Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

UN Involves Poorer Nations in Climate-Change Solutions

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

UN Involves Poorer Nations in Climate-Change Solutions

Article excerpt

If the debate about climate change took place on a football field, it would be the industrialized countries versus the developing countries. And until now, only the industrialized countries were equipped with top-of-the line gear.

But a new $4.8 billion project, directed by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), may help even the balance. For the first time, global monitoring stations, which gather data on a range of pollutants that contribute to global warming, have been placed in developing countries. Six are in some of the most remote reaches of the world, from the deserts of Algeria to the hinterlands of the Chinese-Tibetan border.

"The network will sensitize the developing countries to the issue of climate change and reinforce the point that they need to be involved," says Phil Reynolds, a senior program adviser at UNDP. "Showing them how crop yields could be hurt by certain pollutants ... may drive home the point that no country is exempt from this debate." Some climate watchers view the UNDP project as largely symbolic. "Involving them in the science is interesting and important," says Christopher Flavin, senior vice president of World Watch Institute in Washington. "But the science is very sophisticated and with few exceptions, they {developing countries} would not be able to participate anytime soon since they lack the resources." Monitoring climate change involves years of data gathering, so these six new stations will only have limited usefulness, Mr. Flavin says. The station atop Mt. Kenya will provide a snapshot of how the atmosphere looks today, for example, but won't be able to give a picture of how it has changed. And knowing how the climate has changed is crucial to environmental debate. This debate will reach a climax next week when scientists and diplomats gather in Kyoto, Japan, for an international conference on climate change. They will try to set binding national limits on ' emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), methane, nitrous oxide, and other gases believed to cause global warming. …

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