Bad News for the Planet: Humans Responsible For Climate Change, Says UN Report

A new United Nations report on climate change makes for sobering reading. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, humans are almost certainly responsible for global warming. And the consequences could be worst than previously thought.

For years, global warming was dismissed as an apocalyptic vision dreamt up by cranks and hippies. But recently consensus has been growing that the climate is indeed changing and humans are directly responsible. Now the United Nations has concluded that humans are almost certainly responsible for global warming and issued its strongest-ever warning about the consequences.

The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its keenly awaited report on climate change Friday in Paris. It contains the UN's strongest conclusion yet that human activities are leading to global warming, and warns of more droughts, stronger storms and rising sea levels by 2100.

The report says that human activities were "very likely" the main cause of warming in the last 50 years. In the language of the IPCC, that translates into at least a 90 percent probability. In the last report in 2001, the link was described as "likely," meaning a 66 to 90 percent probability.

The 21-page report gives a bleak overview of the situation. "Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, as is now evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising global mean sea level," the report says.

According to the report, human-made emissions of greenhouse gases can be blamed for fewer cold days, hotter nights, killer heat waves, floods and heavy rains, devastating droughts, and an increase in hurricane and tropical storm strength. The harmful effects of climate change during the 21st century "would very likely be larger than those observed during the 20th century," the report said.

The report predicts temperature rises of 1.1 to 6.4 degrees Celsius (2 to 11.5 degrees Fahrenheit) by the year 2100, a wider range than in the 2001 report. The panel's best estimate was for temperature increases of 1.8 to 4 degrees Celsius (3.2 to 7.1 degrees Fahrenheit).

Regarding rising sea levels, the report projects jumps of 7 to 23 inches (18 to 58 centimeters) by the end of the century. An additional 3.9 to 7.8 inches (10 to 20 centimeters) are possible if polar ice sheets continue to melt.

The report warns that no matter how much civilization slows or reduces its greenhouse gas emissions, global warming and sea level rise will continue for centuries.

The head of the panel, Indian climatologist Rajendra Pachauri, called it a "very impressive document that goes several steps beyond previous research."

"(Global warming) is just not something you can stop. We're just going to have to live with it," co-author Kevin Trenberth, director of climate analysis for the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, said in an interview with the Associated Press. "We're creating a different planet. If you were to come up back in 100 years time, we'll have a different climate."

Achim Steiner, Head of the UN Environment Program, told Reuters the report "gives us a stark warning that the potential impact will be more dramatic, faster and more drastic in terms of consequences" than previously thought. "This will change in some parts of the world the fundamental way in which we live."

"With this report, any last doubts should be dispelled that humans are 'over-turning the climate screw'," Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, told Reuters. "Hence, we have a responsibility to correct this dangerous development by drastically reducing greenhouse gas emissions."

dgs/ap/reuters

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