Coalition to Reduce Short-Lived Climate Pollutants as an international mechanism for tackling this issue. Secretary Clinton launched the Coalition in February and the leaders of the G8 joined last month.
Clinton explained that the Coalition will “focus on what are called short-lived climate pollutants – methane, black carbon, hydrofluorocarbons.” Together SLCPs contribute up to 40% or more of climate warming.
“By preventing SLCPs emissions, we can significantly reduce near-term climate change and at the same time save 2.5 million lives per year, increase crop yields and food security, and promote gender equality and women’s rights across the globe,” noted Swedish Minister for Environment Ek. By itself, black carbon may be responsible for half of the warming in the Arctic.
The consequences of climate change, specifically the effect of black carbon and other SLCPs, threaten the future of the Arctic. Without immediate and substantial mitigation efforts the melting of polar ice, subsequent rising sea levels, and the loss of methane stored in permafrost will destroy the Arctic, a critical component of our global climate system. Sea levels could rise up to 5 feet within the next century according to the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme.
Minister Ek emphasized that short-lived climate pollutants “represent a golden opportunity to slow down climate warming in the near term.” Cutting these pollutants using existing technologies and often existing laws and institutions can cut the rate of global warming in half for the next 30 to 40 years, and in the Arctic by two-thirds, according to a recent assessment by UNEP and the World Meteorological Organization.
Secretary Clinton added, “While we continue to work on bringing down carbon dioxide emissions and finalizing an international agreement, let’s also deliver a blow to methane, black carbon, and HFCs. We are poised to do both, and we should.” UNEP’s Global Environmental Outlook-5, launched yesterday on the eve of the Rio+20 Summit on 20-22 June, noted limited progress on climate protection since the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, with carbon dioxide emissions growing nearly 40% through 2010.
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