Der Spiegel has got the scoop on the next IPCC report due out in April. The German news mag has obtained a copy of the report. Here are some of the highlights from Spiegel online:
"The main conclusion of the report is that climate change is already having a profound effect on all the continents and on many of the Earth's ecosystems. The draft presents a long list of evidence:
Glacial lakes are increasing in both size and number, potentially leading to deadly floods
Permafrost in mountainous regions and at high latitudes is warming increasing the danger of land slides.
As the temperature of rivers and lakes rises, their thermal stratification and water quality is changing.
River currents, affected by melting glaciers and ice, are speeding up during the spring.
Springtime is starting earlier, causing plants to bloom earlier and changing the migrations of birds.
Many plants and animals are expanding their habitats into mountainous regions and higher latitudes that are becoming milder.
The authors of the report have sifted through some 30,000 data sets from more than 70 international studies documenting changes to water circulation, to cryospheres (ice zones), as well as to flora and fauna over a period of at least 20 years.
Many natural resources are likely to fall victim to climate change according to the IPCC draft report:
Some 20 to 30 percent of all species face a "high risk of extinction" should average global temperatures rise another 1.5 to 2.5 degrees Celsius from their 1990 levels. That could happen by 2050, the report warns.
Coral reefs are "likely to undergo strong declines."
Salt marshes and mangrove forests could disappear as sea levels rise.
Tropical rainforests will be replaced by savanna in those regions where groundwater decreases.
Migratory birds and mammals will suffer as vegetation zones in the Artic shift.
The IPCC expects the following world regions to suffer the most due to climate change:
The Arctic due to the greatest relative warming
Small island states in the Pacific as sea levels rise
Africa south of the Sahel zone due to drought
Densely populated river deltas in Asia amid flooding
This list alone makes abundantly clear that mankind will not escape these changes unscathed.
The UN climate panel expects "increasing deaths, injuries and illness from heat waves, floods, storms, forest fires and droughts." The draft summary for policymakers details "heat-related mortality" especially in Europe and Asia.
Several hundred million people in densely populated coastal regions -- particularly river deltas in Asia -- are threatened by rising sea levels and the increasing risk of flooding. More than one-sixth of the world's population lives in areas affected by water sources from glaciers and snow pack that will "very likely" disappear, according to the report.
The climate experts detail the potential consequences for most of the world including Europe, Africa, Asia, the Americas, Australia, New Zealand, polar regions and small Pacific islands. For the most part, global warming will have negative effects for both humans and the environment across much of the planet. The positive aspects -- such as better agricultural and forestry yields in northern Europe -- will be more than outweighed by the threats presented by rising temperatures and the perils that accompany them.
The draft also makes clear just how strongly the authors stand behind their forecasts. Most of their conclusions belong to category two, which means the researchers back them with "strong certainty." Some are even designated "very strong certainty," including the example that North America will be hit by stronger forest fires and heat waves in large cities, as well as the assumption that climate change poses the biggest risk to small island states.
The experts apparently do not have concerns about the planet's food production capabilities. Conditions for agriculture are likely to improve in higher latitudes, leading to greater global yields overall. However, numerous developing countries are likely to be hit by greater periods of drought at the same time -- thus threatening their populations with hunger. The climate panel expects yields in the north and deep south only to begin to sink once temperatures rise by more than three degrees Celsius. Overall, they put "average trust" in their predictions about food production.
Rising carbon dioxide concentrations in the Earth's atmosphere will at first help the plant world. Vegetation growth will be stronger and the planet will become greener. The absorption of CO2 by plant life will to a certain extent work against climate change, but not forever. "In the second half of the century terrestrial ecosystems will become a source of carbon which will then accelerate climate change," the IPCC report warns.
Although the inhabitants of poorer, developing nations are likely to suffer the most from climate change, the IPCC report makes clear that richer industrial nations such as the United States are also at risk. North America, the report cautions, is hardly prepared for the "growing risks and economic losses caused by rising seas, storms and floods."
The IPCC report also explicitly details the threat posed by tropical storms. Climate change is expected to increase the number of strong hurricanes leading to the concern that insurance companies might refuse to cover damages in regions threatened by such storms like New Orleans and the rest of the Gulf of Mexico.
According to information obtained by SPIEGEL ONLINE at the end of February, the climate panel will demand radical changes and massive investment against global warming in the third part of the IPCC report expected to be released in May in Bangkok. Some $16 billion (€12.1 billion) will be required by 2030 and humanity only has until 2020 to turn back the trend.