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Crunch year for planet Earth


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Crunch year for planet Earth


LONDON, England (Reuters) -- This will be a crunch year for action on the climate crisis, a leading environmental lobbyist said on Wednesday.


Never have the opportunities been better and the danger from failure greater, Friends of the Earth chief Tony Juniper said in an interview with Reuters.


"There is an urgency that wasn't there before," Juniper said. "The science is there, the economics is there and the politics is there ...If they don't take this opportunity then we really should start to think about the future of life on earth."


The scientists who mind the "Doomsday Clock" moved it forward two minutes on Wednesday to five minutes until midnight, symbolizing the growing risk of the annihilation of civilization, and for the first time said global warming was a threat.


Early next month the International Panel on Climate Change will produce the first of four key reports this year assessing the latest scientific knowledge on global warming.


This will be followed by a report in April on adaptation, one in May on mitigation and a final overview in November.


A European Union-United States summit in April is expected to focus on energy security, and a Group of Eight summit in early June will highlight energy and climate.


Sources close to the diplomatic process say British Prime Minister Tony Blair, seeking a lasting legacy from his decade in power before he stands down mid-year, wants the G-8 summit to agree an outline plan for further climate action.


Most scientists agree temperatures will rise by between 2 and 6 degrees Celsius this century, mainly because of increasing carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels for power and transport, putting millions of lives at risk from flood and famine.


Former World Bank chief economist Nicholas Stern said in October that urgent action on global warming was vital, and that delay would multiply the cost 20 times.


The Kyoto Protocol is the only global pact obliging signatories to cut carbon dioxide emissions, but the United States withdrew from it and booming emitters China and India are not signatories. It expires in 2012 and negotiations to find a way forward or a replacement are sluggish.


In early December environment ministers will meet on the Indonesian island of Bali to try to agree on global action to cut carbon emissions.


"There is the possibility of a deal here," said Juniper.


"The industrialized countries could say they are willing to negotiate cuts to follow on from Kyoto, and the developing countries could say they would be willing to enter negotiations some time soon. That could happen at Bali," he added.


U.S. President George W. Bush, who rejected Kyoto, will have left office by 2009 and the mood in the United States has become more favorable to action on climate change.


"The momentum is developing. Everybody keeps talking about a window of opportunity. We haven't seen a convergence like this before. If we don't act now, when will there be a chance like this again?" asked Juniper.











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