UN experts warn that climate change is set to inflict damage on every
It will hit poor countries hardest and it threatens nearly a third of
the world's species with extinction.
Global warming will affect much of life on Earth this century, the
UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said in a
landmark report whose drafting was marked by an angry row.
Damage to Earth's weather systems from greenhouse gases will change
rainfall patterns, punch up the power of storms and boost the risk of
drought, flooding and stress on water supplies, it says.
The consequences will be adverse or in some scenarios even
catastrophic, depending chiefly on how much carbon gas is spewed into
the atmosphere from burning oil, gas and coal.
"Poor people are the most vulnerable and will be the worst hit by the
impacts of climate change. This becomes a global responsibility," the
IPCC's chairman, Rajendra Pachauri, declared.
The grim report unleashed a volley of concern and demands for action
to both scale back fossil-fuel pollution and help exposed countries
cope with the threat.
The summary's draft was fiercely disputed during a week of
negotiations, ending with a marathon 24-hour session.
Publication was delayed on the final day after several countries
objected to tough wording, sparking charges of political interference
from one delegate.
At US insistence, drafters dumped a paragraph that said North America
was "expected to experience severe local economic damage and
substantial ecosystem, social and cultural disruption", delegates
Saudi Arabia and China also insisted on changes to water down the
"Some of the objections were not scientifically based," said Joseph
Alcamo of the Centre for Environmental Systems Research at Germany's
University of Kassel, who was lead author of the chapter on Europe.
"You could say that the debate here is a foretaste of the difficulty
that lies ahead in terms of policy."
The summary accompanied a 1,400-page technical report which said
climate change was clearly happening, as seen through loss of Arctic
ice and mountain glaciers, thawing permafrost and other phenomena.
Martin Parry, co-chair of the IPCC's working group, said "the doubt
has been removed" that climate change is already on the march.
"On all continents there is a climate change signal, it is affecting
animals and plants and on a global level too," he said.
Looking to the future, the main report predicts billions will face
heightened risk of water scarcity and hundreds of millions likely go
hungry, mainly in the poorest regions that are least to blame for
causing the problem.
Worsening water shortages in thirsty countries, malnutrition caused
by desiccated fields, property damage from extreme weather events and
the spread of disease by mosquitoes and other vectors will amount to
a punishing bill that is beyond the ability of vulnerable countries,
especially in Africa, to pay.
Biodiversity and natural habitat are in for a hammering.
Even a modest increase in temperatures will bleach many coral reefs,
reduce part of the eastern Amazon to a parched savannah, thaw swathes
of the northern hemisphere's permafrost and change seasons for plant
pollination and animal reproduction.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called for "adequate, large-scale
adaptation measures" and for governments to act without delay.
The European Commission said the report powerfully backed its goal of
setting a maximum rise of 2 C in global temperatures since pre-
The United States, which accounts for nearly a quarter of the
planet's greenhouse gases but rejects mandatory curbs, insisted it
took the threat of global warming seriously and was pushing for