U.N. Secretary General Calls Global Warming a Priority

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By Colum Lynch
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 2, 2007

UNITED NATIONS, March 1 -- U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon argued Thursday that global warming poses as great a threat to the world as modern warfare, and he vowed to make reduction of greenhouse gases one of his tenure's top priorities.

Ban's remarks -- made in a speech in the U.N. General Assembly Hall addressing a high school conference on global warming -- were the most detailed public account of his views on climate change. They also hinted that the new U.N. chief will try to push the Bush administration to join international initiatives to combat global warming.

Ban privately urged Bush in a White House meeting in January to support international efforts to curb emissions of greenhouse gases. But Bush expressed doubts about the effectiveness of the preeminent international treaty calling for reductions in such emissions, the Kyoto Protocol, because it exempts some of the world's largest emitters, including China and India, according to sources familiar with the meeting.

In outlining his concerns, Ban described global warming as a "grave and growing problem," echoing language used by Bush to justify the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq. "For my generation, coming of age at the height of the Cold War, fear of nuclear winter seemed the leading existential threat on the horizon," Ban said. "But the danger posed by war to all humanity -- and to our planet -- is at least matched by climate change."

Ban said that global warming is "an inescapable reality" and warned that the destruction it inflicts -- including the loss of arable land to droughts and coastal flooding -- is likely to be a "major driver of war and conflict" in the coming decades.

The stakes in confronting global warming were bolstered last month when an international panel of 113 climate scientists concluded that human activities are heating the planet at a dangerous rate. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded that it is 90 percent certain that human-generated greenhouse gases account for most of the global rise in temperatures over the past half-century.

The United States, the world's leading emitter of greenhouse gases, came under fire Thursday from representatives of the Canadian Inuit community, who charged the U.S. contribution to global warming violated their human rights, the Associated Press reported. The group petitioned the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to assist them in "obtaining relief" from the effects of global warming on their artic habitat.

Ban said that he would press the Group of Eight industrialized powers -- the United States as well as Russia, Britain, France, Germany, Japan, Canada and Italy -- during their June summit in Germany to take steps to reduce emissions. He has also been seeking to devise a diplomatic strategy for securing international support for a new treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol when it expires in 2012.

Ban provided few details Thursday on how governments should address the crisis, beyond urging support for "green technologies and smarter policies." He also pressed states to back U.N. efforts to promote a "more coherent system of international environmental governance."

"We are all complicit in the process of global warming," Ban said. "Unfortunately, my generation has been somewhat careless in looking after our only planet."


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