window closing

The report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, whose wording was agreed in Brussels only yesterday after all-night disputes between scientists and governments and last-minute objections from the US, China and Saudi Arabia over wording and graphics, bluntly says: “Unmitigated climate change would, in the long term, be likely to exceed the capacity of natural, managed and human systems to adapt.”

In a sobering assessment, the report finds this warming would mean “approximately 20 per cent to 30 per cent of plant and animal species assessed so far are likely to be at increased risk of extinction”.

It also warns of malnutrition, water shortages, disease and injury from predicted increases in heatwaves, droughts, storms and other severe weather events. Professor Terry Hughes, of James Cook University, who contributed to the report, said time was running out for coral reefs.

“We have a narrow window of opportunity – no more than 20 years to achieve decisive cuts in greenhouse gases – to protect coral reefs from massive degradation,” he said.

Sydney Morning Herald, 7 Apr 2007