(CNSNews.com) - As a U.N. climate change conference comes to a close in Buenos Aires, Argentina, environmental activists are warning the world about the dire consequences of global warming.
The Sierra Club points to a new report that says 2004 is on track to become the fourth-hottest year since 1861, when record-keeping began.
And another group, The Wildlife Society, has issued a report concluding that "global warming presents a profound threat to wildlife as we know it in this country."
'Hot and getting hotter'
The Sierra Club's global-warming point man, Dan Becker, issued a press release on Wednesday, reacting to a report from the Geneva-based World Meteorological Organization, which says 2004 will be one of the hottest years ever, and that global warming will lead to a greater number of extreme weather events.
"While the Bush administration continues to deny the seriousness of global warming, temperatures continue to rise, and 2004 joins the ten warmest years on record -- all occurring since 1990," Becker said.
"Today's WMO announcement is further evidence reinforcing the scientific conclusion that global warming will lead to increased habitat loss, sea level rise, and shifting weather patterns," Becker added.
He said the Bush administration's approach to global warming "ranges from ostrich-like to flat earth."
President Bush has angered environmental activists by rejecting the Kyoto Protocol, an international treaty that seeks to reduce developed nations' greenhouse gas emissions by 2012.
In a March 13, 2001, letter to U.S. senators, President Bush wrote, "I oppose the Kyoto Protocol because it exempts 80 percent of the world, including major population centers such as China and India, from compliance, and would cause serious harm to the U.S. economy."
In that letter, President Bush said he supports a "comprehensive and balanced energy policy that takes into account the importance of improving air quality." He mentioned reducing emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and mercury (but not carbon dioxide) from power plants "over a reasonable period of time" and offering "market-based incentives" to help industry meet the targets.
The Sierra Club believes Bush's plan doesn't go far enough, but the group said it is heartened that states such as California are taking the initiative in attacking global warming.
The group singled out California's Pavley Law (or greenhouse gas law), which will require automobile makers to reduce emissions from new cars and light trucks beginning in 2009.
"The Pavley Law is a big step in the right direction because it delivers clean car choices for consumers, and encourages cost-effective, currently available technology to reduce global warming emission," the Sierra Club said in a press release. The group said seven Northeastern states plan to adopt similar laws.
But as CNSNews.com previously reported, the automobile industry opposes the Pavley law and is challenging it in court.
The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers says the law will lead to higher auto prices and fewer vehicle choices for California consumers. And it says the regulation's cost does not produce a corresponding social benefit: The new fuel economy regulation would reduce greenhouse gases by only a tenth of one percent globally, the Alliance estimated.
But the Sierra Club believes that reducing tailpipe emissions is one way to combat global warming. The group also wants to "wean" the U.S. from "our dangerous oil dependence," and it wants to replace "dirty, coal-fired power plants with clean, renewable energy sources like wind, solar power and cleaner burning natural gas."
"It's time for the Bush administration to take its head out of the sand and put currently available, cost-effective solutions to work against the problem of global warming," Becker concluded.
Animals moving north
The Wildlife Society also issued a press release on Wednesday, pointing to its first "comprehensive assessment of global warming's likely consequences for North American wildlife."
According to the report, "there is sufficient evidence to indicate that many species are already responding to warming" -- moving north, for example, as temperatures rise.
The report also details the disruption of essential ecological processes such as pollination, seed dispersal and insect control by birds. It examines the displacement or disappearance of coastal wetlands species; significant loss of coastal marshes; and the disruption of alpine and Arctic ecosystems.
"Direct threats to many species are reported, including polar bears, migratory songbirds and waterfowl and alpine amphibians," the report says.
"Global warming presents a profound threat to wildlife as we know it in this country," said Douglas B. Inkley, a senior science advisor for the National Wildlife Federation. Inkley chaired the eight-person review committee of The Wildlife Society, which wrote the report.
"We're concerned about the effects of global warming on wildlife in North America, and this assessment verifies that some species already are responding to climate change," said Tom Franklin, acting executive director of The Wildlife Society.
"The evidence marshaled in this report is a message to every American who cares about wildlife to awaken to global warming's threat and to rally to the cause to confront it," said Larry J. Schweiger, president of the National Wildlife Federation.
"In this report, The Wildlife Society has fulfilled the great purpose of laying out for the first time the full dimensions of global warming's forecast for wildlife," Schweiger said. "Now, it is incumbent upon us to change that forecast." He said the National Wildlife Federation is pledged to do that.
Based on the report, The Wildlife Society said it will consider adopting formal policy recommendations at its March meeting. Those recommendations would include reduction of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions.
It also wants state and federal wildlife agencies consider climate change when they develop wildlife management plans and strategies.
Founded in 1937, The Wildlife Society describes itself as the nation's preeminent association of wildlife professionals, including wildlife biologists and research scientists, habitat managers, field technicians, educators and wildlife agency administrators. It previously has issued reports on wolf restoration and acid rain.
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