The report warns that the gradual acidification of the ocean could see coral reefs disappearing before the century ends
STOCKHOLM: Scientists will this week issue their starkest warning yet about the mounting dangers of global warming. In a report to be handed to political leaders in Stockholm tomorrow, they will say that the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation have now led to a warming of the entire globe, including land surfaces, oceans and the atmosphere.
Extreme weather events, including heatwaves and storms, have increased in many regions while ice sheets are dwindling at an alarming rate. In addition, sea levels are rising while the oceans are being acidified — a development that could see the planet’s coral reefs disappearing before the end of the century.
The economist and climate change expert Lord Stern today calls on governments to end their dithering about fossil fuels and start working to create a global low-carbon economy to curtail global warming. Governments, he states, must decide what “kind of world we want to present to our children”.
The fifth assessment report on the physical science of climate change by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warns that humanity is on course over the next few decades to raise global temperatures by more than 2 degrees Celsius compared with pre-industrial levels. Such a rise could trigger the release of plumes of the greenhouse gas methane from the thawing Arctic tundra, while the polar ice caps, which reflect solar radiation back into space, could disappear.
Although the report does not say so, Earth would probably then be facing a runaway greenhouse effect. The scientists’ warning — the most comprehensive and convincing yet produced by climate scientists — comes at a time when growing numbers of people are doubting the reality of global warming. Last week, the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC) published a survey showing that the proportion of British people who do not think the world’s climate is changing has almost quadrupled since 2005.
Asked if they thought Earth’s climate was changing, 5pc of respondents said “no” in 2005, a figure that rose to 11pc last year and reached 19pc this year.
But as the IPCC report underlines, scientists are becoming more and more certain that climate change poses a real danger to the planet. Many believe the disconnection between popular belief and scientific analysis has been engineered by “deniers” explicitly opposed to the lifestyle changes — including restrictions on fossil fuel burning — that might be introduced in the near future.
“There are attempts by some politicians and lobbyists to confuse and mislead the public about the scientific evidence that human activities are driving climate change and creating huge risks,” said Stern.