Global warming likely to displace hundreds of millions

January 08, 2014

By DAISUKE SUDO/ Staff Writer

Hundreds of millions of people mainly in Asia could be displaced by the end of this century as global warming causes sea levels to rise, according to a report by a special U.N. panel.

The final draft report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change enumerates other aspects of the potentially huge socioeconomic impact of global warming on the human race as well, such as severe food shortages arising from falling agricultural production. It also stresses a need for adaptive measures to mitigate those impacts along with reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The IPCC is in the process of releasing its Fifth Assessment Report, the first since 2007, in bits and pieces. It is expected to serve as important base materials for use in international talks on a climate change framework that will succeed the Kyoto Protocol.

Subtitled "The Physical Science Basis" and released in September, the first part predicted that continued growth in carbon dioxide emissions would raise global mean temperatures by a maximum of 4.8 degrees by the end of the 21st century, on top of a rise of about 1 degree that has occurred since the Industrial Revolution of the mid-18th century.

Global sea levels are likely to rise by a maximum of 80 centimeters, the September report said.

The second part of the Fifth Assessment Report, scheduled to be approved at a meeting in Yokohama in March, will summarize latest research results on the impact of global warming.

It predicts that erosion from the rising sea levels and other factors will result in a loss of coastal lands, which will likely force hundreds of millions of people, many of them in Asia, to migrate within the next 80 years or so.

High temperatures and other effects of global warming will cause farm production to fluctuate wildly from year to year, on top of a falling trend of up to 2 percent per decade, the draft report says. That, combined with a population growth and an increase in demand of 14 percent per decade, is likely to cause crop supplies to fall short and prices to soar. Tropical nations, with high poverty rates, are particularly vulnerable to serious food shortages, according to the report.

The habitats of marine life will shift, with diversity of species to increase in intermediate and high latitudes but decrease in tropical areas by the mid-21st century, the report says. It predicts the maximum catch potential will drop in coastal waters in the Sea of Japan and in Pacific waters south of Japan but will grow off northeastern Japan. Catches will decrease globally by the end of this century if warming proceeds at a faster rate, the draft report added.

As for the economic impact, the draft document says a 2.5-degree rise in global mean temperatures relative to the levels before the Industrial Revolution could cause a loss of 0.2-2 percent in income. It also says spreading poverty and other factors could heighten the risk of violent conflicts.

At the same time, the draft report stresses the importance of adaptive measures and says the development of heat-resistant crop strains and new cultivation technologies could raise farm output by 15-18 percent of current production.

A third part of the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report to address the issue of greenhouse gas reductions will be released in Germany in April. A synthesis report will be available in autumn.

By DAISUKE SUDO/ Staff Writer
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