Campaigners hope climate figures will provide conference focus

Negotiators attempting to hammer out a new deal to tackle climate change were given more impetus when experts revealed the past 10 years had been the warmest decade on record.

Negotiators attempting to hammer out a new deal to tackle climate change were given more impetus when experts revealed the past 10 years had been the warmest decade on record.

While 1998 remains the hottest single year since records began, the past decade has been the warmest period in the 160-year record of global surface temperatures, the Met Office announced.

This year is also likely to be the fifth warmest year since records began, according to the UN's weather experts, the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), which published provisional findings that 2009 was 0.44C above the long-term average of 14C.

Greenpeace climate campaigner Joss Garman said the figures were an "unmistakable climate signal" showing humans were warming the earth and said they were sure to "focus minds" at the conference in Copenhagen.

But on the second day of the talks involving 192 countries, the emergence of a draft text for a deal from the Danes caused an angry response from campaigners, who warned it favoured rich countries and risked squeezing poor nations out of the negotiations.

The talks aim to secure a global deal on cutting emissions and providing finance to support poor countries in the fight against climate change to keep temperatures rising from more than 2C above pre-industrial levels.

Scientists warn temperature rises need to be kept to 2C to avoid the worst impacts of climate change - and today's evidence released at the climate conference showed the world was continuing to warm.

The data from the WMO shows that for large parts of southern Asia and central Africa, it will have been the warmest year on record.

Extreme climatic events including devastating floods, severe droughts, snowstorms and heat waves were recorded in many parts of the world.

The climate change experts said the results for the decade as a whole highlighted that the world continues to see a trend of global temperature rises, most of which is due to increasing emissions of greenhouse gases.

The Met Office made the announcement as it published data from more than 1,500 climate monitoring stations around the world in the latest efforts to debunk claims by sceptics that global warming data was manipulated by scientists.

Professor Mark Maslin, director of the University College London Environment Institute, said the weight of scientific data was now irrefutable.

"Data from two of the world's most respected scientific organisations, the Met office and WMO, show that this is the warmest decade that humanity has ever recorded and that 2009 is the fifth warmest year on record.

"Combine this data with scientific evidence collected from satellites showing the retreat of Arctic sea ice, the retreat of nearly all the world's glaciers and even the evidence from the great British public that spring is now arriving two weeks earlier than it did 30 years ago, and climate change is shown to be incontrovertible," he said.

"It is now up to the negotiators and politicians at Copenhagen to best decide how we manage climate change and protect their people."

But environmental campaigners criticised the emergence of the so-called "Danish text" - which does not include numbers for finance or emissions cuts - as sidelining the UN process of negotiations and undermining efforts to get a fair and ambitious deal.

The draft text leaked to the Guardian would commit developing countries, except the poorest and most vulnerable, to curbing their emissions.

And it would provide financial resources through a climate fund, which campaigners are concerned would be run by the World Bank, on the basis they took action to increase efforts to cut pollution and adapt to climate change.

A spokesman for the UK's Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc) said: "We are not going to comment on leaked documents but the UK is continuing to strive for the most ambitious deal possible as the Prime Minister made clear again today."

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