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Scientists Say that Greenhouse Emissions Pose Serious Threat

By Gary Lee
The Washington Post

Emissions of carbon dioxide and other "greenhouse gases" pose a serious threat to the world's climate and should be urgently addressed by governments and industries around the world, a panel of leading scientists warned Thursday.

The conclusion, the centerpiece of a new report by the International Commission on Climate Change, refutes recent scientific reports questioning whether industrial gas emissions are contributing to gradual warming of the Earth's atmosphere.

The IPCC, a United Nations-sponsored group of researchers, is considered a leading authority on the warming issue. "Their conclusions strengthen the view that climate change is a major problem," said Michael Oppenheimer, a global warming expert at the Environmental Defense Fund.

The IPCC report, released in the Netherlands, found that in order to stabilize concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere at twice current levels, emissions would have to be cut significantly below 1990 levels. Carbon dioxide accounts for about 60 percent of greenhouse gas emissions.

The report also said that methane - which is released from garbage dumps and gaspipe leaks as well as the digestive processes of cattle and accounts for 20 percent of greenhouse gases - is a more significant cause of warming than previously believed.

Worldwide emissions of carbon dioxide and methane slowed between 1991 and 1993, but began to rise again in mid-1993, the study said.

In the 1992 Climate Change Convention, signed by 160 countries in Rio de Janeiro (and by the United States later), industrial nations agreed to roll back their emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2000. Few countries are likely to achieve that target, however, many warming experts have warned. Signatories of the treaty are due to meet in March 1995 in Berlin to consider whether further steps should be taken to reduce gas emissions.

"The report emphasizes a general sense that more has to be done to combat global warming," said Alden Meyer, a climate change expert at the Union of Concerned Scientists.