Report Maps Out
‘Highway To Extinction’
By Seth Borenstein
03 April, 2007
The Associated Press
key element of the second major report on climate change being released
Friday in Belgium is a chart that maps out the effects of global warming,
most of them bad, with every degree of temperature rise.There’s
one bright spot: A minimal heat rise means more food production in northern
regions of the world.
However, the number of species
going extinct rises with the heat, as does the number of people who
may starve, or face water shortages, or floods, according to the projections
in the draft report obtained by The Associated Press
Some scientists are calling
this degree-by-degree projection a “highway to extinction.”
It’s likely to be the
source of sharp closed-door debate, some scientists say, along with
a multitude of other issues in the 20-chapter draft report from the
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. While the wording in the
draft is almost guaranteed to change at this week’s meeting in
Brussels, several scientists say the focus won’t.
The final document will be
the product of a United Nations network of 2,000 scientists as authors
and reviewers, along with representatives of more than 120 governments
as last-minute editors. It will be the second volume of a four-volume
authoritative assessment of the Earth’s climate being released
this year. The last such effort was in 2001.
Andrew Weaver, a climate
scientist with the University of Victoria in British Columbia, said
the chart of results from various temperature levels is “a highway
to extinction, but on this highway there are many turnoffs. This is
showing you where the road is heading. The road is heading toward extinction.”
Weaver is one of the lead
authors of the first report, issued in February.
While humanity will survive,
hundreds of millions, maybe billions of people may not, according to
the chart - if the worst scenarios happen.
The report says global warming
has already degraded conditions for many species, coastal areas and
poor people. With a more than 90 per cent level of confidence, the scientists
in the draft report say man-made global warming “over the last
three decades has had a discernible influence on many physical and biological
But as the world’s
average temperature warms from 1990 levels, the projections get more
dire. Add 1C and between 400 million and 1.7 billion extra people can’t
get enough water, some infectious diseases and allergenic pollens rise,
and some amphibians go extinct. But the world’s food supply, especially
in northern areas, could increase. That’s the likely outcome around
2020, according to the draft.
Add another 1.8 degrees and
as many as 2 billion people could be without water and about 20 per
cent to 30 per cent of the world’s species near extinction. Also,
more people start dying because of malnutrition, disease, heat waves,
floods and droughts - all caused by global warming. That would happen
around 2050, depending on the level of greenhouse gases from the burning
of fossil fuels.
At the extreme end of the
projections, a 7- to 9-degree average temperature increase, the chart
predicts: “Up to one-fifth of the world population affected by
increased flood events” … “1.1 to 3.2 billion people
with increased water scarcity” … “major extinctions
around the globe.”
Despite that dire outlook,
several scientists involved in the process say they are optimistic that
such a drastic temperature rise won’t happen because people will
reduce carbon dioxide emissions that cause global warming.
“The worst stuff is
not going to happen because we can’t be that stupid,” said
Harvard University oceanographer James McCarthy, who was a top author
of the 2001 version of this report.
Copyright 2007 Associated
here to comment
on this article