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The abyss

September 3, 2009

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon did not mince words in warning of the impending dangers of climate change. "Our foot is stuck on the accelerator and we are heading towards an abyss," Ban said on Thursday.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon
Ban has warned that climate change "could spell disaster"Image: AP

Fresh from a trip to Norway to view the thinning Arctic sea ice, Ban addressed the World Climate Conference, which is taking place in Geneva. Ban said he wants to "raise a sense of urgency" about climate change.

"Scientists have been accused for years of scaremongering. But the real scaremongers are those who say we cannot afford climate action - that it will hold back economic growth," he said. "They are wrong. Climate change could spell widespread disaster."

Ban also warned that sea levels could rise by as much as two meters (6.1 feet) by 2100, threatening cities and displacing as many as 130 million people.

High hopes for Copenhagen

Person stands in front of a map showing temperatures
Climate change was the subject of a meeting in GenevaImage: dpa - Bildfunk

Ban is clearly worried that not enough progress has been made ahead of a summit scheduled for Copenhagen in December. Climate change negotiations have been bogged down by disagreements between poor, developing and rich nations.

"The developed countries should continue to take the lead in undertaking quantified emission reductions commitments, and the developing countries should make contributions as their ability permits," Chinese Vice Premier Hui Liangyu said in Geneva.

"We need ambitious mid-term mitigation targets by developed countries," Ban said, while developing countries “need to act to slow the growth of their emissions."

Getting ready for climate change

The conference in Geneva, which wraps up on Friday, brought together delegates and ministers from about 150 countries. On Thursday, attendees passed an agreement which will give developing countries better access to information about climate and weather. The information could help countries adapt to environmental changes such as floods, wildfires, droughts and disease.

"I hope this is the beginning of something really major," Rajendra Pachauri, the chairman of the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), said on Thursday.

Editor: Chuck Penfold