IPCC warns of climate threat for hundreds of millions

The International Panel on Climate Change warned of the dire consequences of global warming in its latest report, the most comprehensive assessment of climate change impacts to date.

Despite of reports of some government delegates’ efforts to water down the message the second part of the 2007 IPCC report delivered a stark warning of floods, drought and storms affecting hundreds of millions of people.

Freshwater shortages were one of the principle concerns emerging from the report – in Africa, 75 to 250 million people will be subject to worsening “water stress” as early as 2020, according to the “summary for policymakers” text. Meanwhile, in Asia, receding glaciers will cause river water levels to fall, especially in Himalayan water basins, affecting around a billion people between now and 2050. This phenomenon will be aggravated by population growth in the region, the scientists warn.

The report also predicts a rise in mortality rates due to heat waves, floods, storms, fires and drought, and by 2080 several millions of people to suffer due to rising sea levels.

Worldwide the poorest countries and people will be most affected, as the rise in frequency and strength of extreme climate phenomena will hit developing countries. The temperate regions where most developed countries lie will also escape the worst impacts on agriculture as drought due to rising temperatures will be the strongest in the South.

IPCC chair Rajendra Pachauri said: “It’s the poorest of the poor in the world, and this includes poor people in prosperous societies, who are going to be the worst hit.”

Delegates from 100 countries adopted the politically sensitive Summary for Policymakers after 5 days of discussions crowned by an uninterrupted 24 hour session. Some scientists complained of interference by government representatives who insisted on changes to parts of the document, and threatened never to work with the IPCC again.

Commenting on the latest report, environment minister Ian Pearson said: “This report provides further evidence of why all countries need to work urgently to agree a global deal to combat climate change. But reducing emissions is not enough. We must plan for the changes ahead, including changed stability and security conditions.”

“Impacts. Adaptation and Vulnerability”: Summary for Policymakers is the second part of the IPCC’s 2007 report, and follows the scientific summary released in February.

Since 1990, the IPPC’s assessment reports provide a synthesis of the scientific understanding of climate change at 5 to 6 year intervals. This year’s Fourth Assessment Report will be completed with the publication of the third and final part, focused on mitigation, expected in October 2007. The IPCC’s Working Group III will meet in Bangkok next month to discuss the final text of the Mitigation report.

The full Summary for Policymakers of the IPCC’s 2007 Assessment Report, “Impacts. Adaptation and Vulnerability,” can be accessed here.

Goska Romanowicz

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