Starvation, poverty, flooding, heat waves, droughts, war and disease already lead to human tragedies. They are likely to worsen as the world warms from human-made climate change, a leaked draft of an international scientific report forecasts.
The Nobel Peace Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is to issue a report in 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 Friday on a climate skeptic’s Web site. 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 reporters on Saturday. “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 says. “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 says, “climate-related hazards constitute an additional burden.”
The report says 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. 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 says.
None of the harms talked about in the report is solely due to global warming nor is climate change even the No. 1 cause, the scientists say. However, a warmer world, with bursts of heavy rain and prolonged drought, will worsen some of these existing effects, they say.
For example, in disease, the report says 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 says.
Scientists say the global economy may continue to grow, but once the global temperature hits about 3?F warmer than now, it could lead to worldwide economic losses between 0.2 and 2 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, inter-group violence and violent protests by exacerbating some well-established drivers of these conflicts, such as poverty and economic shocks,” the report says.