Speaking at a symposium of Nobel laureates and other leading scientists, Merkel insisted that only by establishing limits on carbon dioxide output per individual around the world -- suggesting about 2 tons per head -- could the fight to stop global warming be effective.

''Our long-term goal can only be the assimilation of worldwide per capita emissions,'' Merkel told the conference.

Her suggestion would mean drastic cuts: Germany currently has a carbon dioxide output of some 11 tons per person per year, while the U.S. is at around 20 tons per person.

Flannery said that the recent economic boom in China and India has helped to accelerate the levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, but strong growth in the developed world has also exacerbated the problem.

''It's a worldwide issue. We've had growing economies everywhere, we're still basing that economic activity on fossil fuels,'' he said. ''The metabolism of that economy is now on a collision course clearly with the metabolism of our planet.''


All your prosperity is harmful to this planet. What happened to the times when people chopped wood to heat themselves?