Last word on climate is ours, scientists say

By Seth Borenstein, The Associated Press, published in The Seattle Times online April 8, 2007

Two Excerpts: … The language in the report had to be approved unanimously by governments. Among scientists, changes had to be by consensus. In addition, every change of wording had to be approved by all scientists who wrote the affected section. In the past, scientists at these meetings believed that their warnings were conveyed, albeit slightly edited down. But several left Friday with the sense that they had lost control of their document …

… A comparison of the original document, written by scientists, and the finished paper showed major reductions in forecasts for hunger and flooding victims. Instead of “hundreds of millions” of potential flood victims, the report said “many millions.”

A key mention of up to 120 million people at risk of hunger because of global warming was eliminated.

Yet scientists have their fallback: a second summary that consists of 79 densely written, heavily footnoted pages.

The “technical summary,” which eventually will be released to the public, will not be edited by diplomats. The technical summary, Rosenzweig said, contains “the real facts.”

Some highlights, not included in the 23-page already released summary:

• “More than one-sixth of the world population live in glacier- or snowmelt-fed river basins and will be affected by decrease of water volume.” And depending on how much fossil fuels are burned in the future, “262-983 million people are likely to move into the water-stressed category” by 2050.

• Global warming could increase the number of hungry in 2080 by between 140 million and 1 billion, depending on how much greenhouse gas is emitted in coming decades.

• “Overall, a two- to three-fold increase of population to be flooded is expected by 2080.”

• Malaria, diarrheal diseases, dengue fever, tick-borne diseases, heat-related deaths will all rise with global warming. But in the United Kingdom, the drop in cold-related deaths will be bigger than the increase in heatstroke-related deaths.

• In eastern North America, depending on fossil-fuel emissions, smog will increase and there would be a 4.5 percent increase in smog-related deaths.

Because global warming will hurt the poor more, there will be more “social-equity” concerns and pressure for governments to do more.

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Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company – (full text).

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