Understanding Climate Change:
A Beginner's Guide to the UN Framework Convention
Introduction: A giant asteroid could hit the earth! Something else could happen! The global temperature
could rise! Wake up!
The 1990s have been a time of international soul- searching about the environment. What are we doing to our
planet? More and more, we are realising that the Industrial Revolution has changed forever the relationship
between humanity and nature. There is real concern that by the middle or the end of the next century human
activities will have changed the basic conditions that have allowed life to thrive on earth.
The 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is one of a series of recent
agreements through which countries around the world are banding together to meet this challenge. Other
treaties deal with such matters as pollution of the oceans, expanding deserts, damage to the ozone layer,
and the rapid extinction of plant and animal species. The Climate Change Convention focuses on something
particularly disturbing: we are changing the way energy from the sun interacts with and escapes from our
planet's atmosphere. By doing that, we risk altering the global climate. Among the expected
consequences are an increase in the average temperature of the earth's surface and shifts in world-wide
weather patterns. Other - unforeseen - effects cannot be ruled out.
We have a few problems to face up to.
Problem No. 1 (the big problem): Scientists see a real risk that the climate will change rapidly and
dramatically over the coming decades and centuries. Can we handle it?
A giant asteroid did hit the earth - about 65 million years ago. Splat. Scientists speculate that the
collision threw so much dust into the atmosphere that the world was dark for three years. Sunlight was
greatly reduced, so many plants could not grow, temperatures fell, the food chain collapsed, and many
species, including the largest ever to walk the earth, died off.
That, at least, is the prevailing theory of why the dinosaurs became extinct. Even those who weren't
actually hit by the asteroid paid the ultimate price.
The catastrophe that befell the dinosaurs is only one illustration, if dramatic, of how changes in climate
can make or break a species.
According to another theory, human beings evolved when a drying trend some 10 million years ago was
followed around three million years ago by a sharp drop in world temperature. The ape-like higher primates
in the Great Rift Valley of Africa were used to sheltering in trees, but, under this long-term climate
shift, the trees were replaced with grassland. The 'apes' found themselves on an empty plain much
colder and drier than what they were used to, and extremely vulnerable to predators.
Extinction was a real possibility, and the primates appear to have responded with two evolutionary jumps -
first to creatures who could walk upright over long distances, with hands free for carrying children and
food; and then to creatures with much larger brains, who used tools and were omnivorous (could eat both
plants and meat). This second, large-brained creature is generally considered to be the first
Shifts in climate have shaped human destiny ever since, and people have largely responded by adapting,
migrating, and growing smarter. During a later series of ice ages, sea levels dropped and humans moved
across land bridges from Asia to the Americas and the Pacific islands. Many subsequent migrations, many
innovations, many catastrophes have followed. Some can be traced to smaller climatic fluctuations, such as
a few decades or centuries of slightly higher or lower temperatures, or extended droughts. Best known is
the Little Ice Age that struck Europe in the early Middle Ages, bringing famines, uprisings, and the
withdrawal of northern colonies in Iceland and Greenland. People have suffered under the whims of climate
for millennia, responding with their wits, unable to influence these large events.
Until now. Ironically, we humans have been so remarkably successful as a species that we may have backed
ourselves into a corner. Our numbers have grown to the point where we have less room for large-scale
migration should a major climate shift call for it. And the products of our large brains - our industries,
transport, and other activities - have led to something unheard of in the past. Previously the global
climate changed human beings. Now human beings seem to be changing the global climate. The results are
uncertain, but if current predictions prove correct, the climatic changes over the coming century will be
larger than any since the dawn of human civilisation.
The principal change to date is in the earth's atmosphere. The giant asteroid that felled the dinosaurs
threw large clouds of dust into the air, but we are causing something just as profound if more subtle. We
have changed, and are continuing to change, the balance of gases that form the atmosphere. This is
especially true of such key "greenhouse gases" as carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and
nitrous oxide (N2O). (Water vapour is the most important greenhouse gas, but human activities do not affect
it directly.) These naturally occurring gases make up less than one tenth of one per cent of the total
atmosphere, which consists mostly of oxygen (21 per cent) and nitrogen (78 per cent). But greenhouse gases
are vital because they act like a blanket around the earth. Without this natural blanket the earth's
surface would be some 30 C colder than it is today.
The problem is that human activity is making the blanket "thicker". For example, when we burn
coal, oil, and natural gas we spew huge amounts of carbon dioxide into the air. When we destroy forests the
carbon stored in the trees escapes to the atmosphere. Other basic activities, such as raising cattle and
planting rice, emit methane, nitrous oxide, and other greenhouse gases. If emissions continue to grow at
current rates, it is almost certain that atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide will double from
pre-industrial levels during the 21st century. If no steps are taken to slow greenhouse gas emissions, it
is quite possible that levels will triple by the year 2100.
The most direct result, says the scientific consensus, is likely to be a "global warming" of 1.5
to 4.5 C over the next 100 years. That is in addition to an apparent temperature increase of half a degree
Centigrade since the pre-industrial period before 1850, at least some of which may be due to past
greenhouse gas emissions.
Just how this would affect us is hard to predict because the global climate is a very complicated system.
If one key aspect - such as the average global temperature - is altered, the ramifications ripple outward.
Uncertain effects pile onto uncertain effects. For example, wind and rainfall patterns that have prevailed
for hundreds or thousands of years, and on which millions of people depend, may change. Sea-levels may rise
and threaten islands and low-lying coastal areas. In a world that is increasingly crowded and under stress
- a world that has enough problems already - these extra pressures could lead directly to more famines and
While scientists are scrambling to understand more clearly the effects of our greenhouse gas emissions,
countries around the globe recently joined together to confront the problem.
How the Convention responds
- It recognises that there is a problem. That's a significant step. It is not easy for
the nations of the world to agree on a common course of action, especially one that tackles a problem whose
consequences are uncertain and which will be more important for our grandchildren than for the present
generation. Still, the Convention was negotiated and signed by 165 states in a little over two years, and
over 100 have already ratified and so are legally bound by it. The treaty took effect on 21 March
- It sets an "ultimate objective" of stabilising "greenhouse gas concentrations in
the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic (human-induced) interference with the
climate system." The objective does not specify what these concentrations should be, only
that they be at a level that is not dangerous. This acknowledges that there is currently no scientific
certainty about what a dangerous level would be. Scientists believe it will take about another decade (and
the next generation of supercomputers) before today's uncertainties (or many of them) are significantly
reduced. The Convention's objective thus remains meaningful no matter how the science
- It directs that "such a level should be achieved within a time-frame sufficient to allow
ecosystems to adapt naturally to climate change, to ensure that food production is not threatened and to
enable economic development to proceed in a sustainable manner." This highlights the main
concerns about food production - probably the most climate-sensitive human activity - and economic
development. It also suggests (as most climatologists believe) that some change is inevitable and that
adaptive as well as preventive measures are called for.
Again, this leaves room for interpretation in the light of scientific findings and the trade-offs and risks
that the global community is willing to accept.
Problem No. 2: If the consequences of a problem are uncertain, do you ignore the problem or do you do
something about it anyway?
Climate change is a threat to mankind. But no one is certain about its future effects or their severity.
Responding to the threat is expected to be expensive, complicated, and difficult. There is even some
disagreement over whether any problem exists at all: while many people worry that the effects will be
extremely serious, others argue that scientists cannot prove that what they suspect will happen will
actually happen. In addition, it is not clear who (in the various regions of the world) will suffer most.
Yet if the nations of the world wait until the consequences and victims are clear, it will probably be too
late to act. What should we do?
The truth is that in most scientific circles the issue is no longer whether or not climate change is a
potentially serious problem. Rather, it is how the problem will develop, what its effects will be, and how
these effects can best be detected. Computer models of something as complicated as the planet's climate
system are not far enough advanced yet to give clear and unambiguous answers. Nevertheless, while the when,
where, and how remain uncertain, the big picture painted by these climate models cries out for
- Regional rain patterns may change. At the global level, the evapo-transpiration cycle is expected
to speed up. This means that it would rain more, but the rain would evaporate faster, leaving soils drier
during critical parts of the growing season. New or worsening droughts, especially in poorer countries,
could reduce supplies of clean, fresh water to the point where there are major threats to public health.
Because they still lack confidence in regional scenarios, scientists are uncertain about which areas of the
world risk becoming wetter and which drier. But with global water resources already under severe strain
from rapid population growth and expanding economic activity, the danger is clear.
- Climate and agricultural zones may shift towards the poles. In the mid-latitude regions the shift
is expected to be 200 to 300 kilometres for every degree Celsius of warming. Increased summer dryness may
reduce mid- latitude crop yields by 10 to 30 per cent, and it is possible that today's leading
grain-producing areas (such as the Great Plains of the United States) would experience more frequent
droughts and heat waves. The poleward edges of the mid-latitude agricultural zones - northern Canada,
Scandinavia, Russia, and Japan in the northern hemisphere, and southern Chile and Argentina in the southern
hemisphere - might benefit from higher temperatures. However, in some areas rugged terrain and poor soil
would prevent these countries from compensating for reduced yields in today's more productive areas.
- Melting glaciers and the thermal expansion of sea water may raise sea levels, threatening low-lying
coastal areas and small islands.
The global mean sea level has already risen by around 15 centimetres during the past century,
and global warming is expected to cause a further rise of about 18 cm by the year 2030. If the current
trend in greenhouse gas emissions continues, the rise could amount to 65 cm above current levels by the
year 2100. The most vulnerable land would be the unprotected, densely populated coastal regions of some of
the world's poorest countries. Bangladesh, whose coast is already prone to devastating floods, would be
a likely victim, as would many small island states such as the Maldives.
These scenarios are alarming enough to raise concern, but too uncertain to enable governments to make many
specific decisions about what to do. The picture is fuzzy. Some governments, beleaguered by other problems
and responsibilities and bills to pay, understandably are tempted to do nothing at all. Maybe the threat
will go away. Or someone else will deal with it. Maybe another giant asteroid will hit the earth. Who
How the Convention responds
- It establishes a framework and a process for agreeing to specific actions -
later. The diplomats who wrote the Framework Convention on Climate Change saw it as a launching
pad for potential further action in the future. They recognised that it would not be possible in the year
1992 for the world's governments to agree on a detailed blueprint for tackling climate change. But by
establishing a framework of general principles and institutions, and by setting up a process through which
governments can meet regularly, they got things started.
A key benefit of this approach is that it allows countries to begin discussing an issue even before they
all fully agree that it is, in fact, a problem. Even sceptical countries feel it is worthwhile
participating. (Or, to put it another way, they'd feel uneasy about being left out.) This creates
legitimacy for the issue, and a sort of international peer pressure to take the subject
The Convention is designed to allow countries to weaken or strengthen the treaty in response to new
scientific developments. For example, they can agree to take more specific actions (such as reducing
emissions of greenhouse gases by a certain amount) by adopting "amendments" or
"protocols" to the Convention.
The treaty promotes action in spite of uncertainty on the basis of a recent development in international
law and diplomacy called the "precautionary principle." Under traditional international law, an
activity generally has not been restricted or prohibited unless a direct causal link between the activity
and a particular damage can be shown. But many environmental problems, such as damage to the ozone layer
and pollution of the oceans, cannot be confronted if final proof of cause and effect is required. In
response, the international community has gradually come to accept the precautionary principle, under which
activities that threaten serious or irreversible damage can be restricted or even prohibited before there
is absolute scientific certainty about their effects.
- The Convention takes preliminary steps that clearly make sense for the time being.
Countries ratifying the Convention - called "Parties to the Convention" in diplomatic jargon -
agree to take climate change into account in such matters as agriculture, energy, natural resources, and
activities involving sea-coasts. They agree to develop national programmes to slow climate change. The
Convention encourages them to share technology and to cooperate in other ways to reduce greenhouse gas
emissions, especially from energy, transport, industry, agriculture, forestry, and waste management, which
together produce nearly all greenhouse gas emissions attributable to human activity.
- The Convention encourages scientific research on climate change. It calls for data
gathering, research, and climate observation, and it creates a "subsidiary body" for
"scientific and technological advice" to help governments decide what to do next. Each country
that is a Party to the Convention must also develop a greenhouse gas "inventory" listing its
national sources (such as factories and transport) and "sinks" (forests and other natural
ecosystems that absorb greenhouse gases from the atmosphere). These inventories will have to be updated
regularly and made public. The information they provide on which activities emit how much of each gas will
be essential for monitoring changes in emissions and determining the effects of measures taken to control
Problem No. 3: It's not fair.
If a giant asteroid hits the earth, that's nobody's fault. The same cannot be said for global
There is a fundamental unfairness to the climate change problem that chafes at the already uneasy relations
between the rich and poor nations of the world. Countries with high standards of living are mostly (if
unwittingly) responsible for the rise in greenhouse gases. These early industrialisers - Europe, North
America, Japan, and a few others - created their wealth in part by pumping into the atmosphere vast amounts
of greenhouse gases long before the likely consequences were understood. Developing countries now fear
being told that they should curtail their own fledgling industrial activities - that the atmosphere's
safety margin is all used up.
Because energy-related emissions are the leading cause of climate change, there will be growing pressure on
all countries to reduce the amounts of coal and oil they use. There also will be pressure (and incentives)
to adopt advanced technologies so that less damage is inflicted in the future. Buying such technologies can
Countries in the early stages of industrialisation - countries struggling hard to give their citizens
better lives - don't want these additional burdens. Economic development is difficult enough already.
If they agreed to cut back on burning the fossil fuels that are the cheapest, most convenient, and most
useful for industry, how could they make any progress?
There are other injustices to the climate change
. The countries to suffer the most if the predicted consequences come about - if agricultural zones shift
or sea levels rise or rainfall patterns change - will probably be in the developing world. These nations
simply do not have the scientific or economic resources, or the social safety nets, to cope with
disruptions in climate. Also, in many of these countries rapid population growth has pushed many millions
of people onto marginal land - the sort of land that can change most drastically due to variations in
How the Convention responds
- It puts the lion's share of the responsibility for battling climate change - and the
lion's share of the bill - on the rich countries. The Convention notes that the largest share
of historical and current emissions originates in developed countries. Its first basic principle is that
these countries should take the lead in combating climate change and its adverse impacts. Specific
commitments in the treaty relating to financial and technological transfers apply only to the 24 developed
countries belonging to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD - excepting Mexico,
which joined the OECD in 1994). They agree to support climate change activities in developing countries by
providing financial support above and beyond any financial assistance they already provide to these
Specific commitments concerning efforts to limit greenhouse gas emissions and enhance natural sinks apply
to the OECD countries as well as to 12 "economies in transition" (Central and Eastern Europe and
the former Soviet Union). Although negotiations left the treaty language less than clear, it is generally
accepted that the OECD and transition countries should at a minimum seek to return by the year 2000 to the
greenhouse gas emission levels they had in 1990.
- The Convention recognises that poorer nations have a right to economic development. It
notes that the share of global emissions of greenhouse gases originating in developing countries will grow
as these countries expand their industries to improve social and economic conditions for their
- It acknowledges the vulnerability of poorer countries to the effects of climate change.
One of the Convention's basic principles is that the specific needs and circumstances of developing
countries should be given "full consideration" in any actions taken. This applies in particular
to those whose fragile ecosystems are highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. The Convention
also recognises that states which depend on income from coal and oil would face difficulties if energy
Problem No. 4: If the whole world starts consuming more and living the good life, can the planet
stand the strain?
As the human population continues to grow, the demands human beings place on the environment
increase. The demands are becoming all the greater because these rapidly increasing numbers of people also
want to live better lives. More and better food, more and cleaner water, more electricity, refrigerators,
automobiles, houses and apartments, land on which to put houses and apartments . . .
Already there are severe problems supplying enough fresh water to the world's billions. Burgeoning
populations are draining the water from rivers and lakes, and vast underground aquifers are steadily being
depleted. What will people do when these natural "tanks" are empty? There are also problems
growing and distributing enough food - widespread hunger in many parts of the world attests to that. There
are other danger signals. The global fish harvest has declined sharply; as large as the oceans are, the
most valuable species have been effectively fished out.
Global warming is a particularly ominous example of humanity's insatiable appetite for natural
resources. During the last century we have dug up and burned massive stores of coal, oil, and natural gas
that took millions of years to accumulate. Our ability to burn up fossil fuels at a rate that is much, much
faster than the rate at which they were created has upset the natural balance of the carbon cycle. The
threat of climate change arises because one of the only ways the atmosphere - also a natural resource - can
respond to the vast quantities of carbon being liberated from beneath the earth's surface is to warm
Meanwhile, human expectations are not tapering off. They are increasing. The countries of the
industrialised "North" have 20 per cent of the world's people but use about 80 per cent of
the world's resources. By global standards, they live extremely well. It's nice living the good
life, but if everyone consumed as much as the North Americans and Western Europeans consume - and billions
of people aspire to do just that - there probably would not be enough clean water and other vital natural
resources to go around. How will we meet these growing expectations when the world is already under so much
How the Convention responds
- It supports the concept of "sustainable development." Somehow, mankind must learn how
to alleviate poverty for huge and growing numbers of people without destroying the natural environment on
which all human life depends. Somehow a way has to be found to develop economically in a fashion that is
sustainable over a long period of time. The buzzword for this challenge among environmentalists and
international bureaucrats is "sustainable development". The trick will be to find methods for
living well while using critical natural resources at a rate no faster than that at which they are
replaced. Unfortunately, the international community is a lot farther along in defining the problems posed
by sustainable development than it is in figuring out how to solve them.
- The Convention calls for developing and sharing environmentally sound technologies and
know-how. Technology will clearly play a major role in dealing with climate change. If we can find
practical ways to use cleaner sources of energy, such as solar power, we can reduce the consumption of coal
and oil. Technology can make industrial processes more efficient, water purification more viable, and
agriculture more productive for the same amount of resources invested. Such technology must be made widely
available - it must somehow be shared by richer and more scientifically advanced countries with poorer
countries that have great need of it.
- The Convention emphasises the need to educate people about climate change. Today's
children and future generations must learn to look at the world in a different way than it has been looked
at by most people during the 20th century. This is both an old and a new idea. Many (but not all!)
pre-industrial cultures lived in balance with nature. Now scientific research is telling us to do much the
same thing. Economic development is no longer a case of "bigger is better" - bigger cars, bigger
houses, bigger harvests of fish, bigger doses of oil and coal. We must no longer think of human progress as
a matter of imposing ourselves on the natural environment. The world - the climate and all living things -
is a closed system; what we do has consequences that eventually come back to affect us. Tomorrow's
children - and today's adults, for that matter - will have to learn to think about the effects of their
actions on the climate. When they make decisions as members of governments and businesses, and as they go
about their private lives, they will have to take the climate into account.
In other words, human behaviour will have to change - probably the sooner the better. But such things are
difficult to prescribe and predict. There is, for example, the matter of what sacrifices might have to be
made by everyone for the good of the global climate. That leads to...
Problem No. 5: Who has the energy, time, or money left to deal with climate change, when we have so
many other problems?
A valid point.
How the Convention responds
- It starts slowly. It doesn't make too many demands (or requests) for the time being. But stay
tuned. The Framework Convention on Climate Change is a general treaty with just a few specific
requirements. More and bigger requirements may come later, in the form of amendments and protocols. This
will happen as scientific understanding of climate change becomes clearer and as the countries of the
world, already suffering from a case of "disaster fatigue", adjust to the idea that they have yet
another crisis to face and pay for. War, famine, AIDS, the ozone "hole", acid rain, the loss of
ecosystems and species ... Thinking about these problems, people could be forgiven for wondering if they
should throw in the towel.
We can't give up, of course. And while the Convention cannot claim to have the issue all sorted out, it
does make a start. Things are beginning to happen. Developed countries are making national plans with the
aim of returning their greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2000 - thereby reversing the
historical trend of ever-increasing emissions. Countries that have ratified the treaty are beginning to
gather data on their emissions and on the present climate. More and more, people and governments are
talking and thinking about climate change.
What happens next? Step by step, national governments committed to controlling their emissions must begin
tightening emissions standards and requiring more replanting of trees; some countries are already working
on such standards. Local and urban governments - which often have direct responsibility for transport,
housing, waste management, and other greenhouse gas-emitting sectors of the economy - have a role, too.
They can start designing and building better public transport systems, for example, and creating incentives
for people to use them rather than private automobiles. They should tighten construction codes so that new
houses and office buildings can be heated or cooled with less fuel. Meanwhile, industrial companies need to
start shifting to new technologies that use fossil fuels and raw materials more efficiently. Wherever
possible they should switch to renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power. They should also
redesign products such as refrigerators, automobiles, cement mixes, and fertilisers so that they produce
lower greenhouse gas emissions. Farmers should look to technologies and methods that reduce the methane
emitted by livestock and rice fields. Individual citizens, too, must cut their use of fossil fuels - take
public transport more often, switch off the lights in empty rooms - and be less wasteful of all natural
It may seem naive to expect behavioural changes of this magnitude. But the potential for more responsible
behaviour on behalf of the climate is nevertheless there. It is possible that as time passes and more is
known about the threats posed by climate change, such responses will seem a lot less naive and a lot more
vital to humanity's well-being.
- The Convention is based on sharing the burdens of coping with climate change. This is
important. The atmosphere is a shared resource, part of the "global commons". The treaty tries to
make sure that any sacrifices made in protecting this resource will be shared fairly among countries - in
accordance with their "common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities and
their social and economic conditions". This means, the participating countries hope, that whatever
ultimately has to be done will be done by enough participants to make the benefits worth the sacrifices. It
is easier to sacrifice towards the common good when you are sure everyone else is pitching in.
Conclusion: Into the 21st century and beyond
Climate change would have lasting consequences. One giant asteroid came along 65 million years ago, and
that was it for the dinosaurs.
In facing up to man-made climate change, human beings are going to have to think in terms of decades and
centuries. The job is just beginning. Many of the effects of climate shifts will not be apparent for two or
three generations. In the future, everyone may be hearing about - and living with - this
The Framework Convention takes this into account. It is aimed at the next century as much as at this one.
It establishes institutions to support efforts to carry out long-term commitments and to monitor long-term
efforts to minimise - and adjust to - climate change. The Conference of the Parties, in which all states
that have ratified the treaty are represented, is the Convention's supreme body. It meets for the first
time in March 1995 and on a yearly basis thereafter. It will promote and review the implementation of the
Convention and, if appropriate, strengthen it. The Conference of Parties will be assisted by two subsidiary
bodies, one for scientific and technological advice and the other for implementation. The Conference of
Parties may also make additional arrangements in the future to help support the needs of the
The treaty also reflects a reasonable view about how the world will function politically in the future, and
assumptions about how problems can best be solved over the next century. It is based on a cooperative
rather than a confrontational approach - it assumes that countries can successfully tackle problems such as
climate change only if they work together as a team. And it is designed to work well in a multi-polar world
in which many countries have influence and the power to apply peer pressure to persuade others to uphold
How can we strike a balance with the environmental conditions that allow us to exist in the first place?
That is a question humankind has largely ignored up to now, at its peril. From here on it is a challenge we
probably will have to face as long as our species exists.
BOX: What is the greenhouse effect?
In the long term, the earth must shed energy into space at the same rate at which it absorbs energy from
the sun. Solar energy arrives in the form of short-wavelength radiation. Some of this radiation is
reflected away by the earth's surface and atmosphere. Most of it, however, passes straight through the
atmosphere to warm the earth's surface. The earth gets rid of this energy (sends it back out into
space) in the form of long- wavelength, infra-red radiation.
Most of the infra-red radiation emitted upwards by the earth's surface is absorbed in the atmosphere by
water vapour, carbon dioxide, and the other naturally occurring "greenhouse gases". These gases
prevent energy from passing directly from the surface out into space. Instead, many interacting processes
(including radiation, air currents, evaporation, cloud-formation, and rainfall) transport the energy high
into the atmosphere. From there it can radiate into space. This slower, more indirect process is fortunate
for us, because if the surface of the earth could radiate energy into space unhindered, the earth would be
a cold, lifeless place - a bleak and barren planet rather like Mars.
By increasing the atmosphere's ability to absorb infra-red energy, our greenhouse gas emissions are
disturbing the way the climate maintains this balance between incoming and outgoing energy. A doubling of
the concentration of long-lived greenhouse gases (which is projected to occur early in the next century)
would, if nothing else changed, reduce the rate at which the planet can shed energy into space by about 2
per cent. Energy cannot simply accumulate. The climate somehow will have to adjust to get rid of the extra
energy - and while 2 per cent may not sound like much, over the entire earth that amounts to trapping the
energy content of some 3 million tons of oil every minute.
Scientists point out that we are altering the energy "engine" that drives the climate system.
Something has to change to absorb the shock.
Published by the UNEP/WMO Information Unit on Climate Change. Printed in December 1994. Permission is
granted to reproduce the contents giving appropriate credit. For more information, contact UNEP/IUC, Geneva
Executive Center, Box 356, 1219 Châtelaine, Switzerland