UNITED NATIONS — The day's first word went to a tiny island nation with a big sinking feeling.
Leading off the U.N. General Assembly's second day of talks on climate change, Tuvalu issued a cry for help Tuesday on dealing with the impact of global warming on its 10,000 people, who live on nine low-lying coral atolls in the South Pacific being lapped at by rising seas.
"Adaptation is undoubtedly a crucial issue for an extremely vulnerable small, island nation like Tuvalu," said Tavau Teii, the deputy prime minister and environment chief.
"I only need to highlight the fact that our highest point above sea level is only four meters (a little over 13 feet) to emphasize our vulnerability to the impacts of climate change, especially sea level rise," he said. "It is very clear that financial resources for adaptation are completely inadequate."
He was followed by speaker after speaker from small countries who rose to ask the richest nations to pony up tens of billions of dollars a year to help the littler guys adapt.
The United States and China, the two biggest producers of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases from fossil-fuel burning, sought to assure other nations that they, too, take global warming seriously and will provide what help they can.
"We are committed to do our part to contribute to this global effort," said Alejandro Wolff, the deputy U.S. ambassador.
No less than 117 speakers, representing virtually all the world's nations, signed up to take the stage during talks that dragged into the evening. The glacial pace of their speechmaking belied their expressions of urgency and fear that global warming will test the world _ and the U.N. _ in ways never before seen.
"Climate change has the potential to redraw the face of our planet," said Dr. Janez Podobnik, Slovenia's environment minister who spoke for the European Union. The EU, he said, puts global warming "on the top of its political agenda."
The U.N. Development Program said in November that industrialized nations must provide $86 billion a year by 2015 to help the people most vulnerable to more catastrophic floods, droughts and other disasters that scientists fear will accompany warming.
"We are on the edge of a tipping point and time has run out," said Dr. Angus Friday, Grenada's ambassador to the U.N. who represented an alliance of small island states. "We have said again and again that this is a matter of survival for us."
"No island left behind," he added. "We cannot wait to adapt."
General Assembly President Srgjan Kerim, a Macedonian diplomat and economics professor, convened the two-day conference to shape U.N. policy and support its negotiations toward a new global climate treaty in 2012.
Delegates from nearly 190 nations agreed at a U.N. conference in December to adopt a blueprint for controlling "greenhouse" gases before the end of 2009. Their hope is to replace the Kyoto Protocol, which requires 37 industrial nations to cut emissions by 5 percent on average, when it expires in 2012.
On Monday, British billionaire Richard Branson offered to set up an "environmental war room" that would serve as a tool for the U.N. to lead the world's efforts to find technological fixes for global warming.
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