Global warming to worsen human tragedies: IPCC

Impact of climate change ‘harrowing’


Starvation, poverty, flooding, heat waves, droughts, war and disease already lead to human tragedies. They are likely to worsen as the world warms from man-made climate change, a leaked draft of an international scientific report forecasts.

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 Friday on a climate skeptic’s website. Governments will spend the next few months making comments about it.

“We’ve seen a lot of impacts and they’ve had consequences,” Carnegie Institution climate scientist Chris Field, who heads the report, said Saturday. “And we will see more in the future.”

Urban centers, where most of the world’s population now lives, are the most vulnerable, as are 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 hot spots 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 that what it calls certain “key risks” will occur:

People dying from warming- and sea rise-related flooding, especially in big cities.

Famine because of temperature and rainfall changes, especially in poorer nations.

Farmers going broke because of a 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 threats talked about in the report are solely due to global warming nor is climate change even the leading cause, the scientists say. But a warmer world, with bursts of heavy rain and prolonged drought, will worsen some of these existing effects.

For example, regarding 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 estimate the world economy may continue to grow, but once the global temperature rises about 1.5 degrees from the current level, 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 well-established drivers of these conflicts such as poverty and economic shocks,” it says.

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 and disease. Australia and New Zealand get the unique risk of losing their coral reef ecosystems, and small island nations risk being inundated by rising seas.

However, Field pointed out that countries can lessen some of the harms through reduced fossil fuel emissions and systems to cope with other changes. “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.

  • Jim O’Neil

    17 year now with no rise in temperatures.

  • Leslie Graham

    The first thing that climate change is going to wreck is the economy.

  • Michael Williams

    Climate change is very complicated and forecasting it is equally difficult. Plate tectonics, volcanic activity, and solar cycles are all factors that drastically outweigh human activity. The grand scale of the entire system and the fact that there is no control to compare to that scale, leads to educated opinions that can favor one side over the other; with financial and political influences that distort both sides of the story, leading to a lack of an objective scientific study on the subject.

    There is no denying that climate change occurs and that the forces of nature will at times cause great devastation to humanity; and this will not change until humanity is no longer the driving force on this world. But to think that human activity is the sole cause is foolish. We cannot implement zero carbon balance on a global scale because it is too expensive. Case point is China, good luck getting them to stop burning coal; they would rather sacrifice their own people and their local environment to maximize economic growth at any cost; all while other nations are using tax revenue to invest and subsidize green technology that is less efficient and more expensive.

    Health concerns, droughts, volatile weather, and changes in sea level are all events that have happened before and will continue to happen in the future. The bigger concern that no one is discussing, possible because it is taboo, is the fact that these factors become more obvious due to modern telecommunications, and the fact that they are more probable to occur while also becoming increasingly devastating due to increasing population growth and density.

    Lastly, on the subject of .18C in 17 years. That number is literally humorous and inconsequential. It is a very petty number that is being used to “debunk” someones argument.

  • Michael Radcliffe

    I hope this article is well-separated from the pieces that stir up anti-nuclear phobia. We don’t want any astute readers to be confronted by climate change and then have to read alarmist fear-mongering about the only actual way to deal with it. The cognitive dissonance may confuse them!

  • Starviking

    What space catastrophe?

  • Andrew Sheldon

    Wait a few more years for the trend to change. Salesmen like the ‘quick sale’ and therein ‘pressure tactics’. That chart looks like its just about to turn. Looking at your chart, can you explain why the post-WWII boom was a period of low temperatures…sorry…falling CO2 emissions. I’m guessing they were measuring more heat island affect back then; but that’s a side issue…which can’t be undone. I wonder how they got that skewing of data out of the system. Something is very wrong….I can feel it. lol