Mon, Aug 27, 2007 - Page 8 News List

No doubt: Climate change is real

By Liu Chung-ming 柳中明

Typhoon Sepat was the third typhoon to strike the nation within two weeks. It caused incessant heavy rains all over the country. But in the rest of the world, there have been even more serious natural disasters and meteorological phenomena this year.

In the beginning of June, the Arabian Sea saw the formation of Gonu -- a tropical cyclone of almost legendary proportions. Its highest 10-minute average wind speed was 240kph, a wind force of 17 on the Beaufort scale. Gonu made landfall in Oman on June 5, becoming the strongest tropical cyclone on record to make landfall on the Arabian Peninsula. It caused more than 70 deaths in the desert nation, and caused a rise in oil prices.

In last month and this month, South Asia saw continuous heavy rain for more than 20 days. An estimated 2 million people had to be evacuated from their homes and more than 1,400 people died. After this disaster, famine and contagious diseases threatened the north of India, Bangladesh and Nepal. Disaster relief has been chaotic, and the countries will have to depend on foreign aid to rebuild after the disaster.

Other areas have experienced unusual weather. This May and June, the UK saw the heaviest rain in 200 years. Exceptional floods occurred in many provinces of China, including in dry areas like Xinjiang and Shaanxi. A 100-year-record amount of rain fell in Chongqing. And it has been raining incessantly in North Korea where floods have caused many losses.

Yet while some places in the world were suffering from floods, other areas were plagued by high temperatures for days on end, causing droughts and fires.

In the end of last month, temperatures in Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria and Greece rose above 40oC. More the 500 people died because of the heat, and forest fires were almost out of control. Nearby Ankara suffered from drought and people tried to invoke the pity of heaven by praying for rain in public ceremonies.

In China to the south of the Yangtze, large areas saw record temperatures of more than 39oC. High temperatures in Fujian Province, across the Taiwan Strait from Taiwan, continued for a month, breaking a record set in 1880.

The US Midwest has seen a very hot summer, and in the middle of this month temperatures in many areas were above 37oC for days at a time. Because of the hot weather, too much electricity was used in the New York area system, forcing the city's subway to come to a halt and causing serious traffic problems. Temperatures in Japan have been as high as 40.9oC, causing train rails to bend out of shape. Many Japanese suffered heat stroke and even died of the heat. Australia's worst drought in a thousand years has gone into its ninth continuous year, taking a heavy toll on farmers.

Official reports of the UN's World Meteorological Organization (WMO) point out that in the first half of this year, there was a higher number of unusual meteorological phenomena than in the past, and the average temperatures in January and April had broken all past records.

The organization could not make any predictions as to whether there would be more unusual or extreme weather in the second half of this year.

In 1992, the first Earth Summit was held. At this summit, countries agreed on the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), later followed up by the Kyoto Protocol. The UNFCCC demands that all countries take action to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions and called on them to officially acknowledge global climate change. Although the US didn't want to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, US President George W. Bush made sure that plans were passed for climatological action, officially acknowledging the issue of climate change.

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