The warning comes during UN climate talks in Poznan, Poland. Governments are meeting to develop a text that will form the basis for negotiations on the new climate change treaty due at the end of 2009.
WWF is urging governments to develop a strong text that will keep global warming below the danger threshold of 2°C.
“The latest science confirms that we are now seeing devastating consequences of warming that were not expected to hit for decades,” said Kim Carstensen, leader of WWF’s global climate initiative.
“The early meltdown of ice in the Arctic and Greenland may soon prompt further dangerous climate feedbacks, accelerating warming faster and stronger than forecast. Responsible politicians cannot dare to waste another second on delaying tactics in the face of these urgent warnings from nature.”
According to WWF, scientists now suggest that even warming of less than 2°C might be enough to trigger the loss of Arctic sea ice and the melting of the Greenland ice sheet. As a result, global sea levels would rise by several metres, threatening tens of millions of people worldwide.
“The planet is now facing a new quality of change, increasingly difficult to adapt to and soon impossible to reverse,” said Carstensen.
“Governments in Poznan must agree to peak and decline global emissions well before 2020 to give people reasonable hope that global warming can still be kept within limits that prevent the worst.”
As well as constructive discussions in Poznan, governments need to show they are ready for immediate action, Carstensen added.
Out of control
WWF’s analysis also shows that the capacity of the Earth’s natural carbon sinks on land and in the oceans for storing CO2 has decreased by 5% over the last 50 years. At the same time, manmade CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels have been increasing – four times faster in this decade than in the previous decade.
“We are at the point where our climate system is starting to spin out of control,” said Carstensen. “A single year is left to agree a new global treaty that can protect the climate, but the UN talks next year in Copenhagen can only deliver this treaty if the meeting in Poznan this year develops a strong negotiation text.”