United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who has called climate change one of his top priorities, today hailed a new report on the subject, urging nations to make decisive efforts to alleviate the worst consequences brought on by global warming.
The report, entitled "Climate Change 2007: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability," was released in Brussels by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
The study said that warmer global temperatures are causing profound changes in many of the earth's natural systems. Approximately 20-30 per cent of plant and animal species assessed so far are likely to be at increased risk of extinction if increases in global average temperature exceed 1.5-2.5 degrees centigrade. According to IPCC forecasts, the earth is likely to warm by 3 degrees centigrade during this century, a temperature that would have largely negative consequences for biodiversity and ecosystem goods and services, such as water and food supply.
As a result of warmer temperatures, springtime events are occurring earlier, such increased run-off and peak discharge in many glacier- and snow-fed rivers, "greening" of vegetation and migration and egg-laying by birds. More animal and plant species have also been observed shifting toward higher latitudes.
The report found that while some efforts are underway to adapt to climate change, they are, by and large, insufficient in dealing with the scope of the potential problems.
In a statement issued by his spokesperson, Mr. Ban "expresses his concern that the impacts of climate change are increasingly noticeable, and likely to become more so in the future as extreme weather events intensify."
He called on States which are party to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to act quickly to create a plan to tackle future needs in time to replace the Kyoto Protocol, an agreement requiring 35 industrialized countries and the European Community to reduce greenhouse gas emissions which is set to expire in 2012.
He voiced hope that countries will take steps towards creating a new environmental framework at the UN Climate Change Conference to be held in Bali, Indonesia, in December.
"Adequate, large-scale adaptation measures have the potential to alleviate some of the worst consequences outlined in the report, if Governments take action without delay," Mr. Ban said.
Climate change presents dangers that could affect the health of millions of people, the report found, for it could lead to increased malnutrition, deaths and disease due to higher concentrations of ground level ozone.
The new report noted that changes are affecting regions differently, and in the coming years, the impacts of climate change will be even more dramatic. The IPCC forecasts that by mid-century, the annual average river runoff and water availability will increase by 10-40 per cent at high latitudes and in some wet tropical areas, while decreasing by 10-30 per cent in some dry regions at mid-latitudes and in the dry tropics.
The number of drought-affected areas is expected to increase, and regions that currently rely on glacier-fed rivers for their drinking water, presently providing water to about one-sixth of the world's popuation, will likely see reduced availability.
Today's report is the second of four that the IPCC will issue this year as part of its fourth Assessment Report on climate change. The report, written with the participation of hundreds of scientists from around the world, was endorsed by Government representatives after week-long deliberations in Brussels.