A group of scientists from 99 different countries have issued a warning that the climate change problem has become urgent and Earth could heat up by over 40 degrees Fahrenheit this century.

The report was issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, agroup of experts assembled by the United Nations, and its conclusions areharder-hitting than most earlier reports about the extent and causes ofglobal warming. “The scientific consensus should sound alarm bells in everynational capital,” said Klaus Toepfer of the UN Environment Program.

Several hundred experts gathered in Shanghai for 4 days to approve the finalwording of the report, which predicts an increase in surface temperatures ofbetween 5 and 21 degrees F. An earlier estimate, made in 1995, predicted arise of no more than 12.6 degrees F.

Warming this dramatic and this fast would devastate many countries and cause vast amounts of death and damage.

The projected temperature increase would result in rising sea levels and agreater incidence of floods, droughts, fires, and shifting weather patterns.Global warming is responsible for disrupting fishing and farming, as well asfor killing more and more of the world’s coral reefs.

The report cites global ice melting as powerful evidence that the world reallyis warming up. Since the 1960s, there has been a 20 per cent decrease insnow cover, a 40 per cent thinning of the Arctic ice cap, and a two-weekreduction in the winter freeze on lakes and rivers.

The atmospheric level of carbon dioxide, the most common greenhouse gas,will be higher in the next century than it has been for 42,000 years, saidSir John T. Houghton, one of co-chairman of the Shanghai meeting. “The rateof climate change in this century is expected to be greater than it has beenin the past 10,000 years.”

The study also pins more of the blame for global warming on greenhouse gasemissions, giving “new and stronger evidence that most of the observedwarming of the last 50 years is attributable to human activities.” Theearlier report described merely “a discernible human influence” on globalwarming.

“Only a few countries, such as Britain and Germany, are on track to meettheir targets,” said Robert T. Watson, the chairman of the UN panel. “TheUnited States is way off meeting its targets.” The U.S. is the biggestproducer of greenhouse gases, accounting for one-fourth of the world’stotal, while China is number two. Watson said, “It’s very unfair to saydeveloping countries are not doing their part [to curb emissions]. A countrylike China has done more, in my opinion, than a country like the UnitedStates to move forward in economic development while remainingenvironmentally sensitive.”

Another co-chairmen, Ding Yihui, said that China is already feeling theimpact of global warming, which may have caused the record drought that cutChina’s grain harvest by 10 per cent. The most heavily populated countriesthat are expected to be effected by global warming are coastal areas ofChina, Bangladesh and Egypt.

At present, Mongolia and Siberia are locked in a record-breaking winter freeze, which is consistent with the pattern of extremes predicted by global warming models.

The present U.S. administration is on record as saying that the problem isn’t real and intends to ignore it.

For the Financial Times (UK) story, click here.

For the ABC News report, click here.

For the New Scientist story, click here.

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