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CNN SUNDAY MORNING

Interview With Ray Bradley

Aired December 22, 2002 - 07:50   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Well, try this title on for size. The slush of Kilimanjaro or the rocks of Kilimanjaro. Papa Hemingway is rolling in his grave right now. Scientists have been looking at Kilimanjaro, the 19,000 foot summit for many years now. It turns out the famous snows of Kilimanjaro are receding. Could it be global warming?
Well, let's check in with an expert, who's been working on this.

Dr. Ray Bradley is a climatologist at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He's on the line with us this morning. Dr. Bradley, good to have you with us.

RAY BRADLEY, CLIMATOLOGIST, UNIV. OF MASSACHUSETTS: Good morning.

O'BRIEN: All right, what's going on with Kilimanjaro? Is it global warming?

BRADLEY: Well, it's -- the glacier's been receding at a -- quite a dramatic rate over the last few years. And it's now about 20 percent of the size that it was earlier this century.

O'BRIEN: Could it be a natural cycle or do you think man has something to do with this?

BRADLEY: Well, if you look at the big picture, it seems like most of these changes are I would say 50 to 60 percent related to human effects on the climate system as a whole.

O'BRIEN: How do we know that?

BRADLEY: Well, we've been doing studies around the world. And from all the evidence and the computer models that have been applied to this problem, it's quite clear that you can't explain the changes from the rate of change that we've seen this century just by natural fluctuations. It's just happening too fast.

O'BRIEN: But when you look at history, when you look at some of those core samples, which pre-date the introduction of fossil fuels, you do see temperature swings, don't you?

BRADLEY: You see temperature swings, but we don't see changes that have occurred at the -- with the rapidity with -- at the rate of change that we see this century. Things are just happening at a phenomenal rate. O'BRIEN: So what does this portend then? Eventually Kilimanjaro will be barren and rocky? And aside from the obvious impact of the world of fiction, what is this going to mean for us in reality?

BRADLEY: Well you know, global -- Kilimanjaro has become a kind of symbol of global warming. So certainly the glaciers of Kilimanjaro are going to disappear probably over the next few decades. But what's more important is it represents something that is going on a much larger scale around the world.

O'BRIEN: Well, give us some insights then? You know, in our everyday life, we have lots of worries. How worried should we be about this?

BRADLEY: Well, you know, the -- in the United States, we're a society that's kind of insulated from a lot of these natural disasters. Things happen, but somehow we manage to spread the load around. We manage to ensure ourselves and subsidize these changes.

But for much of the world, they don't have that luxury. And so, they see changes that are happening. They believe these are due to global warming, to the buildup of greenhouse gases. And they're just not able to adapt at the same speed that we in the U.S. can.

So on a global scale, this is a major problem. The weather patterns are changing. It's affecting ecosystems. It's affecting agriculture. And for a lot of the world that live on a subsistence level, this is a major problem for them.

O'BRIEN: It's a major problem which doesn't offer up an easy answer, does it?

BRADLEY: No, it doesn't. And one of the solutions that's been put forward was the so-called Kyoto Protocol, which is the first step towards trying to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, reducing our dependence on fossil fuel. And more than 80 countries around the world have signed that treaty so far. And the goal is to try to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases to somewhat below where we were about 1990.

O'BRIEN: Of course, the U.S. not a signatory?

BRADLEY: The U.S. is not a signatory. And we're responsible for 25 percent of all the greenhouse gas emissions around the world. So other countries look to the U.S. for some action on this leadership. And so far, it hasn't happened.

O'BRIEN: We're going to have to leave it at that. Professor Ray Bradley, who is a climatologist at the University of Amherst -- University of Massachusetts in Amherst. Thank you very much for being with us. We appreciate it.

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