UN says climate change as dangerous as war

By Michelle Nichols

UNITED NATIONS - Climate change poses as much danger to the world as war, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today as he pledged to make global warming the focus of talks with world leaders in June.

In his first address on the subject, Ban said he would emphasise the climate crisis with the leaders at a meeting in Germany of the Group of Eight industrialised nations -- Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Britain, the United States and Russia.

"The majority of the United Nations work still focuses on preventing and ending conflict," Ban said. "But the danger posed by war to all of humanity and to our planet is at least matched by the climate crisis and global warming."

"In coming decades, changes in our environment and the resulting upheavals from droughts to inundated coastal areas to loss of arable land are likely to become a major driver of war and conflict," said Ban.

Last month a United Nations-organised panel of 2,500 top climate scientists from more than 130 nations blamed human activities for global warming and predicted more droughts, heat waves and a slow rise in sea levels that could continue for more than 1,000 years even if greenhouse gas emissions were capped.

The panel's report predicts a "best estimate" that temperatures would rise by between 1.8 and 4.0 degrees Celsius in the 21st century.

Ban has pledged to make climate change a top priority and said the United Nations is the natural arena to tackle the problem. He had considered a summit but his staff said this would not happen.

Instead the United Nations was preparing for a UN framework convention on climate change conference to be held in Bali, Indonesia, in December, he said.

Ban said the success of the Oscar-winning documentary "An Inconvenient Truth," inspired by former US Vice President Al Gore's environmental campaign, showed "even among the broader public climate change is no longer an inconvenient issue -- it is an inescapable reality."

"I am encouraged to know that in the industrialised countries from which leadership is most needed, awareness is growing," he said adding that the cost of inaction or delayed action exceeded the short-term investment needed.

"The world needs a more coherent system of international environmental governance," Ban said. "Unfortunately my generation has been somewhat careless in looking after our one and only planet but I am hopeful that is finally changing."

- REUTERS

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