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Climate Change

Predictions are now certain: planet Earth is undergoing a climate change that could have dire consequences for all forms of life. Thousands of delegates are gathered in India to try to reach agreements aimed at confronting this problem, debating at the conference known as COP 8.

The 8th Session of the Conference of Parties (COP 8) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was convened Oct 23 to Nov 1 in New Delhi. Officials and environmentalists alike hope that it will mark a shift towards a negotiating phase for compliance with past agreements.

The Framework Convention (pdf), which dates back to 1992, has been signed by 185 countries. For the last decade, the world's governments have carried out intense negotiations to define a strategy to halt climate change, attributed to the so-called "greenhouse effect", caused by the accumulation in the Earth's atmosphere of gases emitted in the combustion of fossil fuels like petroleum or coal.

The main outcome of the negotiations was the Kyoto Protocol in 1997. After the COP 8, the possibility for this legal instrument entering into force should become clear. The idea is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions overall by 2008- 2012 to 5.2 percent less than they were in 1990.

The Protocol will take effect after being ratified by at least 55 countries whose total greenhouse gas emissions made up at least 55 percent of total emissions in 1990.

When the COP 8 got under way, the Protocol had been ratified by 96 countries, but their total greenhouse gas output is just 37 percent of the total. The situation could change dramatically if industrialized countries like Russia or Japan were to ratify the accord.

The United States, responsible for a quarter of the world's greenhouse gas emissions, will not ratify the Protocol, as President George W. Bush has repeated on several occasions.

Environmentalists, meanwhile, say it is urgent to reach an agreement on how to immediately begin reducing emissions. Climate change is considered a perturbing factor in atmospheric conditions, sea level and harvest timeframes.

To learn more about this issue, there is plenty to peruse on the Internet, where numerous websites explain the greenhouse effect and climate change.

8th Session of Conference of Parties
Secretariat of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change
Text of the Framework Convention
Linkages: special coverage of COP 8
Texts of the Convention and Kyoto Protocol
Protocol Thermometer: status of ratification
UNEP: Climate change - vital climate graphics
Tierramérica: Climate Change
BBC: Global Warming

Migratory Species

A rare wild Asian camel, the white shark, three types of whales and the river dolphin are members of a new group of species protected by an international convention that held its seventh Conference of Parties (COP7) in the German city of Bonn.

The Convention on Migratory Species (CMS), the signatories of which meet every three years, studied the cases of 37 species at the latest meeting, in September, and as a result issued new directions for species protection.

The delegates at the Bonn meeting also considered the impacts of wind energy turbines, electrical transmission lines and certain types of fishing activities on the populations of migratory birds.

The CMS, sponsored by the United Nations Environment Program, places on its Appendix I list those species that require strict protection because otherwise their survival is in danger. In Appendix II are those that require intergovernmental agreements to ensure the stability of their populations.

The objective of the CMS is to achieve the preservation of migratory species through actions that prevent their depredation and protect their habitats, which in this case usually involves more than one country.

The migration of animals is common around the planet and involves a great diversity of fauna species.

At the website of the Global Registry of Migratory Species, an information center highly specialized in this issue, there are an estimate 5,000 "traveling" species.

Researchers have found that climatic conditions, search for food or for appropriate nesting areas are important motivations for animal migration. But this behavior encompasses some mysteries: Why do some species travel such great distances? How do they know where they should go?

Among the known migratory species there are numerous whale types, sea turtles, fish and birds, the latter of which are probably the most recognized because their annual journeys are so clearly visible to humans.

Today, scientists use the latest technological developments, such as transmitters and satellite-based tracking systems, to learn more about animal migrations.

Convention on Migratory Species
Introduction to the Convention
CMS Text
UNEP: Results of the CMS Conference (COP7)
Linkages: Special COP7 coverage
The Mystery of Bird Migration
Global Registry of Migratory Species
Satellite tracking of migratory species
Bird Migration and Wind Turbines

Endangered Species

On planet Earth, there are 11,167 species of animals and plants that are known to be in danger of extinction, warns the latest edition of the so-called "Red List" published by the World Conservation Union (IUCN), considered an important tool for evaluating the state of biological diversity.

The Red List of Threatened Species 2002 includes 121 entries more than in the previous edition, from 2000.

In an information kit accompanying the Red List, the IUCN warns that many species are diminishing to critical population levels. The conservation organizations also states that the loss of biodiversity is one of the most pressing crises affecting the world, while acknowledging that concern and awareness are increasing about how biological resources are needed for human life as well.

The species included in the Red List are categorized according to their level of risk: critical, threatened or vulnerable. The IUCN estimates that the threat of extinction today is 1,000 to 10,000 times greater than it would be naturally, without the intervention of human activities and their impacts on the Earth.

Habitat destruction, overexploitation of resources, contamination, illegal trafficking in plant and animal species, degradation of ecosystems and phenomena related to climate change - caused by human activities - are all factors that contribute to species extinction.

Threats to biodiversity, understood as the variety of plants, animals and microorganisms that inhabit the planet, are a source of concern to the international community, as evidenced by the sheer amount of information available on the this issue via the Internet.

This widespread worry about the Earth's natural wealth has led to agreements among the world's governments. Perhaps the most important on this issue is the Convention on Biological Diversity, signed in 1992. The website of the Convention's secretariat reports that there are 13 million identified living species.

But it is thought that the true total is much higher. The All Species Foundation is carrying out a project that seeks to identify all living organisms within the next 25 years. Its website allows the cybernaut to ponder more than 800,000 species.

Another initiative aimed at protecting species is the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna, known as CITES, the purpose of which is to fight the illegal trafficking of protected plants and animals.

IUCN: Red List of Threatened Species 2002
Red List 2002 Information Kit
IUCN: Species Survival Commission
CITES: Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species
World Resources Institute
Tierramérica: Connect Yourself to Biodiversity
All Species Foundation
UNEP: Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity
Yahoo!: websites on endangered species
Internet Links on endangered species



Copyright © 2001 Tierramérica. Todos los Derechos Reservados



























Migratory birds. Photo credit: US FWS
Migratory birds. Photo credit: US FWS






















Hippocampus reidi. Crédito E.G. Lines Jr./Shedd Aquarium. Fuente: UICN
Hippocampus reidi. Credit: E.G. Lines Jr./Shedd Aquarium. Source: UICN