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Scientists in War of Words Over Global Warming Report

Stephen Castle

BRUSSELS - Scientists and diplomats are haggling over the fine print of an alarming report that will today warn how global warming will warm seas, melt glaciers and change weather patterns.As delegates from more than 100 countries tried to finalise the document, campaigners called for the strongest possible statement on the impact of climate change to galvanise leaders to slash carbon emissions. 0406 02

At issue yesterday was the 21-page executive summary of an authoritative report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change detailing the effects of climate change on health, food, industry and ecosystems around the world.

Delegations from key nations were arguing over the wording of the text, which will be studied by policy makers around the world. Aspects of the science behind some of the conclusions were being challenged, causing lengthy delays.

The timing of the report is crucial because it comes ahead of a meeting of the G8 in Heiligendamm in June when the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, aims to get agreement on an ambitious climate protection agreement. This is seen as a precondition for further negotiations on a post-2012 climate regime.

Stephanie Tunmore, a Greenpeace campaigner, said that there were "lively debates going on" behind closed doors yesterday. She added: "This is a summary of a very big report which will go to policy makers. It is very important to attach the right levels of certainty. In a room of 400 people, goring through a document line by line takes time."

The final draft report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change runs to 1,572 pages and 20 chapters. The document will underline the growing consensus around the fact that global warming has been caused by mankind, and identify specific instances - including the heatwave of 2003 - as being linked to climate change.

Hans Verolme, director of the World Wildlife Fund's global climate change programme, said: "What you see here this week is wrangling over text, over whether something is likely or very likely, whether it is global or regional. The more urgent the IPCC report is, the higher the public expectations are of the politicians, who this year will have to make a very firm decision to start new negotiations for further deep reductions in carbon pollution."

Mr Verolme said that the fact that world leaders would read the report's summary had added pressure for consensus on the wording. "There is discussion whether something is 'likely' or 'very likely', and my sense is that is because people are aware here that heads of state are paying attention. If the text says this is very likely, the response has to be very significant."

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change draws on work by 2,500 scientists. A previous report released in Paris in February concluded it was more than 90 per cent likely that recent global warming was caused mainly by humans.

The report says rising temperatures will have costs for society even though some countries, such as Canada and Russia in the north, might benefit for a while from higher farm yields.

The draft argues: "Impacts of unmitigated climate change will vary regionally but, aggregated and discounted to the present, they are very likely to impose costs." It adds that "roughly 20 to 30 per cent of species are likely to be at risk of irreversible extinction" if the global average temperature rises by 1.5-2.5degC (2.7-4.5 degrees Fahrenheit).

Meanwhile, WWF issued a list of 10 regions suffering irreversible damage from climate change, and where it has projects to limit further damage or help people adapt to new conditions.

© 2007 Independent News and Media Limited

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