The folks at Spiegel got an advance look at the IPCC’s Working Group II report, due out next month. (WGII is the one on "impacts, adaptation and vulnerability." WGIII is on mitigation).
The news is all ice cream and ponies! Except not.
One main finding is that global warming is already having profound effects on the world’s ecosystems. There’s some uncertainty, but not all that much:
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.
According to the IPCC, “more than 85 percent” of the data show “changes in a direction that would be expected as a reaction to warming.” In other words: Researchers found evidence of environmental changes due to the greenhouse effect caused by mankind in nearly 9 out of 10 cases surveyed.
The researchers consider it “very unlikely” that the changes observed could be naturally occurring phenomena. They argue that the patterns of regional climate warming and environmental changes match up well with each other. And a similar consistency exists between the scientists’ observations and what climate models have predicted would happen as temperatures rise.
What can we expect in the future? Witness:
* 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 Arctic shift.
OK, but that’s all about "nature," right? We’ll be OK. Right?
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.
I can’t wait for technology to come and save us! [glances at watch nervously] Kinda wish it would hurry up!