Irreversible climate change damage is reported in leaked U.N. paper

By Alex Morales / Bloomberg News

LONDON — Humans risk causing irreversible and widespread damage to the planet unless there’s faster action to limit the fossil fuel emissions that cause climate change, according to a leaked draft United Nations report.

Global warming already is impacting “all continents and across the oceans,” and further pollution from heat-trapping gases will raise the likelihood of “severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems,” according to the document obtained by Bloomberg.

“Without additional mitigation, and even with adaptation, warming by the end of the 21st century will lead to high to very high risk of severe, widespread, and irreversible impacts globally,” the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said in the draft.

The study is the most important document produced by the U.N. about global warming, summarizing hundreds of papers. It’s designed to present the best scientific and economic analysis to government leaders and policymakers worldwide. It feeds into the UN-led effort drawing in more than 190 nations for an agreement on limiting emissions.

The report “will provide policymakers with a scientific foundation to tackle the challenge of climate change,” IPCC Chairman Rajendra Pachauri said in a statement from the panel’s office in Geneva. “It would help governments and other stakeholders work together at various levels, including a new international agreement to limit climate change” that countries intend to broker by the end of next year.

The draft was obtained by Bloomberg from a person with official access to it who asked not to be further identified because it hasn’t been published yet. It’s subject to line-by- line revision by representatives of governments around the world, and a final report is scheduled to be published on Nov. 2 in Copenhagen.

Jonathan Lynn, a spokesman for the IPCC, declined to comment on the contents of the report. The draft “is still a work in progress, which will certainly change — indeed that is the point of the review — and so it would be premature to discuss its contents at this stage,” Lynn said.

Economic losses for a warming level of 2.5 degrees Celsius (4.5 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels may reach 2 percent of global income, according to the panel, which acknowledged existing estimates are “incomplete,” and the calculation has “limitations.”

Temperatures have already warmed by 0.85 of a degree since 1880, it said. That’s quicker than the shift in the climate that brought the end of the last ice age ended about 10,000 years ago.