- Disastrous weather is set to continue for at least another
six months, it was officially announced yesterday, as Hurricane Ivan headed
for the Cayman Islands and Cuba after leaving at least eight people dead
- The US government confirmed that a new El Niño
is about to strike, bringing torrential rain and droughts around the world.
Meanwhile, Ivan developed winds of 155mph. Jamaica escaped a direct hit,
but still suffered extensive damage. So far, at least 34 people have lost
their lives, mostly in Grenada.
- Over the next two days both Tony Blair and Michael Howard
- in an unprecedented double act - will make major speeches describing
climate change as one of the greatest threats facing civilisation. They
will set out programmes for combating global warming, and call for the
rapid development of clean, renewable sources of energy.
- Niños usually kill more people worldwide even
than bad hurricane years, and the announcement by the US government's National
Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa) presages more natural and
human disasters stretching at least into the early months of next year.
- "El Niño conditions have developed in the
tropical Pacific and are expected to last through early 2005," said
Jim Laver, director of the Noaa's Climate Prediction Centre.
- During an El Niño, warm water flows eastwards
across the Pacific, bringing heavy rain to the US West Coast and most of
Central and South America. By contrast Australia, Indonesia and parts of
north-east and southern Africa usually suffer drought. Europe is relatively
- The last big El Niño in 1997-98 cost hundreds
of lives and caused $34bn (£19bn) in damage worldwide, partly through
flooding to Chile, Ecuador and Bolivia and partly through failing harvests
in Australia, the Philippines and Indonesia. A more recent, milder one
in 2002-03 caused the worst Australian drought in a century.
- So far, the new one looks more like 2002-03 than 1997-98
but climatologists stress that all are different. The oceanic phenomena,
like hurricanes, are growing more frequent. Research suggests that they
are occurring nearly three times as often as 300 years ago, and some scientists
believe that there is a link with global warming. Tomorrow Michael Howard
will call on Tony Blair to use his relationship with President Bush to
persuade him to join the international effort to control the climate change.
He will say: "No one can opt out of the fight against global warming.
This means persuading the Americans to join the battle. Their involvement
is essential for effective action."
- In a surprise move - since his party has been sceptical
about building wind turbines in the countryside - he will commit the Conservatives
to a rapid expansion of renewable energy. He particularly supports solar,
wave and tidal power, growing energy crops and building windmills offshore.
- He will also promise an urgent energy-saving drive and
to ban HFCs, chemicals used in fridges that contribute powerfully to global
- Mr Blair - who will speak to an audience of business-
men and environmentalists on Tuesday - last week held a rare meeting with
the leaders of Friends of the Earth, the Green Alliance, Greenpeace, The
Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and WWF-UK to seek their ideas.
- He is determined to use his forthcoming chairmanship
of both the EU and the G8 group of the world's most powerful nations to
revitalise international action and is considering pushing for agreement
on a level of warming that the planet must not be exceed.
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