A new international climate change agreement designed to replace the Kyoto accord when it expires in 2012 could move a step closer today with the publication of a high profile UN scientific report on global warming that will map out the catastrophic changes in climate that will ensue if nothing is done to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The report from the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has been compiled by 130 leading climate change scientists based on the work of thousands of scientists and is expected to show that the debate over whether human activities are causing climate change is all but over.
"We can be very confident that the net effect of human activity since 1750 has been one of warming," co-lead author Dr Susan Soloman told delegates at the conference in Paris designed to finalise and release the report.
The report states that it is over 90 percent certain that human activities are causing warming in the climate and that further emissions of greenhouse gases will accelerate global warming. It also claims that positive feedback effects caused by the oceans and forests becoming less adept at absorbing carbon as temperatures rises could drive temperatures still higher.
The report concludes that temperatures will probably increase by between 1.8 and 4C by 2100, though they could climb by as little as 1.1C and as much as 6.4C, which would result in catastrophic effects such as major droughts and sea level rises.
The report is unlikely to convince climate change deniers who have already proved adept at resisting the growing scientific consensus. But worryingly some of the scientists involved in the report have also criticised it for being too "conservative", claiming the pace of global warming is likely to be faster still.
Today's report is the first in a series of three climate change studies from the IPCC. The second report on the impact of climate change will be released on April 6th with the final report on how to tackle the problem published in May, ahead of this summer's G8 summit in Heilgendamm where climate change is expected to dominate the agenda.
The scientists behind the report hope it will underpin the debate at both the G8 Summit and the next round of UN climate talks in Indonesia later in the year where politicians are expected to begin the process of agreeing a successor to Kyoto that is expected to be far more stringent and wide reaching than the original agreement. Speaking last month at the World economic Forum in Davos, UK Prime Minister Tony Blair hinted that progress on an agreement was being made and that he was confident a powerful successor to Kyoto would be delivered.
The report comes as banking giant Lehman Brothers released a new study on the business challenges and opportunities posed by climate change. The report concludes that a more stringent successor to Kyoto is indeed likely, claiming there is "a somewhat greater than 50 percent probability of a global emissions trading scheme being in place within five years".
It also argued that while global warming will be gradual, as presented by the IPCC report, it will create a more volatile business environment where "asset prices will on occasion move sharply, when new evidence reaches the market or policies change".
However, it is not all bad news with the Lehman Brothers report observing that some businesses are taking a stronger lead on climate change than governments and that while global warming poses massive risks to the economy the attempts to tackle the problem will throw up new opportunities, particularly in the spheres of technology and energy.
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