“Severe, pervasive and irreversible”. These are just some of the stark words used in a new UN report about the likely impact of global warming.
Experts from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, meeting in Japan, say the health, economic prospects, and food and water sources of billions of people are at stake.
“When you look at the key findings of the report… one of the important findings is that we are not in the era where climate change is some kind of a future hypothetical,” Christopher Field, co-chair of the IPCC group preparing the report, told a news conference in Yokohama.
“We live in a world where impacts of climate changes that have already occurred are widespread and consequential. We see impacts from the equators to the poles and from the coast to the mountains. There is no question that we live in a world that is already altered by climate change.”
The report is the second in a four-part IPCC assessment meant to guide governments that have promised to agree a pact in 2015 to slow climate change. The first, in September, raised the probability that most global warming is man-made to at least 95 percent from 90 in 2007.
The IPCC report says that a warming trend is “unequivocal”. And some effects would last far beyond the lifetimes of people now alive.
The report says that temperatures were likely to rise by between 0.3 and 4.8 degrees Celsius by the late 21st century. The low end of the range would only be achieved if governments sharply cut greenhouse gas emissions.
And it said that world sea levels could rise by between 26 and 82 cm by the late 21st century, driven up by melting ice and an expansion of water as it warms, in a threat to coastal cities from Shanghai to San Francisco.
The IPCC says the time for action is now. It is hoping that the world’s politicians are listening.