Experts call for action to stop global warming damage getting 'out of control'

The chances of 'severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts' of global warming are increasing say experts in an influential new report. Credit: AP

A major study released today on the impacts of global warming is a "call for action" says the United Nations scientific panel behind the report.

The 2,610-page report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change highlights the damage that has already been done by climate change and the consequences if action is not taken.

Aimed at world political leaders, it warns that "increasing magnitudes of warming increase the likelihood of severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts".

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Rajendra Pachauri, IPCC chair, told The Associated Press that without reductions in emissions, impacts from warming "could get out of control."

Key areas impacted by rising temperatures identified by the report:

  • Food security: Major crops - wheat, rice and maize - will see production hit by temperature increases of 2C or more in tropical and temperate regions, although some areas may see an increase in yields

  • Economy and livelihoods: Annual global economic losses are difficult to estimate, but the impacts associated with a 2C temperature rise could be between 0.2-2% of income, and are more likely to be higher rather than lower

  • Human health: Up to 2050, climate change will mostly exacerbate existing health problems, and across the 21st century will lead to increases in ill-health, particularly in poorer countries

  • Security: More people are expected to be displaced over the 21st century, for example by extreme weather events. Climate change could lead to a greater risk of violent conflicts, including civil war, by worsening causes such as poverty. Impacts such as rising sea levels could also have an effect on the territory of nation states and their critical infrastructure, while changes to sea ice, shared water resources and fish stocks could increase rivalries between countries

An aerial view of the devastation of super Typhoon Haiyan after it battered Samar province in central Philippines November 11, 2013 Credit: Reuters
  • Water: Dry areas of the world will see a reduction in water resources, with droughts likely to become more frequent. The percentage of the world's population affected by water scarcity will increase, but so too will numbers affected by major river flooding. Water quality will be affected, with risks to drinking water quality. Water resources are already being affected by extreme rainfall and melting snow and ice

  • Coasts: Sea level rises will increase the risk of submergence, flooding and erosion in coastal and low-lying areas

  • Oceans: Fisheries could be hit by shifts in the range and abundance of marine species. Increased acidity in the oceans, as a result of more carbon dioxide emissions, is a serious risk to coral reefs and polar regions

  • Wildlife: A large proportion of species will be at an increased risk of extinction, especially as they face a host of threats including climate change, habitat loss, pollution and invasive species.

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Responding to the report, Energy Secretary Ed Davey told The Observer climate change is "hugely threatening our way of life, in the UK, Europe and the world."

US Secretary of State John Kerry said "the costs of inaction are catastrophic."

Secretary of State John Kerry said 'the costs of inaction are catastrophic' Credit: AP

The ground-breaking report was launched in Japan, where the UN scientists and government representatives are holding a week-long meeting to discuss the worldwide impacts of climate change.

Demonstrators participate in a silence protest in front of a conference hall where the IPCC is meeting in Yokohama, near Tokyo Credit: AP

Environmental organisations and charities pointed out Europe's vulnerability in the study findings.

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Climate Group, which works with governments, business and organisations to drive action on climate change, said the effects of climate change "will leave no nation untouched."

"The IPCC report needs to act as a wake-up call," said Mark Kenber, Climate Group's chief executive. "The 'head in the sand' approach is a ticket to failure. Businesses that refuse to adapt are sealing their own fate and putting communities and investors at risk. "The only road that leads to both a reduction in carbon emissions and economic growth is one built on a clean industrial revolution," he added.

A neighbourhood damaged by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 Credit: Reuters

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Wendel Trio, director of CAN Europe added: "Any false sense that climate change will not touch Europe is dispelled in this report .

"Climate change is happening here and now, in Europe too, and it will only get worse without strong climate action.

"The EU must step up climate efforts immediately by increasing its emissions reductions, renewable energy share and energy efficiency targets for 2030."