Sunday, March 30, 2014

Climate Change already impacting ‘all continents’ according to new international report

Jeff Spross
Think Progress / News Report
Published: Sunday 30 March 2014

The next big report from an ongoing international effort to nail down the science of climate change will be released on Monday. According to the Guardian, the report’s language concludes that climate change has already “caused impacts on natural and human systems on all continents and across the oceans.” 

An early draft was actually leaked in November. The biggest danger it sees is apparently coastal flooding driven by sea level rise — which could shave 10 percent off global economic production by the end of this century, according to previous research. Climate change also threatens widespread damage to marine life and fish populations worldwide, as bothwarming seas and ocean acidification throw off ecosystems’ natural balances.

Much of the report’s language has already been finalized, including a warning that “both warm water coral reef and Arctic ecosystems are already experiencing irreversible regime shifts.” 

The report also sees the potential for droughts, floods, and shifting patterns of rainfall to endanger global food production — again, a finding backed by other studies. Climate change is also cutting down on the globe’s supply of fresh drinking water, and stronger storms pose a danger to human infrastructure.

The latest report is a product of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), an international project aimed at providing the world a kind of grand summary and assessment of the known science on climate change. It put out its last big finding — the Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) — in 2007. Now the Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) is rolling out in a series of stages over the next few months.

The Working Group I report was the first stage, and covered how climate change arises from the basics of physical science. It was released in September of 2013. The report proposed, for the first time, an overall “carbon budget” that humanity cannot exceed if we’re to stay under 2°C of warming — what most scientist consider the safe upper limit. In short, the world can afford to release only 1,000 gigatons of carbon into the atmosphere if it wants to stay under the 2°C threshold, and 531 gigatons have already been emitted as of 2011.

Right now representatives and scientists from around the world are holed up in Yokohama, Japan, finalizing the language for the Working Group II report, which will come out on Monday. It will cover the impacts of climate change, which populations and societies are the most vulnerable, and how governments can adapt. According to the Guardian, almost 500 people must approve the Working Group II language, including 66 experts authors, 57 observers, 271 officials representing 115 countries around the world.

The IPCC’s Working Group III report is scheduled to be released in April, and will coverclimate change mitigation. That will be followed by the final Synthesis Report in October. At that point, the AR5 release will be complete, setting the stage for the next big international meeting in 2015, where the world’s governments hope to develop some sort of coordinated strategy to actually tackle climate change and cut global carbon emissions.

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