Tue, Jul 22, 2003 - Page 16 News List

The end of the world as we know it?

The UN and others are warning that the atmosphere is heating up and climate change could lead to a `holocaust'


"Climate change is an issue of basic human survival."

Lynas underscores the work of paleontologist Michael Benton from Bristol University. Benton, author of When Life Nearly Died, says 95 percent of life on earth was wiped out after a series of volcanic eruptions in Siberia during the Permian period 251 million years ago.

The volcanic event spewed massive amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, initiating a greenhouse cycle that warmed the earth's temperature by 6 Celsius -- the same high-end figure predicted by WMO scientists by the end of the 21st century.

The latest climatological research, however, says the earth may heat up even more than WMO scientists estimate. A June meeting in Berlin of atmospheric researchers -- using a computer model they say is more accurate than the WMO's -- led to predictions of a 7?C to 10?C upper-limit jump by 2100.

Another factor to contemplate, Lynas says, is the rapidity of the current carbon dioxide explosion into the atmosphere.

"The rise in greenhouse gases, which triggered the end-Permian mass extinction, took place over many thousands of years," he says. "The current rise is happening

in decades."

So what can be done?

Lynas suggests for starters the Kyoto Protocol must be implemented immediately. In a decade, "equal per-person emissions rights" should be legislated around the world, as proposed by the Global Commons Institute in London.

Ultimately, the world must shift from a fossil fuel-based economy, to one driven by clean energy sources, he says.

"The old mindset which demands an oil-based economy must be left behind, not just because it sparks wars and terrorism in the short term, but because the very future of life on Earth depends on it as well."

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