Grim climate forecast expected

by Hiroshi Hiyama

AFP-JIJI

International scientists on Tuesday kicked off a weeklong meeting in Japan that is set to deliver dark predictions on the impact of climate change, warning of severe floods and droughts that could spark conflict and wreck economies.

Their report, set to be released on March 31, is part of a massive overview by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that is likely to shape policies and climate talks for years to come.

Scientists and government representatives are meeting in Yokohama to hammer out a 29-page summary that will be released at the end of the conference along with the full report.

A leaked draft of the report warns that rising greenhouse gas emissions will “significantly” boost the risk of floods — with Europe and Asia particularly exposed — while droughts will suck away renewable water supplies.

“Hundreds of millions” of coastal dwellers around the world will be displaced by the year 2100, the draft warns, while the competition for dwindling resources could even spark violent conflicts.

“I think everybody who works on the climate issue understands that climate change is truly one of the defining challenges of the 21st century,” Chris Field, of the United States’ Carnegie Institution for Science, said at the event’s opening ceremony.

But Field, who led the study, said the U.N.’s climate panel was “uniquely positioned” to enable policymakers to “deal effectively, robustly and optimistically with challenges for the future.”

The report will be the second of three long-awaited studies on climate change prepared by the climate panel. The first, released last September, declared that scientists were more certain than ever that humans caused global warming. That report warned that temperatures could climb by up to 4.8 degrees Celsius this century, raising sea levels and increasing the risks of weather-related catastrophes.

The new draft warns of food crises that could be sparked by climate change, with wheat, rice and corn yields all set to fall — while demand for crops is likely rise sharply as the world’s population grows.

Costs will spiral with every degree that the temperature goes up, although it is hard to forecast by how much, it says.

But by reducing carbon emissions “over the next few decades”, the world can stave off many of the worst climate consequences by century’s end, the report says.