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Germany Puts Global Warming Prevention Plan in Gear

by: Deutsche Welle    18 October 2006

German Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel has warned of the unexpectedly fast pace of global warming and said the country needs to follow a unified plan to protect itself from increasing environment change.

At a conference on the topic in Berlin, Gabriel and the head of Germany's Federal Environment Agency (UBA), Andreas Troge, presented a national concept for adapting to climate change that would create a "competency center" on the issue.

The center will coordinate more efficient use of energy and a greater use of renewable energy sources, and also for improved flood protection and early-warning systems.

Presenters at the conference said it is clear global warming is taking place more quickly than expected, with glaciers melting faster, and a higher than expected incidence of hurricanes and drought. Gabriel said the country needed to start applying the brakes on global warming now.

Be prepared

Bildunterschrift: Gro▀ansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift: The Potsdam Institute for Climate Research created this global-warming chart

"We have to prepare now in order not to be mowed down by tomorrow's economic and social consequences," Gabriel told the conference.

Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, head of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Research, said a national plan on climate change is long overdue.

"If we don't have strong climate-control policies in place, by the end of the century, temperatures will rise by somewhere between two and five degrees Celcius," he said. "If it increases more than two degrees Celsius, then we are getting into an area that we can no longer control."

In the long term, a warmer climate means sea levels will rise 30 to 50 meters (100 to 160 feet) by the next century. But climate change will be noticeable long before 2100, Schellnhuber said.

"If we take heat waves like that of 2003 as a standard -- and by 2040 that will certainly be the case -- then life in cities will be changed."

Change is underway

Bildunterschrift: Gro▀ansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift: Climate education made easy? Maybe if you learn about it by playing this climate change board game

A key goal of the new competency center is to concentrate and disseminate research.

"The message is that climate change is not a thing of the future, or even far off," Troge said. "It is taking place today."

According to Troge, temperatures will rise most in the winter. Summer rains are expected to be 30 percent less by 2100, which could affect crops.

"Climate change will change our habits and affect a lot of economic areas -- tourism, energy, and insurance, especially insurance for natural catastrophes, will be affected," Troge said.

Because of expected increase in rainfall, flood protection must be increased through dikes and floodwalls, he added.