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UN  Warns  of  Extinction, Flooding From Global Warming (Update4)

By Alex Morales

April 6 (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 Brussels.

``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, he said.

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.

Coming Extinctions

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 warming.

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.

Seas Threatened

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 Change said.

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.

High Confidence

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 Studies.

U.S Actions

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.''

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 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 wildfires.''

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 .

Last Updated: April 6, 2007 09:56 EDT

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