Warming report: Future violent, sicker and poorer

WASHINGTON — Starvation, poverty, flooding, heat waves, droughts, war and disease already lead to human tragedies. They’re likely to worsen as the world warms from man-made climate change, a leaked draft of an international scientific report forecasts.

The Nobel Peace Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change will issue a report next March on how global warming is already affecting the way people live and what will happen in the future, including a worldwide drop in income. A leaked copy of a draft of the summary of the report appeared online Friday on a climate skeptic’s website. Governments will spend the next few months making comments about the draft.

“We’ve seen a lot of impacts and they’ve had consequences,” Carnegie Institution climate scientist Chris Field, who heads the report said Saturday. “And we will see more in the future.”

Cities, where most of the world now lives, have the highest vulnerability, as do the globe’s poorest people.

“Throughout the 21st century, climate change impacts will slow down economic growth and poverty reduction, further erode food security and trigger new poverty traps, the latter particularly in urban areas and emerging hotspots of hunger,” the report says. “Climate change will exacerbate poverty in low- and lower-middle income countries and create new poverty pockets in upper-middle to high-income countries with increasing inequality.”

The report says scientists have high confidence especially in what it calls certain “key risks”:

People dying from warming- and sea rise-related flooding, especially in big cities.

•Famine because of temperature and rain changes, especially for poorer nations.

Farmers going broke because of lack of water.

Infrastructure failures because of extreme weather.

Dangerous and deadly heat waves worsening.

Certain land and marine ecosystems failing.

“Human interface with the climate system is occurring and climate change poses risks for human and natural systems,” the 29-page summary says.

Pennsylvania State University climate scientist Michael Mann, who wasn’t part of the international study team, said the report’s summary confirmed what researchers have known for a long time: “Climate change threatens our health, land, food and water security.”

The report details specific effects of warming and how countries and people can adapt to some of them. Field said experts paint a dramatic contrast of possible futures, but because countries can lessen some of the harms through reduced fossil fuel emissions and systems to cope with other changes, he said he doesn’t find working on the report depressing.

“The reason I’m not depressed is because I see the difference between a world in which we don’t do anything and a world in which we try hard to get our arms around the problem,” he said.

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