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Gore Paints Picture of Environment Crisis

It was a vivid picture of the consequences of global warming: melting glaciers, rising sea levels, dying lakes and increasing numbers of floods and droughts.

The painter was Al Gore, the former vice-president of the United States and also the author of "Earth in the Balance: Ecology and the Human Spirit."

He was invited to give a speech on global climate changes to about 700 Tsinghua University students yesterday in Beijing at a Tsinghua Forum.

"Many people in the US believe that Hurricane Katrina marks the beginning of consequences," Gore said, adding that all people in the world are facing a huge global environmental crisis.

In the next 10 to 15 years, Gore said in the speech, there will be no more snow on Kilimanjaro, and the melting of Himalayan glaciers will result in a sharp decline in the availability of fresh water for people along the rivers and streams that come from the mountain. The frequency of large natural disasters related to more flooding, more drought and stronger storms is increasing.

The largest land-based ice shelf in the Arctic, the Ward Hunt Ice Shelf, has broken in half, and Antarctic glaciers are melting at an unexpected speed. Two major studies show that within 50 to 70 years, glaciers might be completely gone in summer time, and the sea level will be 6 meters higher.

Gore displayed a picture of Shanghai's coastline made to show the serious consequences if the predictions are right.

"We are making the storms stronger and more destructive, increasing the number of floods and droughts, and making ourselves more vulnerable to viruses and bacteria," Gore said. "These are warnings that we must hear, understand and fight with. It's everyone's mission."

In reply to a question raised by a Tsinghua student, Gore said the major obstacle to the United States' ratifying the Kyoto Protocol is that "there are still arguments in the United States that China is not obligated to reduce its global warming pollution under the treaty."

The treaty was designed so that developed countries take the first obligation, establish momentum and then require nations with lower average incomes to join in the global obligation, Gore said.

China's rapid growth in power and economic strength during the last two decades has made some Americans believe that it should do more under the global warming treaty.

"However, it is unrealistic in my view to see a global treaty that requires the same obligations for countries with very low incomes and countries with very high incomes," Gore said.

Actions by China, such as the establishment of higher environmental standards for cars and more robust tree planting programs, will move the world forward faster, he said.

Gore will leave Beijing today for Sweden to continue his global lectures.

(China Daily October 11, 2005)

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