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Focus on Climate

Climate change – the biggest environmental challenge facing mankind

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Climate change is the biggest over-arching environmental challenge presently facing humankind. In a special media partnership, Deutsche Welle is running a series of interviews in which leading experts of the United Nations Climate Secretariat explain how global warming is affecting the planet and what can be done to combat climate change or least mitigate its effects.

The floods, droughts and fires which many experts attribute to global warming are leading to a large loss of human life every year and destroying or endangering the livelihood of many people. Climate change is also speeding up the extinction of the planet's already dwindling animal and plant species. A growing body of evidence suggests that the rapidly accelerating warming the world is now experiencing could trigger dramatic climatic changes across the entire planet which go beyond the loss of entire islands through rising sea levels. These include the onset of a new ice age in the northern hemisphere, brought about by the shut-down of the Gulf Stream.

There is no longer a serious scientific debate as to whether global warming is taking place or not and whether or not it is being caused by humankind. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, made up of the world's leading climate experts, has established this as a fact. The international community took the first decisive steps to act against global warming at the Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit in 1992. At the summit, it was agreed to establish the United Nations Climate Convention, which in turn led to the development of the Kyoto Protocol. The Protocol was first drawn up in Japan in 1997 and is designed to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. The Kyoto agreement has yet to be ratified by enough industrialised countries to enter into force. And it has been repudiated by the USA, the world's biggest emitter of greenhouse gases. However, many nongovernmental organisations and the United Nations Climate Secretariat have managed to raise public awareness with regard to the issue in recent times. In a special series of interviews, conducted with UN experts, Deutsche Welle looks at issues such as emission trends, clean technologies and mobility and at what the world's emerging economies are doing to adapt to the effects of climate change.

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