New climate report draft warns of droughts, starvation, disease
WASHINGTON -- The harmful effects of global warming on daily life are already showing up, and within a couple of decades hundreds of millions of people won't have enough water, top scientists will say next month at a meeting in Belgium.
At the same time, tens of millions of others will be flooded out of their homes each year as the Earth reels from rising temperatures and sea levels, according to portions of a draft of an international scientific report obtained by The Associated Press.
The draft document by the authoritative Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change focuses on global warming's effects and is the second in a series of four being issued this year. Written and reviewed by more than 1,000 scientists from dozens of countries, it still must be edited by government officials.
But some scientists said the overall message is not likely to change when it's issued in early April in Brussels.
The report offers some hope if nations slow and then reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, but it notes that what's happening now isn't encouraging.
The draft document says many current problems -- change in species' habits and habitats, more acidified oceans, loss of wetlands, and increases in allergy-inducing pollen -- can be blamed on global warming.
The report included these likely results of global warming:
* Hundreds of millions of Africans and tens of millions of Latin Americans who now have water will be short of it in less than 20 years. By 2050, more than 1 billion people in Asia could face water shortages. By 2080, water shortages could threaten 1.1 billion to 3.2 billion people, depending on the level of greenhouse gases that cars and industry spew into the air.
* Death rates for the world's poor from global warming-related illnesses, such as malnutrition and diarrhea, will rise by 2030. Malaria and dengue fever are likely to grow.
* Europe's small glaciers will disappear with many of the continent's large glaciers shrinking dramatically by 2050. And half of Europe's plant species could be vulnerable, endangered or extinct by 2100.
* By 2080, between 200 million and 600 million people could be hungry because of global warming's effects.
* About 100 million people each year could be flooded by 2080 by rising seas.
* Smog in U.S. cities will worsen and "ozone-related deaths from climate [will] increase by approximately 4.5 percent for the mid-2050s, compared with 1990s levels," turning a small health risk into a substantial one.
* Polar bears in the wild and other animals will be pushed to extinction.
* At first, more food will be grown. For example, soybean and rice yields in Latin America will increase starting in a couple of years. Areas outside the tropics, especially the northern latitudes, will see longer growing seasons and healthier forests. But by 2080, hundreds of millions of people could face starvation, according to the report.
Looking at different impacts on ecosystems, industry and regions, the report sees the most positive benefits in forestry and some improved agriculture and transportation in polar regions. The biggest damage is likely to come in ocean and coastal ecosystems, water resources and coastal settlements.
The hardest-hit continents are likely to be Africa and Asia, with major harm also coming to small islands and some aspects of ecosystems near the poles. North America, Europe and Australia are predicted to suffer the fewest of the harmful effects.
"In most parts of the world and most segments of populations, lifestyles are likely to change as a result of climate change," the draft report said. "Net valuations of benefits vs. costs will vary, but they are more likely to be negative if climate change is substantial and rapid, rather than if it is moderate and gradual."
This report -- considered by some scientists the "emotional heart" of climate change research -- focuses on how global warming alters the planet and life here, as opposed to the more science-focused report by the same group last month.
"This is the story. This is the whole play. This is how it's going to affect people. The science is one thing. This is how it affects me, you and the person next door," said University of Victoria climate scientist Andrew Weaver.
Many -- not all -- of those effects can be prevented, the report says, if within a generation the world slows down its emissions of carbon dioxide and if the level of greenhouse gases sticking around in the atmosphere stabilizes. If that's the case, the report says "most major impacts on human welfare would be avoided; but some major impacts on ecosystems are likely to occur."
On the Net:
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change: http://www.ipcc-wg2.org/