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Eiffel Tower to Switch off Lights as Scientists Finish Major Report on Global Warming

by: Angela Charlton    30 January 2007

Even the Eiffel Tower is out to save the planet.

On Thursday evening, as scientists and officials put finishing touches on a long-awaited report about global warming, the Paris landmark will switch off its 20,000 flashing light bulbs that run up and down the tower and illuminate the French capital's skyline.

The Eiffel Tower 's lights account for about 9 percent of the monument's total energy consumption of 7,000 megawatt-hours per year.

The five-minute blackout comes at the urging of environmental activists seeking to call attention to energy waste _ and just hours before world scientists on Friday unveil a major report Friday warning that the planet will keep getting warmer and presenting new evidence of humans' role in climate change.

Environmental groups are seeking to take advantage of the worldwide attention on the meetings in Paris this week of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The panel will release a report laying out policy proposals for governments based on the latest research on global warming.

Pressure for policy changes to slow global warming is coming from other areas, too. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is exploring the possibility of convening an emergency summit of world leaders aimed at breaking a deadlock over cutting greenhouse gases, officials said Tuesday.

The impetus for such a world summit is U.S. President George W. Bush acknowledging in his Jan. 24 State of the Union speech that climate change needs to be dealt with and the EU's Jan. 10 proposals for a new European energy policy that stresses the need to slash carbon emissions blamed for global warming, U.N. environment program spokesman Nick Nuttall said.

"There's a lot of momentum that has being building," Nuttall said. "We have a window of opportunity."

Nuttall said the summit could be held between July and December.

An early draft of the report being released in Paris suggests it will contain stronger evidence of the human role in climate change and more specific predictions of rising temperatures and sea levels this century.

The report "won't change our scientific basis, but it will make our jobs easier," Steve Sawyer, of Greenpeace, said Tuesday. "It is an important and powerful new tool in public debate and policy debate."

Environmental groups have long urged governments and consumers to rely more on renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power instead of greenhouse gas-emitting ones like coal and oil. Greenhouse gases are considered a key culprit of rising global temperatures.

"We're not advocating that you have to freeze in the dark, but to use the most efficient technology," said Sven Terske, another Greenpeace activist.

He warned that this week's global warming report may produce some "depressing news" about how fast the world is heating up. "We have to turn it into a positive reaction."

The report will be watched closely in the United States , whose government is accused of playing down the dangers of climate change.

In Washington , a U.S. congressional committee was to hear claims Tuesday from two private advocacy groups who said they found evidence of political pressure on U.S. government climate scientists in seven federal agencies to downplay the threat of global warming.

The company that manages the Eiffel Tower said in a statement that it hopes the blackout will demonstrate its "commitment to sustained development and in favor of the environment."

The blackout responds to an appeal from an alliance of French environmental groups for consumers and businesses to turn out the lights for five minutes at 7:55 p.m. (1855 GMT) Thursday.

The group said its goal is "to allow citizens to express their concern and their determination to urgently stop energy waste."

It was unclear whether other Paris landmarks would heed the call to turn off the lights.