Greenpeace 'has firm evidence' of global warming

GREENPEACE yesterday launched the world's first database of early warning signs for climate change - a long list of floods, storms, droughts and changes in wildlife, weather and ice and snow patterns which it believes are all indicators of man- made global warming.

The environmental pressure group claimed that there was now unshakeable evidence that pollution had begun to change the earth's climate and make the planet a more dangerous place.

The database has been published as a 166-page book called The Climate Time Bomb and the information will also be available on the computer network Internet.

Jeremy Leggett, Greenpeace's director of science, said the report had been sent to the governments of 167 nations that had signed the United Nations climate protection treaty. 'I challenge any of them to read the report and not feel the need for a new urgency in addressing this threat,' he said.

But some British researchers were unimpressed. 'This is a collection of newspaper cuttings not worth the paper it is written on,' said Dr Chris Folland, of the Meteorological Office's Hadley Centre in Bracknell, Berkshire, one of the world's leading centres of climate change expertise. 'It's not scientific - the approach is not a valid one.'

The Greenpeace report has 500 entries which include brief summaries of reports from pressure groups, scientists and governments, as well as hundreds of cases of extreme weather. Newspaper sources have been relied on heavily.

Greenpeace, which claims 5 million paying supporters worldwide, points out that:

Eight of the last 14 years have been the hottest since world-wide temperature records began in the last century.

In the last five years the insurance industry has been hard hit by 15 'billion dollar' climate-related disasters, including floods and hurricanes.

Coral bleaching is killing Tahiti's reef systems - the latest in a world-wide surge of coral damage which some scientists believe is due to warmer sea temperatures.

Dr Leggett said that the insurance industry could be the first major casualty of man-made climate change and it was now starting to take the issue seriously. It had dollars 160bn worth of reserves around the globe which could be exhausted in the aftermath of a series of hurricanes and floods. This 'global insurance collapse' would threaten the world economy.

He accepted that it was in the nature of climate to be highly variable, and there would always be extremes around the world at any one time. 'But what we are seeing now is a peculiar concentration in the number and intensity of events.'

However, Dr Folland, while believing that man-made global warming could be a threat, said: 'There always are extreme climate events happening. It's not yet possible to prove that the climate is becoming more variable.'

There is a scientific consensus that rising emissions of pollutants, especially carbon dioxide and methane, are trapping more of the sun's heat in the atmosphere. This could alter rainfall and wind patterns as well as raising temperatures and sea levels.

But the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which gathers together top scientists in the field, believes there will be no unequivocal proof for about 10 years that the climate is changing. By then the planet will be committed to further change.

Greenpeace wants developed nations to cut their carbon dioxide emissions by 20 per cent by 2005 as a first step in tackling the problem. But the UN's climate change treaty only calls on them to stabilise emissions at their 1990 level by the year 2000.

The Climate Time Bomb; Greenpeace UK, Canonbury Villas, London N1 2PN; pounds 5.