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Global Warming Causing 'Irreversible Damage': UN Report

Aug 27, 2014 01:24 PM EDT
Greenland Ice Sheet

(Photo : Wikimedia Commons)

Global warming is here, and "severe, widespread and irreversible" damage may be inevitable unless faster action is taken to reduce fossil fuel emissions, a newly leaked UN report has warned.

The 127-page report states that further pollution - caused by the burning of fossil fuels, such as coal, oil and gas - will contribute to problems like rising sea levels and extreme weather, such as heat waves, flooding and droughts.

"Without additional mitigation, and even with adaptation, warming by the end of the 21st century will lead to high to very high risk of severe, widespread and irreversible impacts globally," the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said in the draft, which was obtained by The Associated Press (AP).

According to the IPCC, the draft is still a work in progress, and the final version is scheduled to be published in November in Copenhagen.

In 2009, countries across the globe set a goal of limiting global warming to about another 2 degrees Fahrenheit above current levels. However, the report states the world may have been too ambitious in its target. It's looking more and more like we will shoot past this point, unless by some miracle dramatic and immediate cuts are made in carbon dioxide pollution.

"Many aspects of climate change and associated impacts will continue for centuries, even if anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases cease," the report reads.

Experts say permanent changes will include the melting of the ice sheet covering Greenland - the second-largest ice body in the world after the Antarctic ice sheet. Increasing sea levels by as much as seven meters, this melting ice would threaten coastal cities such as Miami and Bangkok, while also leading to acidification of the world's oceans.

And global warming is costly in more ways than one. There are economic costs in addition to environmental damage as a result of our lack of strong action. Delaying work until 2030 could raise the cost 40 percent by 2050, the authors of the report add.

"The report tells us once again what we know with a greater degree of certainty: that climate change is real, it is caused by us, and it is already causing substantial damage to us and our environment," Pennsylvania State University climate scientist Michael Mann told the AP. "If there is one take home point of this report it is this: We have to act now."

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