UN Warns of
Extinction, Flooding From Global Warming (Update4)
April 6 2007 (Bloomberg)
A United Nations panel warned
global warming will cause extinctions to mount, water shortages to
spread and droughts and floods to become more frequent as man-made
emissions of greenhouse gases cause the Earth to warm.
The Arctic, sub-Saharan
Africa, small island states and the big river deltas of Asia are
among the most vulnerable areas, Martin Parry, co-chair of the
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change working group that
produced today's report, told reporters at a press conference in
``It is the poorest of the
poor in the world, even the poorest in the most prosperous nations,
who are going to be the worst hit and are the most vulnerable,''
IPCC Chairman Rajendra Pachauri said. ``We have far greater regional
detail,'' than the last IPCC report in 2001, such as the melting of
glaciers, sea-level rise, impacts on agriculture and food security,
Today's report, the second of
four to be issued by the IPCC this year in its first comprehensive
overview of scientific evidence since 2001, is aimed at informing
policymakers of the known and predicted impacts of climate change,
and of ways to adapt to global warming.
The IPCC has ``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, the report said.
The IPCC assigns degrees of
confidence to the statements in its summary for policymakers. ``Very
high confidence'' indicated a certainty of 90 percent and ``high
confidence'' is 80 percent, according to today's document.
Ecosystems such as coral
reefs, sea ice, tundra, mountain and Mediterranean regions are at
threat, Parry said. Slides shown to reporters showed that the
predicted negative impacts of climate change increase with more
A temperature rise of 1 degree
Celsius from the end of the twentieth century will leave up to 30
percent of species at risk of extinction, and from 4 degrees, there
will be ``significant extinctions around the globe,'' the scientists
said with high confidence.
Corals, among the most
vulnerable species, will experience ``widespread'' mortality with a
warming of 2 to 3 degrees, the authors said, with high confidence.
The IPCC on Feb. 2 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 human activities, such as emissions of gases such as carbon
dioxide from burning fossil fuels.
At present, 35 countries and
the European Union are bound by the Kyoto Protocol, which requires
them to cut emissions of greenhouse gases by a combined 5 percent by
2012. The U.S. rejected the treaty in 2001, and large developing
nations such as China, which is on track to overtake the U.S. as the
world's biggest emitter by 2009, aren't set targets under Kyoto.
Today's report must spur
politicians to begin talks on further cuts after 2012 when they meet
in December for a climate change conference in Indonesia, Yvo de
Boer, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate
Adapt to Consequences
Politicians now know ``much
more clearly what they're going to have to do in different parts of
the world in order to allow countries to adapt to the consequences
of climate change,'' de Boer said in an interview. ``Time is running
out'' for a new agreement before Kyoto's provisions end.
``Global warming will bring
hunger, floods and water shortages,'' said Hans Verolme, director of
the World Wildlife Fund's global climate change program. ``The
industrialized countries simply need to accept their
responsibilities and start implementing the solutions.''
The IPCC discussions,
scheduled to end yesterday, carried on through to just before 10:15
a.m. local time, as scientists and political envoys debated the
report's wording, Pachauri said.
Cynthia Rosenzweig, one of the
report's authors, said in an interview that one contention between
scientists and representatives of some governments was a statement
in the draft 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.''
After officials questioned the
degree of confidence, Rosenzweig said she presented a protest letter
to Pachauri on behalf of scientists. A compromise was found that
listed the statement without giving the degree of confidence, she
said, adding that all parties were ``comfortable'' with the wording.
Rosenzweig heads the climate impact program at the National
Aeronautics and Space Administration's Goddard Institute for Space
The U.S. helped bridge gaps,
said Steve Schneider, a Stanford University professor who helped
write the document and sat through the debate.
``The U.S. was surprisingly
helpful,'' said Schneider, who said he's a ``basher'' of President
George Bush. ``Eighty-five percent of what they did was positive.''
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.
The panel concluded with high
confidence that 75 million to 250 million more people in Africa will
be exposed to water shortages, rain-dependent agricultural yields
could fall by 50 percent by 2020, and the cost of adapting to the
changes brought on by global warming could be as much as 10 percent
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.''
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 percent in some areas.
In Latin America, there was
high confidence that eastern parts of the Amazon will gradually
change to savannah from forest, and that Pacific Ocean fish stocks
will shift to different areas.
Not all the effects of climate
change were deemed negative. In North America, warming was projected
to increase agricultural yields by 5 to 20 percent. Delegates had
very high confidence that disturbances from pests, disease and fire
will have increasing impacts on forests, and that in some areas,
heat waves will increase in duration, number and intensity,
endangering the elderly.
One paragraph that was
included in a draft of the summary seen by Bloomberg, though not in
the final document stated with very high confidence: ``North America
is expected to experience locally severe economic damage, plus
substantial ecosystem, social and cultural disruption from
climate-change related changes in weather-related extremes including
hurricanes, other severe storms, floods, droughts, heat waves and
On May 4, the third
installment 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.
To contact the reporter on
this story: Alex Morales in Brussels at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Updated: April 6, 2007 09:56 EDT