Millions Face Hunger From Climate Change
Tuesday, April 10, 2007; 4:37 PM
MEXICO CITY -- Rising global temperatures could melt Latin America's glaciers within 15 years, cause food shortages affecting 130 million people across Asia by 2050 and wipe out Africa's wheat crop, according to a U.N. report released Tuesday.
The report, written and reviewed by hundreds of scientists, outlined dramatic effects of climate change including rising sea levels, the disappearance of species and intensifying natural disasters. It said 30 percent of the world's coastlines could be lost by 2080.
Scientists with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change outlined details of the report in news conferences around the world Tuesday, four days after they released a written summary of their findings. The report is the second of three being issued this year; the first dealt with the physical science of climate change and the third will deal with responses to it.
In Mexico City, scientists predicted that global warming could cost the Brazilian rain forest up to 30 percent of its species and turn large swaths into savannah. They said ocean levels are projected to rise 4.3 feet by 2080 and flood low-lying cities including Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Polar ice caps will likely melt, opening a waterway at the North Pole and threatening to make the Panama Canal obsolete, IPCC member Edmundo de Alba said. Warmer waters will spawn bigger and more dangerous hurricanes that will threaten coastlines not traditionally affected by them.
Latin America's diverse ecosystems will struggle with intense droughts and flooding and as many as 70 million people in the region will be left without enough water, according to the report.
"What's clear is places suffering from drought are going to become drier, and places with a large amount of precipitation are going to see an increase in precipitation," de Alba said.
Many Latin American farmers will have to abandon traditional crops such as corn, rice, wheat and sugar as their soil becomes increasingly saline, and ranchers will have to find new ways to feed their livestock, scientists said.
They warned that governments are doing too little to prepare for the changes.
"We don't have medium- or long-term plans in Latin America. Governments look the other way," IPCC member Osvaldo Canziani said in Buenos Aires.
The report said Africa is most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. The fallout from a swiftly warming planet _ extreme weather, flooding, outbreaks of disease _ will only exacerbate troubles in the world's poorest continent, said Anthony Nyong, one of the lead authors.
Wheat, a staple in Africa, may disappear from the continent by the 2080s, the report said.