The international climate change panel currently meeting in Yokohama, Japan, has agreed to state in its upcoming report that global warming has inflicted irreversible damage coral reefs and Arctic sea ice.
The agreement came at a plenary session of Working Group II of the UN International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The IPCC is meeting in Yokohama to assess the impact of ongoing warming of the planet.
According to the IPCC, there will be serious effects on the natural environment when global average temperatures rise 1.6 C higher than average levels before the Industrial Revolution, and conditions will worsen further with a rise of 2.6 C.
Its agreed-upon report, which will be released Monday, will affect ongoing international negotiations over global warming countermeasures, the main aim of which is to keep temperature rises within 2 C.
At the beginning of the agreement, the working group acknowledges that “observed impacts of climate change are widespread and substantial” and “in recent decades changes in climate have caused impacts on natural and human systems on all continents and across the oceans.”
These acknowledgments are more serious than those in its 2007 report, which said: “Observational evidence from all countries and most oceans shows that many natural systems are being affected by regional climate changes, particularly temperature increases.”
Later in the agreement, the working group touches on the effect that temperature increases have had on the environment. The current world average temperature has risen by 0.6 C since the start of the Industrial Revolution. It warns that an increase of 1.6 C from that time will have a wider impact on fragile natural systems that are not capable of adjusting to global warming.
As examples of such fragile natural environments, the group lists Arctic sea ice and coral reefs.
In the Arctic Ocean, sea ice has been melting for several years. Large swathes of coral reefs, including one south of Japan, have been turning white as a result of sea temperature increases.
The IPCC specifically stresses that irreversible effects on natural systems have accelerated.
Meanwhile, the working group forecasts that with a 1.6 C rise will increase the risk of death from heat stroke and heat exhaustion, mainly in metropolitan areas.
With a 2.6 C increase, drought and unreliable rainfall will cause a decline in crop production and shortages of drinking and irrigation water, according to the group’s forecasts.
The target to keep average temperatures within 2 C of the pre-Industrial Revolution level was set at a summit held five years ago. However, some have said it is hard to achieve this target and that the goal should be eased.
The IPCC’s report will provide the basis for international negotiations on greenhouse gas mitigation to be held in 2020