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The world’s scientists have done their job. Now it’s time for world leaders, starting with President Bush, to do theirs. That is the urgent message at the core of the latest — and the most powerful — report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a group of 2,500 scientists who collectively constitute the world’s most authoritative voice on global warming.

Released in Spain over the weekend, the report leaves no doubt that man-made emissions from the burning of fossil fuels (and, to a lesser extent, deforestation) have been responsible for the steady rise in atmospheric temperatures.

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If these emissions are not brought under control, the report predicts, the consequences could be disastrous: further melting at the poles, sea levels rising high enough to submerge island nations, the elimination of one-quarter or more of the world’s species, widespread famine in places like Africa, more violent hurricanes.

And it warns that time is running out. To avoid the worst of these disasters, it says, the world must stabilize emissions of greenhouse gases by 2015, begin to reduce them shortly thereafter and largely free itself of carbon-emitting technologies by midcentury.

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As Rajendra Pachauri, a scientist and economist who leads the I.P.C.C., noted: “ What we do in the next two or three years will define our future.”

Deep in all this gloom is a considerable ray of hope: significant progress toward stabilizing and reducing emissions can be achieved using known technologies.

This a hugely important message for policy makers and for those who say there’s no point in spending money on the problem because the game is already lost. The world does not have to rely on pie-in-the-sky technologies, the report insists. What it really needs is a policy structure to encourage major investments in cleaner technologies that are already at hand or within reach.

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The report’s urgent warnings and its message of hope could not be more timely. Nations will gather in Bali next month to begin framing a successor to the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, which expires in 2012. Under normal circumstances, Bali would be the beginning of a long, contentious process; Kyoto, negotiated in 1997, did not take effect for seven years. What the I.P.C.C. is saying is that the world cannot afford to wait for another grand agreement, and certainly not for another seven years. It needs action now.

Every member of Congress should read this report. The Senate has begun hearings on legislation that would put a mandatory cap on carbon emissions. The bill is not perfect and, to some critics, not strong enough. But it is a worthy start and would move the United States toward the cleaner fuels and carbon-free technologies essential to the task of changing the way the world produces and uses energy.

Mr. Bush should also read it and order extra copies for members of his staff. After years of denial, the president now concedes that a problem exists. But he still insists on voluntary remedies and still worries about the costs to the American economy of anything more ambitious. If there is one message Mr. Bush and other world leaders must take away from the scientists, it is that the price of more delay will be far greater.

Published by Google: November 20, 2007

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A new way to examine humanity’s impact on the environment is to consider how the world would fare if all the people disappeared.

If all human beings vanished, for example, Manhattan (New York) would eventually revert to a forested island.
Many skyscrapers would topple within decades, undermined by waterlogged foundations.

Weeds and colonizing trees would take root in the cracked pavement, while raptors nested in the ruins and foxes roamed the streets.

According to Alan Weisman (author of book “The world without Us”), large parts of our physical infrastructure would begin to crumble almost immediately. Without street cleaners and road crews, our grand boulevards and Superhighways would start to crack and buckle in a matter of months.

Over the following decades many houses and office buildings would collapse, but some ordinary items would resist decay for an extraordinarily long time.

Stainless-steel pots, for example, could last for millennia, especially if they were buried in the weed-covered mounds that used to be our kitchens.

And certain common plastics might remain intact for hundreds of thousands of years; they would not break down until microbes evolved the ability to consume them.

Now look down the next pictures about what happens at…?
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* 2 Days after the disappearance of humans (New York City’s subway system completely fills with water.)
* 2 to 4 years (cracked streets become covered with weeds…)
* 20 Years (Dozens of streams and marshes form in Manhattan)
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* 100 Year (The roof of nearly all houses have caved in…)
* 300 Year (New York City’s suspension bridges have fallen)
* 500 Years (Mature Forest cover the New York metropolitan area)
*5,000 Years (As the casings of nuclear warheads corrode, radioactive plutonium 239 is released into the environment.)
 
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* 15,000 Years (The last remnants of stone buildings in Manhattan fall to advancing glaciers as a new ice age begins)
* 10 Million Years (Bronze sculptures, many of wish still retain their original shape, survive as relics of the human age)
* 1 Billion Years (The earth heats dramatically, but insects and other animals may adapt.)
* 5 Billion Years (The earth vaporizes as the dying sun expands and consumes all the inner planets.)
Trillions of Years (Ex-planet earth is in the Twilight Zone, still travel outward through space.

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I’m not suggesting that we have to worry about human beings suddenly disappearing tomorrow, some alien death ray taking us all away.

Think about how long it would take to wipe out some of the things, we have created. Some of our more formidable inventions have a longevity that we can’t even predict yet, like some of the persistent organic pollutants that began as pesticides or industrial chemicals. Or some of our plastics, which have an enormous role in our lives and an enormous presence in the environment.

Wouldn’t it be a sad loss if humanity were extirpated from the planet?
Would this world be beautiful without us?
I don’t think it’s necessary for us to all disappear for the earth to come back to a healthier state.

* Summarized and adapted from Scientific American, July 2007