Fateful steps into climate of worry

Report predicts storms, drought and heatwaves

Mike Waites

INTERNATIONAL peace and prosperity are at risk because of the catastrophic impact of climate change, Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett warned yesterday.

Increased droughts, flooding, storms and heatwaves are predicted by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in a report which yesterday drew together six years of research by 2,500 scientists from more than 130 countries.

It says the world's average temperature will rise three degrees by the end of this century, directly because of the activities of mankind, A a rise of as much as 6.4C is a possibility.

The resulting melting of the polar ice caps – Arctic ice in the sea disappearing altogether in the second half of this century – could increase sea levels by up to 43cm (17 inches).

That would destroy many coastal regions around the globe including almost a third of Africa's coastal infrastructure, according to some analysts.

Mrs Beckett said the report confirmed climate change was "worse and more urgent than had been previously understood".

She added: "We are already experiencing human induced disruption of the global climate and its effects now.

"What is becoming clear is that this is not just another environmental threat but that international peace, prosperity, security and development are at stake."

European Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said everyone had to contribute to action against global warming – starting with the Americans as the worst polluters on the planet.

"The EU should give a clear signal to our partners worldwide that it is time to move from words to action," he said. "There is no way a single group of countries will be able on its own to tackle climate change.

"In particular, we expect the US, as the world first emitter of greenhouse gases, to take action."

The president of the Royal Society, Lord Rees, said: "This report represents a leap forward in our scientific understanding.

"It also highlights the enormous cost of not doing anything. This should compel all of us – world leaders, businesses and individuals – towards action rather than the paralysis of fear.

"We need both to reduce our emissions of greenhouse gases and to prepare for the impacts of climate change. Those who would claim otherwise can no longer use science as a basis for their argument."

Christian Aid's senior climate analyst, Andrew Pendleton, highlighted the impact on the world's poor of a three degree temperature increase.

He said: "It would mean that millions of people in the developing world would be forced to abandon their farm land as climate change turns their once-fertile plots into desert.

"This level of migration off the land and the loss of coastal cities to rising sea levels will transform our planet in ways hard to imagine.

"The 0.8 degree rise we have seen during the past century is already bringing hunger, destitution and death to millions of the world's most vulnerable people."

Three weeks ago a European Commission report predicted that an average global temperature rise of 2.2 degrees would kill an extra 11,000 people a year within 10 years, and from 2071 there would be 29,000 extra deaths annually in southern Europe.

Even in relatively cold northern Europe, 27,000 would die a year because of the warmer climate.

The latest report is the first of a series being published by the IPCC this year, culminating in November in a "synthesis report" setting out options for avoiding a doomsday scenario.



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