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CLIMATE CHANGE: The Worst Is Yet To Be

Julio Godoy

BERLIN, Apr 6 2007 (IPS) - Hundreds of millions of people are at early risk from the consequences of climate change, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) confirmed in its new assessment published Friday.

Hundreds of millions of people are at early risk from the consequences of climate change, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) confirmed in its new assessment published Friday.

The final version of the report ‘Climate Change 2007: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability’ released in Brussels also warns that without drastic reduction of greenhouse gases, the resulting global warming would decimate flora and fauna, and imperil the lives of hundreds of millions of people.

The risks are particularly severe in regions around the Equator, in Africa, the river deltas of South East Asia, the Amazons region in Latin America and in low islands and other territories located near the oceans, the report says.

By 2020, up to 250 million people living in sub-Saharan Africa are likely to face water shortages, and in some countries food production could fall by half, the IPCC report warns.

Parts of Asia would be endangered by the melting of glaciers in mountainous regions such as the Himalayas. Similar melting of European glaciers would endanger southern Europe, the paper says.


The report says climate change would especially affect the European Mediterranean region through hotter summers, and would lead to more moderate temperatures in the northern hemisphere, especially in Europe.

“In Southern Europe, climate change is very likely to have negative impacts by increasing risk to health due to more frequent heat waves, reducing water availability and hydropower, endangering crop production, and increasing the frequency of wildfires,” the report says.

“In Northern Europe, climate change is likely to bring benefits in the form of reduced exposure to cold periods, increased crop yields, increased forest and Atlantic waters productivity, and augmented hydropower potential.”

But it warns that climate change, believed by scientists consulted by the IPCC to be provoked by global warming caused largely by the burning of fossil fuels, would have damaging effects also in Europe and North America.

The report says a rise of two degrees Celsius in global temperature would trigger dramatic climate and environmental consequences everywhere.

A likely rise of temperatures of between one and six degrees within the next 100 years would lead to extinction of between a fifth and a third of all species of flora and fauna, and precipitate inundation of coasts and islands inhabited by hundreds of millions of people.

The IPCC’s new assessment is the result of research reviews and debates among some 2,500 scientists, including 450 lead authors. A final version of the paper was agreed in Brussels by some of the authors, and government delegates from 130 countries.

At a press conference Friday, IPCC chairperson Rajendra Pachauri called the assessment a “very good document”, but said discussions leading to the final version had been difficult and controversial.

“We have just completed a marathon meeting (since Apr. 2). We have approved a report. It’s been a very productive but tiring exercise. It was a complex exercise and not an easy document to produce,” Pachauri said.

Sources present at the meetings said government representatives from the United States and China opposed the more alarming language on the gravity of climate change in an earlier proposed version.

The U.S. and Chinese delegates toned down the language, and secured removal of specific forecasts for their countries, the sources said.

The United States and China are the world’s largest producers of greenhouse gases caused by the burning of fossil fuels. Together, they are responsible for more than 45 percent of greenhouse gas emissions.

The U.S. government rejects any binding reduction of greenhouse gas emissions under the Kyoto Protocol. China, considered a developing country, is not bound by the Kyoto agreement to cut emissions.

The agreement was signed in Kyoto in Japan in 1997. The agreed implementation period for reductions under the agreement is 2008-2012.

But international pressure is mounting on both countries, as demands grow for a new international agreement from 2013.

Even with the stated warnings less dire than originally envisaged, environment groups said the IPCC report presented a “nightmare vision”, and urged industrialised countries to launch an energy revolution to create a carbon-free economy, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and keep global warming below the critical level identified by the IPCC.

“This is a glimpse into an apocalyptic future,” Stephanie Tunmore, international climate and energy campainer at Greenpeace said in Brussels.

“What this report shows is that we are running out of time. The earth will be transformed by human-induced climate change unless action is taken soon and fast.”

Friends of the Earth International’s climate campaigner Catherine Pearce said: “Unless we take action to reduce emissions now, far worse is yet to come, condemning millions in the poorest parts of the world to loss of lives, livelihoods and homes.”

Hans Verolme, head of the global climate change programme at WWF said: “Doing nothing is not an option, on the contrary it will have disastrous consequences.”

“The industrialised countries simply need to accept their responsibilities and start implementing the solutions,” he added.

European environment commissioner Stavros Dimas said the report will spur the European Union’s determination to curb greenhouse gas emissions. “The world needs to act fast if we are to succeed in stabilising climate change and thereby prevent its worst impacts,” Dimas said in a statement.

The report is the second assessment the IPCC has published this year. In the first report released in February the group said industry, transport and generation of electricity were principally responsible for greenhouse gas emissions.

The IPCC was created in 1988 by the United Nations Environment Programme and the World Meteorological Organisation “to assess on a comprehensive, objective, open and transparent basis the scientific, technical and socio-economic information relevant to understanding the scientific basis of risk of human-induced climate change, its potential impacts and options for adaptation and mitigation.”

The group is due to release another report in May in which it will propose methods of reducing emissions.

 
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CLIMATE CHANGE: The Worst Is Yet To Be

Julio Godoy

BERLIN, Apr 6 2007 (IPS) - Hundreds of millions of people are at early risk from the consequences of climate change, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) confirmed in its new assessment published Friday.
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