WASHINGTON (AP) — Many of the ills of the modern world —
starvation, poverty, flooding, heat waves, droughts, war and disease — are
likely to worsen as the world warms from manmade climate change, a leaked draft
of an international scientific report forecasts.
The report uses the word “exacerbate” repeatedly to describe
warming’s effect on poverty, lack of water, disease and even the causes of war.
The Nobel Peace Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on
Climate Change will issue a report next March on how global warming is already
affecting the way people live and what will happen in the future, including a
worldwide drop in income.
A leaked copy of a draft of the summary of the report
appeared online on a climate skeptic’s website. Governments will spend the next
few months making comments about the draft.
“We’ve seen a lot of impacts and they’ve had consequences,”
Carnegie Institution climate scientist Chris Field, who heads the report, told
the Associated Press. “And we will see more in the future.”
Cities, where most of the world now lives, have the highest
vulnerability, as do the globe’s poorest people.
“Throughout the 21st century, climate change impacts will
slow down economic growth and poverty reduction, further erode food security and
trigger new poverty traps, the latter particularly in urban areas and emerging
hotspots of hunger,” the report said.
“Climate change will exacerbate poverty in low- and
lower-middle income countries and create new poverty pockets in upper-middle to
high-income countries with increasing inequality.”
For people living in poverty, the report said,
“climate-related hazards constitute an additional burden.”
The report said scientists have high confidence especially
in what it calls certain “key risks”:
* People dying from warming- and sea rise-related flooding,
especially in big cities;
* Famine because of temperature and rain changes, especially
for poorer nations;
* Farmers going broke because of lack of water;
* Infrastructure failures because of extreme weather;
* Dangerous and deadly heat waves worsening; and
* Certain land and marine ecosystems failing.
“Human interface with the climate system is occurring and
climate change poses risks for human and natural systems,” the 29-page summary
None of the harms talked about in the report is solely due
to global warming or is climate change even the No. 1 cause, the scientists
said. But a warmer world, with bursts of heavy rain and prolonged drought, will
worsen some of these existing effects, they said.
For example, in disease, the report said until about 2050
“climate change will impact human health mainly by exacerbating health problems
that already exist” and then it will lead to worse health compared to a future
with no further warming.
If emissions of carbon dioxide from the burning of coal, oil
and gas continue at current trajectories, “the combination of high temperature
and humidity in some areas for parts of the year will compromise normal human
activities including growing food or working outdoors,” the report said.
Scientists said the global economy may continue to grow, but
once the global temperature hits about 3 degrees warmer than now, it could lead
to worldwide economic losses between 0.2 and 2.0 percent of income.
One of the more controversial sections of the report
involves climate change and war.
“Climate change indirectly increases risks from violent
conflict in the form of civil war, intergroup violence and violent protests by
exacerbating well-established drivers of these conflicts such as poverty and
economic shocks,” the report said.
Pennsylvania State University climate scientist Michael
Mann, who wasn’t part of the international study team, told the AP that the
report’s summary confirms what researchers have known for a long time: “Climate
change threatens our health, land, food and water security.”
The summary went through each continent detailing risks and
possible ways that countries can adapt to them.
For North America, the highest risks over the long term are
from wildfires, heat waves and flooding. Water — too much and too little — and
heat are the biggest risks for Europe, South America and Asia, with South
America and Asia having to deal with drought-related food shortages.
Africa gets those risks and more: starvation, pests and
Australia and New Zealand get the unique risk of losing
their coral reef ecosystems, and small island nations have to be worried about
being inundated by rising seas.
Field said experts paint a dramatic contrast of possible
futures, but because countries can lessen some of the harms through reduced
fossil fuel emissions and systems to cope with other changes, he said he doesn’t
find working on the report depressing.
“The reason I’m not depressed is because I see the
difference between a world in which we don’t do anything and a world in which we
try hard to get our arms around the problem,” he said.
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