*Perilous Times and Global Warming
Global warming could bring hunger, melt Himalayas*
01 Apr 2007 17:00:54 GMT
By Alister Doyle, Environment Correspondent
OSLO, April 1 (Reuters) - Global warming could cause more hunger in
Africa and melt most Himalayan glaciers by the 2030s, according to a
draft U.N. report due on Friday which also warns that the poorest
nations are likely to suffer most.
The U.N. climate panel, giving the most authoritative study on the
regional impact of climate change since 2001, also predicts more
heatwaves in countries such as the United States, and damage to coral
including Australia's Great Barrier Reef.
"We are talking about a potentially catastrophic set of developments,"
Achim Steiner, the head of the U.N. Environment Programme, said of the
likely impact of rising temperatures, widely blamed on greenhouse gases
from burning fossil fuels.
"Even a half metre (20 inch) rise in sea levels would have catastrophic
effects in Bangladesh and some island states," he told Reuters.
Scientists and officials from more than 100 countries meet in Belgium
from Monday to review and approve a 21-page summary for policymakers in
the report amid disputes on some findings, including on how far rising
temperatures may contribute to spreading disease.
Among the gloomy forecasts, the report predicts that glaciers in the
Himalayas, the world's highest mountain range, will melt away, affecting
hundreds of millions of people.
"If current warming rates are maintained, Himalayan glaciers could decay
at very rapid rates, shrinking from the present 500,000 square
kilometres to 100,000 square kilometres by 2030s," according to a draft
And disruptions are likely to be felt hardest in poor nations, such as
sub-Saharan Africa and Asia where millions more could go hungry because
of damage to farming and water supplies.
Still, some nations will see some benefits, according to the draft by
the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which draws on work
by 2,500 scientists.
Global farm potential might increase with a rise of 3 degrees Celsius
(5.4 Fahrenheit) in temperatures, before sinking worldwide, it says.
Crops might grow better in nations far from the tropics such as Canada,
Russia, New Zealand or Scandinavia.
But warming will hit rich nations in other ways. The Mediterranean
region might become arid. In the United States, rising seas and storm
surges could "severely affect transportation along the Gulf, Atlantic
and Northern coasts", it says.
The United Nations reckons the report, together with one in February
that concluded it was more than 90 percent likely that recent warming
had a predominantly human cause, will add pressure on governments to do
more to head off damaging change.
"We've passed the tipping point," Steiner said, adding that the public,
governments and businesses seemed convinced that global warming was a
major threat and not some vague theory about which scientists disagreed.
"It's no longer about whether (climate change) is happening but about
how we deal with it," he said.
Even so, talks on a global treaty to extend the Kyoto Protocol on
restricting greenhouse gases after 2012 are stalled. Of the world's top
emitters -- the United States, China, Russia and India -- only Russia is
bound by caps under Kyoto.
Talks in Brussels are likely to last long and late, according to James
McCarthy, professor of biological oceanography at Harvard University who
was co-chair the last time the IPCC made a similar report in 2001.
He predicted disagreements would be overcome. "I think it would be very
unlikely that final agreement would not be reached in Brussels," he
said. "It would be unprecedented."