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UN Climate Report predicts a bleak future

UN Climate Report predicts a bleak future
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First Published: Fri, Apr 06 2007. 06 23 PM IST
Updated: Fri, Apr 06 2007. 06 23 PM IST
By Alex Morales, Bloomberg
Brussels: United Nations negotiations over a global warming report ended today after delegates completed discussions of how human activities are bringing climate change.
Discussions by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, were scheduled to end yesterday in Brussels. The group is examining the effects of global warming and ways in which humans can adapt to changes. At 10:15 a.m. local time, IPCC Chairman Rajendra Pachauri told reporters a document was agreed upon after a “marathon” session as scientists and political envoys debated the text’s wording, including degrees of confidence associated with the effect of climate change.
“I’m still wearing the suit I wore yesterday morning, and I’ve been sitting in a chair all night” Pachauri said, “What we have in the end is a very good document.” The completed summary wasn’t immediately made available to reporters.
The IPCC will report with “high confidence” that poor people around the world are “especially vulnerable” to climate change and that there will be increases in malnutrition, death and disease because of heat waves, floods, storms, fires and droughts, according to a draft document.
The IPCC assigns degrees of confidence to the statements in its summary for policymakers, with “high confidence” indicating a certainty of 67 to 95 % and “very high confidence” exceeding 95 %.
High Confidence
One point that was debated according to the draft was a statement made that “based on observational evidence from all continents and most oceans, there is very high confidence that many natural systems are being affected by regional climate changes, particularly temperature increases.” In the draft, the word “very” was in parentheses, indicating the delegates have yet to agree on the degree of confidence.
The draft includes warnings of floods, droughts, extinctions and other dangers to humans and species around the world. In small island nations, “sea-level rise is expected to exacerbate inundation, storm surge, erosion and other coastal hazards thus threatening vital infrastructure, settlements and facilities that support the livelihood of island communities,” the panel states, with very high confidence.
Today’s document will be the second in a series of four reports on climate change, after a 2 February study on the physical scientific evidence. The body last examined the scientific evidence in 2001.
“What we are going to see essentially would confirm most of what we had” in 2001, Pachauri said in a 27 March interview. “We’re dealing with such a variety of ecosystems all over the world and each one of them has a certain level of vulnerability.”
Ocean Temperatures
The IPCC on 2 February said temperatures have risen by 0.76 degrees Celsius (1.37 Fahrenheit) since the 19th century, and will rise by another 1.1 to 6.4 degrees this century. It also said global warming is “very likely” caused by people.
One of the most immediate threats posed by climate change is the loss of security of water and food supplies according to Pachauri. Changing rain patterns are likely to damage crop yields and the availability of drinking water, especially in parts of Africa, Latin America and southern Asia, he said.
According to the draft, the panel concluded with high confidence that 75 million to 200 million more people in Africa will be exposed to water shortages, rain-dependent agricultural yields could fall by 50 % by 2020, and the cost of adapting to the changes brought on by global warming could be as much as 10 % of economic output.
In Australia, the panel had very high confidence that the Great Barrier Reef will experience a “significant loss of biodiversity by 2020.”
European Floods
There was also very high confidence that “nearly all European regions are anticipated to be negatively affected by some future impacts of climate change,” including flash floods, increased erosion and “extensive species loss” of up to 60 % in some areas.
In Latin America, there was high confidence in a statement that eastern parts of the Amazon will gradually change to savannah from forest, and that Pacific Ocean fish stocks will on 10 April, the panel will detail regional impacts in a series of press conferences around the world.
With scientific evidence indicating that the world’s poorest people will experience the worst effects of climate change, rich nations who are responsible for historic emissions of greenhouse gases that are blamed for the warming should fund developing nations with $100 billion a year to help them adapt, Christian Aid, a UK charity, said today in an e-mailed statement.
Species Extinction
Humans aren’t the only sufferers from global warming. At least 59 % of wild species observed have responded in some way to climate change, and the warming so far has already helped drive more than 70 species to extinction, according to Camille Parmesan, a biology professor at the University of Texas at Austin.
“Some of the responses we’re seeing in wildlife are poleward shifts of species ranges -- this has been documented for a thousand species worldwide, individual species have moved as much as 50 to 1,000 kilometers over the past 40 years of warming,” Parmesan said in a March 27 conference call. “We’re seeing that species in extreme environments are being most adversely affected,” she said, citing polar bears in the Arctic, penguins in the Antarctic and frogs in the tropics.
Today will see the publication of the so-called summary for policymakers, a synthesis of the science that this week has been agreed line-by-line by government delegates from around the world, with talks still ongoing early today. On 4 May, the third instalment of the IPCC’s report will detail ways in which people can mitigate climate change. The fourth volume, due in November, will summarize the other three.
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First Published: Fri, Apr 06 2007. 06 23 PM IST
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