Scientists to issue starkest climate warning yet at Japan conference

Rising seas will displace hundreds of millions in coastal areas around world by 2100, report will say

Smoke billowing from a plant in Tokyo bay, Japan. Climate scientists and government representatives have begun discussions in the city of Yokohama to draw up the second part of a key assessment of the report on global climate by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Photograph: Franck Robichon/EPA

Smoke billowing from a plant in Tokyo bay, Japan. Climate scientists and government representatives have begun discussions in the city of Yokohama to draw up the second part of a key assessment of the report on global climate by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Photograph: Franck Robichon/EPA

Wed, Mar 26, 2014, 01:00


Scientists meeting in Japan to finalise a mammoth report on climate change are set to deliver their starkest forecasts yet about the impact of unchecked man-made activity on the planet.

Leaked reports say the report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will warn that rising seas will displace hundreds of millions of people living in coastal areas around the world by 2100.

Changes to weather patterns will trigger drought and famine in some areas and flooding in others, it says, particularly Europe and Asia, along with a mass extinction of land and sea species as the seas warm and turn more acidic.

Hundreds of top climate researchers from 100 countries have gathered this week in Yokohama to put together a summary of the report, some two million words long, which will drive policy discussion for years to come.

“Time is running out. We must take action,” the deputy head of the World Meteorological Organisation, Jeremiah Lengoasa, said in a video message to the meeting yesterday. “It is our obligation and our duty to inform the world of the prospects and risks that lie ahead.”


‘Unprecedented’
Headline statements from the report say warming of the climate system is “unequivocal” and climate changes are “unprecedented”.

“The atmosphere and ocean have warmed, the amounts of snow and ice have diminished, sea level has risen, and the concentrations of greenhouse gases have increased,” it says.

“Over the last two decades, the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets have been losing mass, glaciers have continued to shrink almost worldwide, and Arctic sea ice and Northern Hemisphere spring snow cover have continued to decrease in extent.

“The rate of sea level rise since the mid-19th century has been larger than the mean rate during the previous two millennia.”

“Atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide have increased to levels unprecedented in at least the last 800,000 years.”

Conference host Japan is under fire for scaling back a pledge to cut by the end of this decade greenhouse gas emissions by 25 per cent from 1990 levels. The government of prime minister Shinzo Abe says the pledge relied heavily on Japan’s nuclear reactors, all of which are now offline following the Fukushima disaster.

Chris Field, the IPCC co-chair, warned against despair yesterday. “Although (the report) focuses on a whole analytical and sometimes depressing view of the challenges we face, it also looks at the opportunities we face.

“This can not only help us to deal with climate change but ultimately build a better world.

“The focus is as much on identifying effective responses as on understanding challenges.”

The IPCC released the first of its trilogy of reports last year on the science of climate change, concluding that change was real and humans were the main cause. The new report, looking at its impact on life, will be released next Monday.