Anchor Marco Werman speaks with The World's environment editor, Peter Thomson, about the latest science on climate change from a conference under way in Copenhagen.
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MARCO WERMAN: Another more global problem that scientists and policymakers are scrambling to get ahead of is climate change. Scientists are learning more about the effects of greenhouse gas pollution every day, and the news is not good. Hundreds of scientists are gathered this week in Copenhagen, Denmark for a conference on climate science. The World's environment editor Peter Thomson has been talking with some of them, and he joins us now. Peter, it seems that every couple of months, there's a big meeting on climate change. Tell us how this one is different and what's the big headline you're hearing coming out of Copenhagen?
PETER THOMSON: Well, this one's different in that it's specifically targeted at the people that are going to be participating in the big upcoming international negotiations on climate change in the fall. That's the continuation of the Kyoto Process. Scientists gathering in Copenhagen want to make sure those folks have the best and latest science on both what's happening and what we might be able to do to mitigate the problem and adapt to the problem, because it's already underway.
WERMAN: Yeah. And what do they see is the big problem? What's happening?
THOMSON: Well, the last big international report on climate change was published a couple years ago. And the science in that, of course, was you know in some cases a couple years old. There's been some important developments in climate science since then. One of the biggest is on sea level rise. The old 2007 IPCC report really left out the importance of melting icecaps, because it just didn't have enough good science. It said that sea levels were likely to rise because of thermal expansion of water â€“ that's basically just water taking up more space as it gets warmer. But it didn't have good science on melting on the Poles and in Greenland. There's been tremendous increase, almost a flood, you might say, of new science on that in the past few years. And they're finding that these systems are responding more quickly to climate change than people thought, and that there's a potential to add tremendously to the amount of water going into the ocean from Greenland and from Antarctica.
WERMAN: There was also recent news that essentially said that human beings really can do very little to undo the damage that's already been done from climate change. How did the scientists at the conference in Copenhagen weigh in on that?
THOMSON: Well, I wouldn't say that they say there's little we can do. I don't think they'd be there if they thought there wasn't anything we can do. I think that there is a sense there is a lot we can do. And that's a big part of this conference is to focus on what policy options, what technologies are available to mitigate the impact that we are having and will continue to have on climate. But there is also tremendous amount of what scientists call â€œinertiaâ€ into the climate system. We've already injected so much additional carbon dioxide into the atmosphere that it's going to take a long time for that to work itself through. On the order of hundreds, perhaps even thousands of years. So yes, we can do something â€“ we can do a lot. We cannot stop what is already underway, at least in any sort of meaningful time period â€“ not our lifetimes.
WERMAN: Peter, with every conference, there's the academic scientific discussion that occurs and then they need to connect to policymakers. Is there a strategy for that in Copenhagen?
THOMSON: Well, yes. They're going to come out with a document at the end of this conference which they are going to present to all of the participants in the UN process. It's called the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. The Kyoto Protocol was the last big treaty in the 90's and this is going to be the next big treaty. They're going to present this document, summary of their findings, to all of the members of that and all people who will be involved in that. And again, that will also summarize policy options, technology, things that we can do to really come to grips with this problem.
WERMAN: The World's environment editor, Peter Thomson. Good to speak with you.