March 02, 2004

The melting of glaciers in the Patagonian region at the southern tip of Latin America requires urgent international action, without waiting for the United States to sign the Kyoto Protocol ...

Just as Nero (another cruel, but weak-minded tyrant) fiddled while Rome burned, the _resident (an Emperor with no uniform) plays PNACkle while the planet melts.

Gustavo Gonzalez, Inter Press: The melting of glaciers in the Patagonian region at the southern tip of Latin America requires urgent international action, without waiting for the United States to sign the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, Chilean environmentalists
and government experts are saying.

Save the Environment, Show Up for Democracy in 2004:
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http://www.commondreams.org/headlines04/0301-10.htm

Published on Monday, March 1, 2004 by Inter Press
Service
Melting of Glaciers Requires Urgent Action
by Gustavo Gonzalez

SANTIAGO - The melting of glaciers in the Patagonian
region at the southern tip of Latin America requires
urgent international action, without waiting for the
United States to sign the Kyoto Protocol on climate
change, Chilean environmentalists and government
experts are saying.

The glacial retreat in Patagonia, a region shared by
Argentina and Chile, was highlighted by a recent
month-long expedition by a team of 25 scientists and
activists on the Greenpeace vessel Arctic Sunrise.

The United States has not only failed to ratify the
Kyoto Protocol. It has not ratified the Biosafety
Convention, or disarmament treaties, either. Although
it talks about taking part in the multilateral system,
in the end it doesn't sign the international
conventions.

Sara Larran, president of the non-governmental
organization Sustainable Chile
The expedition, which ended in mid-February, set out
from Amsterdam and toured Patagonia, observing the
Perito Moreno and Upsala glaciers in Argentina, as
well as six other glaciers on the Chilean side after
passing through the Strait of Magellan.

Chilean experts joined the Arctic Sunrise for that
part of the journey, whose mission was to document the
state of the glaciers and the damages caused by
climate change, a phenomenon blamed on the greenhouse
effect caused by emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and
other gases resulting from the burning of fossil
fuels.

The team observed the Grey, San Quintin, San Rafael
and Pius XI glaciers, as well as glaciers number 31
and 12 in the Southern Patagonian Ice Field.
Greenpeace noted that all of them, with the exception
of Pius XI, are in retreat.

Prominent local environmentalist Sara Larran,
president of the non-governmental organization
Sustainable Chile, told IPS that the first to feel the
effects of global warming are small island states and
countries with extensive shorelines, due to the rise
in the sea level caused by the melting of glaciers and
of the ice caps at the poles.

But global warming also affects the migration of
species, she added.

''It has been estimated that for every one degree rise
in the average global temperature, ecosystems, or more
specifically flora, shift 100 kms away from the
equator, in the direction of the North or South
Poles,'' she explained.

''This is an issue that directly affects biodiversity
and the biological wealth of nations,'' because in
these shifts or migrations of ecosystems, species that
are unable to swiftly adapt to the changes will be
lost, said Larran.

She also said there would be an enormous impact on
agriculture and on the farming methods that are used.

Scientific studies estimate that the greenhouse effect
drove up the average global temperature by 0.6 degrees
Celsius in the 20th century, and researchers project
that the temperature will rise between 1.4 and 5.8
degrees over the next 100 years, if the current levels
of emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases are not
reduced.

Larran also pointed out that for every one degree
increase in the global temperature, the sea level
rises around 50 cms.

Using data from the U.S. National Aeronautics and
Space Administration (NASA) Shuttle Topographic Radar
expedition, Chilean scientists Gino Casassa and Andrs
Rivera calculate that the retreat of the glaciers in
Patagonia accounts for nine percent of the increase in
the sea level, or 0.11 mms a year.

Gonzalo Villarino, executive director of
Greenpeace-Chile, said in an interview with IPS that
this Southern Cone country of 16 million produces 0.02
percent of all greenhouse gases, compared to the
United States, which accounts for 25 to 30 percent of
the global total.

Villarino and Larran concurred that it is essential
for the United States and Russia to ratify the Kyoto
Protocol. The head of the Climatology Department in
Chile's Meteorological Agency, Jorge Carrasco, also
told IPS that developing countries must lobby hard to
get the international treaty approved and ratified.

''All countries must make progress towards that goal,
acknowledge the problem, and begin to work in support
of renewable energy sources, an aspect in which Chile
is lagging,'' said Villarino.

Larran observed that at the 2002 Summit for the
Environment and Sustainable Development in
Johannesburg, South Africa, the countries of Latin
America pledged to move towards the goal of making
renewable sources, like solar, wind and geothermal
energy, account for 10 percent of their total energy
production.

''Many countries made similar commitments, and there
are also other routes to be taken. Governments must
come up with the solutions and political instruments,
instead of waiting for the United States,'' said the
activist.

''The United States has not only failed to ratify the
Kyoto Protocol,'' she underlined. ''It has not
ratified the Biosafety Convention, or disarmament
treaties, either. Although it talks about taking part
in the multilateral system, in the end it doesn't sign
the international conventions,'' said Larran.

Developing countries must join efforts to influence
international negotiations, she added, saying Latin
America should strengthen its cooperation ties, on the
financial and technological levels, with the European
Union, which is determined to move towards the
implementation of the Kyoto Protocol even without the
United States.

''Chile has a huge capacity for using solar, wind, and
geothermal resources, but it is not developing them,
with the exception of small isolated projects in rural
areas, because there is not enough investment, and
renewable energy sources generally require a large
initial investment,'' said Larran.

Carrasco said Argentina and Chile should promote truly
sustainable development, based on ''clean energy'',
and should use the mechanisms created by the Kyoto
Protocol to help countries incorporate clean
technologies.

Copyright 2004 IPS - Inter Press Service

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Posted by richard at March 2, 2004 01:14 PM