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Fourth Assessment of Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability



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The second report of the Fourth Assessment on climate science and policy by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, covering climate impacts, adaptation and vulnerability, was finalized in April 2007. Newswatch editor Mick Kelly reports.

"It's the poorest of the poor in the world, and this includes poor people even in prosperous societies, who are going to be the worst hit," said Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), as the second report of the latest IPCC assessment was released on April 6th 2007. Government officials and scientists had met in Brussels, Belgium, to finalize the text of the IPCC Working Group II review of climate impacts, adaptation and vulnerability. Martin Parry, working group co-chair, reported that there was now real evidence that climate change was having direct impacts. "For the first time, we are no longer arm-waving with models; this is empirical data, we can actually measure it."

"Don't be poor in a hot country, don't live in hurricane alley, watch out about being on the coasts or in the Arctic, and it's a bad idea to be on high mountains with glaciers melting," said Stephen Schneider from Stanford University in the United States.

The report projects that 75 to 250 million people across Africa could face water shortages by 2020. Crop yields could increase by 20 per cent in East and Southeast Asia, but decrease by up to 30 per cent in Central and South Asia. Agriculture fed by rainfall might drop by a half in some African countries by 2020. Twenty to 30 per cent of all plant and animal species are at increased risk of extinction if temperatures rise between 1.5 and 2.5 degrees Celsius. Glaciers and snow cover are expected to decline, reducing water availability in countries supplied by melt water.

Controversy developed during the run-up to the release of the report as scientists and government representatives argued over the final wording. There was, for example, disagreement over the inclusion of a table indicating likely impacts for every degree of global warming and over the inclusion of a statement explicitly linking cause and effect. Objections to the text came mostly from the United States, China and Saudi Arabia. Some scientists walked out at one point and a number said that they would not be involved in the IPCC process in future. Parry acknowledged that "certain messages were lost," but insisted that "the report was not watered down in the broad thrust."

Responding to the report, Yvo de Boer, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, said that the "projected impacts tell us that we urgently need to launch an agreement on future international action to combat climate change, as well as look for effective ways to generate the funds needed for adaptation." "Our current sources of funding are insufficient to cover... adaptation needs," he continued. "So the international community needs to investigate new and innovative sources of finance, not least through the carbon market, in order to ensure that the most vulnerable communities are able to cope."

Achim Steiner, head of the United Nations Environment Programme, called for action at the national level "to mainstream ‘climate proofing’ into all areas of economic life so that countries and communities... have a chance to adapt and thus a chance to avoid some of the more extreme impacts." "This further underlines both how urgent it is to reach global agreement on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and how important it is for us all to adapt to the climate change that is already under way," said European environment commissioner Stavros Dimas.

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Tiempo Climate Newswatch
Updated: April 12th 2013