IPCC Update Will Highlight Extreme Dangers Of Unchecked Climate Change
Lawrence LeBlond for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
A body of the UN is set to deliver an update on the impacts of climate change, an update that highlights the growing dangers of global warming if no actions are taken to reverse its effects.
Ahead of the upcoming IPCC report, due out on March 31, 2014, scientists and government representatives are meeting in Yokohama, Japan this week to work out the details of a 29-page summary that will be part of the first new IPCC update in seven years.
According to a BBC News report, leaked documents are foretelling the dark threats the world’s economies are facing as a result of unchecked climate change. The UN scientists state in the documents that the impacts of climate change will leave a future stalked extreme floods, drought, food shortages, conflict and economic damage.
“We have a lot clearer picture of impacts and their consequences… including the implications for security,” Chris Field of the United States’ Carnegie Institution told AFP’s Richard Ingham.
The latest meeting comes six months after the first volume of the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report declared scientists were more certain than ever that global warming was directly attributed to humans.
The leaked documents predict that global temperatures will rise anywhere from 0.5 to 8.6 degrees Fahrenheit this century, adding to the already 1.3-degree rise since the Industrial Revolution. Seas are also expected to rise by 10.4 to 32.8 inches by the 22nd century.
While it is uncertain how costly the rising temperatures will become, it has been suggested that a warming of just 4.5 degrees over pre-industrial times could cost upwards of two percent of the global annual income, a figure that translates to hundreds of billions of dollars each year.
“The assessments that we can do at the moment probably still underestimate the actual impacts of future climate change,” Jacob Schewe of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) in Germany, who was not involved in the IPCC drafting, told the BBC.
Many scientists are in agreement that the recent string of heat waves, droughts and floods are evidence that climate change is on the march – and concur that these once rare events will become much more common.
The leaked documents also shed light on some concerning details about the future.
A rise in greenhouse gas emissions will have a significant impact on the risk of floods, with Europe and Asia among the continents that will feel the harshest wrath. If the highest warming scenario is matched, three times as many people will be exposed to severe flooding as with the lower warming scenario.
On the other end of the spectrum, for every 1.8-degree-F rise in temperature, another seven percent of the world’s population will see renewable water resources decline by one-fifth.
If no measures are taken to curb the effects of climate change, hundreds of millions of people living along coastal plains will be displaced by the year 2100 due to rising sea levels. Several small-island nations and many parts of East, Southeast and South Asia will be the biggest losers in this scenario.
Climate change will also lead to a two-percent-per-decade decline in the average yields of wheat, rice and corn. Also, demand for these crops will likely rise by up to 14 percent by 2050 as the world population balloons. Those in the poorest, most tropical countries will feel the effects of hunger the worst.
Many of the world’s land and freshwater species will be increasingly threatened with the risk of extinction as their habitats are damaged or destroyed by the effects of global warming.
As the world faces threats of increasing poverty, habitat displacement and hunger due to the changing climate, so too will the threat of conflict and war increase as populations compete for dwindling resources, according to the leaked documents.
“Climate change over the 21st century will lead to new challenges to states and will increasingly shape national security policies,” the leaked draft summary says. “Small-island states and other states highly vulnerable to sea-level rise face major challenges to their territorial integrity.
“Some transboundary impacts of climate change, such as changes in sea ice, shared water resources and migration of fish stocks, have the potential to increase rivalry among states. The presence of robust institutions can manage many of these rivalries to reduce conflict risk,” the draft adds.
The draft maintains that the world may be able to stave off many of the worst impacts of climate change by the year 2100 if carbon emissions can be reduced “over the next few decades.”
The scientists involved in the draft summary say that they have been able to call on a broader range of observations for the latest report. Instead of just adding up all the effects of climate change, they said they have been able to look at individual events to come to a more accurate conclusion for the world.
“We’ve reached the stage where we can go impact by impact, and say is there an influence of climate change?” Field told BBC News’ Matt McGrath. “We don’t see it with every one but we do see it with a lot. It’s a real difference. Before it was a very general concept, now it is much more specific.”
While most scientists and governments are in concurrence with the burgeoning risks of climate change, some researchers are unhappy with the latest draft report.
Prof Richard Tol, an economist at the University of Sussex, who was involved with the drafting of the summary has now asked for his name to be removed from the document.
“The message in the first draft was that through adaptation and clever development these were manageable risks, but it did require we get our act together,” he told BBC News. “This has completely disappeared from the draft now, which is all about the impacts of climate change and the four horsemen of the apocalypse. This is a missed opportunity.”
Some critics are also calling specific aspects of the projected effects “alarmist,” such as the impact on conflict and migration due to climate change.
“You have a very silly statement in the draft summary that says that people who live in war-torn countries are more vulnerable to climate change, which is undoubtedly true,” said Prof Tol. “But if you ask people in Syria whether they are more concerned with chemical weapons or climate change, I think they would pick chemical weapons – that is just silliness.”
But Dr Arthur Petersen, chief scientist at the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, who is representing his government at the Japan meeting, is countering the assertions that the summary is too alarmist, noting that the summary leaders from Working Group I had to anticipate all the challenges that might arise in a warming world.
“Working group I (the physical sciences) doesn’t want to sound alarmist. In working group II, they don’t want to chance not having spotted a particular risk so they have a bias in the other direction,” he told the BBC’s McGrath. “In this report, they are more honest and open that they have a risk orientation because they do focus more on the risks than the opportunities.”
The IPCC’s third volume of the update, which will tackle carbon emissions, will be issued on April 13, 2014, completing the Fifth Assessment Report. The IPCC has released four previous assessments in its quarter-century history.
Each assessment has painted a grimmer picture of global warming than the previous and the Yokohama volume goes much farther than any of its predecessors in forecasting the global, regional and local impacts of climate change.
The IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report, which was released in 2007, helped bring political awareness to climate change and led to the 2009 UN Climate Summit in Copenhagen. However, several mistakes in the Fourth Assessment Report tarnished the image of some scientists who had worked on the report, leading to much criticism from climate skeptics.