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Climate Warning

DW staff (th)December 29, 2008

Climate change is happening more rapidly than anyone though possible, the German government's expert, Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, warned in an interview.

Picture of the earth taken from space
The earth is heating up faster than many realizeImage: AP

The threats posed by climate change are worse than those imagined by most governments, warned Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, the scientist who heads the Potsdam Institute for Research on Global Warming Effects and acts as an adviser to German Chancellor Angela Merkel on climate-change issues.

Schellnhuber warns that previous predictions about climate change and its catastrophic effects were too cautious and optimistic.

"In nearly all areas, the developments are occurring more quickly than it has been assumed up until now," Schellnhuber told the Saarbruecker Zeitung newspaper in an interview published Monday, Dec. 29. "We are on our way to a destabilization of the world climate that has advanced much further than most people or their governments realize."

Melting ice, rising water levels

Drop of water coming off an iceberg in Greenland
Ice in Greenland is melting fastImage: AP

The Arctic sea ice is melting more quickly than expected. There are also signs that the entire climate pattern at the North Poll has been disrupted to the extent of causing irreversible change.

For the Arctic, the global warming which has already occurred of 0.8 degrees Celsius has already stepped over the line, Schellnhuber said. If Greenland's ice cap ice melts completely, water levels will rise by seven meters (23 feet).

"The current coastline will no longer exist, and that includes in Germany," he said.

All countries need to sign on

Wind turbines in a canola field
Will Europe's shift towards renewable energy be fast enough?Image: AP

In order to stop global warming, global CO2 emissions would need to be halved by 2050. For industrial countries, that would mean a decrease of 80 to 90 percent. By 2020, this process has to be well underway.

"When only one side fails to act, industrial countries or developing countries, than a disastrous climate change will be inevitable," he said.