Global warming’s effects on daily life are here already, still more pesky than catastrophic. But a new authoritative scientific report says that when the Earth gets a few degrees hotter, inconvenience will give way to danger, death and extinction of species.
As global temperatures continue to climb, every continent in the world is vulnerable to severe shifts in weather patterns and rising sea levels that could lead to drought, food shortages, heat waves and disease, according to a report by an international body of scientists.
The poorest parts of the world, especially Africa and Asia, will be hit hardest, says the summary from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, issued on 7 April after a long, contentious editing session.
Four decades of research from scientists around the world shows that the poorest societies in the arid regions of the world -- the areas that have contributed the least to greenhouse gas emissions -- are likely to be hardest hit. They lack the means to deal with water shortages from droughts and other natural disasters.
It is a message the authors of the report pounded home on 6 April before unveiling the 23-page document. The summary was the first part released of the full 1,572-page document written and reviewed by 441 scientists.
“Do not be poor in a hot country, don’t live in hurricane alley, watch out about being on the coasts or in the Arctic, and it’s a bad idea to be on high mountains with glaciers melting,” Stanford University scientist Stephen Schneider, an author of the study, told The Associated Press. This document, the second of four reports, tries to explain how global warming is changing life on Earth.
Even though some of the scientists’ direst prose was toned down or lost, the panel’s report was gloomy - with a bit of hope at the end.
Africa by 2020 is looking at an additional 75 to 250 million people going thirsty because of climate change, the report said.Deadly diarrhea diseases “primarily associated with floods and droughts are expected to rise” in Asia because of global warming, the report said.
The severity of the effects depends on how well nations control carbon dioxide and other gases being released to the atmosphere through the burning of coal, oil and natural gas and the clearing of forests.
The first installment of the report, which appeared in February, concluded that most of the observed increase in the average global temperature since the mid-20th century probably is due to the increase in human-produced greenhouse gases.
The release on 6 April of the summary report followed a contentious battle over wording at the five-day Brussels meeting, in part over effects on wildlife. Negotiators from the United States, Saudi Arabia and China were among those who wanted the report to show there is less certainty over some issues, such as how nature will be affected by climate change on a regional level.
The report recommends that nations adopt mitigation measures such as building sea walls and irrigation systems to deal with the unavoidable effects of global warming that are already happening. Nations should try to control global warming by controlling emissions through energy efficiency and green power, it said.