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.
Discussions by the Intergovernmental Panel on
Climate Change, that were scheduled to end yesterday, carried
on through the night in a "marathon'' session that ended
just before 10:15 a.m. local time, IPCC Chairman Rajendra Pachauri
told reporters in Brussels. The report's wording, including statements
on the degree of confidence of effects associated with climate
change was discussed line-by-line by scientists and political
The Arctic, sub-Saharan Africa, small island
states and the big river deltas of Asia are among the most vulnerable
areas, while ecosystems such as coral reefs, sea ice, tundra,
boreal forests, mountain and Mediterranean regions are at threat,
Martin Parry, co-chair of the group that wrote the report, told
journalists in a press conference alongside his co-chair, Osvaldo
Canziani and Pachauri.
"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,'' 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.
As of 1:30 p.m. local time, the completed summary
still wasn't 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 seen by Bloomberg.
The IPCC assigns degrees of confidence to the
statements in its summary for policymakers. In its 2001 document,
"high confidence'' indicated a certainty of 67 to 95 percent
and "very high confidence'' exceeding 95 percent. The thresholds
for 2007 weren't included in the draft.
Slides shown to reporters showed that the predicted
negative impacts of climate change increase at greater degrees
A temperature rise of 1 degree Celsius from
the end of the twentieth century will leave up to 30 percent of
species at increasing 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.
Cynthia Rosenzweig, one of the report's authors,
said in an interview that one source of 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
After officials questioned the degree of confidence,
Rosenzweig said she presented a protest letter to Pachauri on
behalf of herself and other scientists. A compromise was eventually
found that listed the statement without giving the degree of confidence,
she said, adding that all parties were "comfortable'' with
Scientists said two or three countries opposed
the wording of 6 or so sections of the 1,572 page document. 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. "I expected it to be troublesome, but 85 percent of
what they did was positive or helpful.''
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 Feb. 2 study on the
physical scientific evidence. The body last examined the scientific
evidence in 2001.
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 people.
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 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.
"Poor countries that bear least responsibility
will suffer most - and they have no money to respond - but people
should also be aware that even the richer countries risk enormous
damage,'' said Hans Verolme, director of the World Wildlife Fund's
global climate change program.
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
Higher Crop Yields
Not all the effects of climate change were deemed
negative. In North America, warming was projected with high confidence
to increase agricultural yields by 5 to 20 percent, though delegates
also said with very high confidence that disturbances from pests,
disease and fire are projected to have increasing impacts on forests,
and that in some areas, heat waves will increase in duration,
number and intensity, endangering the elderly. On April 10, 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
U.K. charity, said today in an e-mailed statement.
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 email@example.com.