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Home >> Sci-Edu
UPDATED: 08:24, May 25, 2006
U.S., Chinese scientists express concern about global warming
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Against the fact that the global climate is being warmed rapidly by human-produced greenhouse gases, scientists warned on Tuesday that the situation of climate change in the future has reached a point of extreme gravity.

Global warming will become irreversible if countries are still reluctant to take action now, some high-profile scientists told the China-U.S. Climate Change Forum at the University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley).

Inez Fung, a meteorologist and professor at the university, said human activities had destroyed the natural cycle of the earth's carbon dioxide (CO2), leading to an accumulation of major greenhouse gases.

Before industrialization, the carbon dioxide level in the atmosphere was 280 parts per million (ppm), but now it has reached 380 ppm. "If we do business as usual, the carbon dioxide will rise to 680 ppm in year 2099," she said.

The impacts will be worrying, added John Harte, who is also a professor at UC Berkeley.

At that time, forecasted Harte, heat waves will cripple large cities and kill thousands of people annually; the sea level will rise by 0.5 meters causing some coastal regions and islands to vanish; and the melting of glaciers and reduced snow pack will restrict irrigation.

There will be more hurricanes, droughts, wild fires, Harte said. Crop yields will drop because of more frequent natural disasters, but some infectious diseases, such as bird flu, will spread.

Greenhouse gases also have a "feedback effect," which may make the future worse than expected, Harte noted.

"That means, the Earth will cool faster if it absorbs more carbon dioxide, and the cooler Earth will absorb more carbon dioxide; but if the Earth is warmer it will release more carbon dioxide, which in turn will heat up the Earth," he explained.

However, there are still some hopes if humans act wisely, other scientists indicated.

If humans rely less on fossil energy sources, such as coal and oil, they may be able to stabilize the carbon dioxide level in 100 to 300 years, and cool the Earth in several hundred years thereafter, said Steve Chu, a Nobel prize laureate.

Some technologies for energy are promising, noted Chu, who is a senior research fellow at U.S. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Those include nuclear fusion and fission, wind and solar energy, as well as biomass energy.

If countries spread new energies while regulating energy consumption, Chu said, greenhouse gas emissions might be reduced.

"Wise regulations and fiscal policies can make a difference," Chu said, quoting that the U.S. alone had saved 200 billion kwh of electric power since it brought into effect energy saving standards for refrigerators in the 1950s.

Lin Erda, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, said the impact of global warming on agriculture could be limited to some extent.

For example, he said, the reduction of farmland output could be under control by an improved variety of crops and water-saving irrigation.

Source: Xinhua

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