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UN to finalise science report on how warming hits home hard

BERLIN (AP) – Scientists and governments met yesterday to finalise a major United Nations (UN) report on how global warming disrupts people’s lives, their natural environment and the Earth itself. Don’t expect a flowery valentine to the planet: instead an activist group predicted “a nightmare painted in the dry language of science”.

The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a collection of hundreds of the world’s top scientists, issues three huge reports on climate change every five to seven years. The latest update, which won’t be finished until the end of February, will explain how climate change already affects humans and the planet, what to expect in the future, and the risks and benefits of adapting to a warmer world.

“We’re concerned that the physical climate around us is changing,” said panel co-chair South African environmental scientist Debra Roberts. “But for most people in their day-to-day lives… they want to know: so what? What does it mean for their lives, their aspirations, their jobs, their families, the places where they live.”

The report features seven regional chapters “about how physical changes in the climate change people’s lives”, she said. And she said it will have a strong emphasis on cities. Even without seeing the final report, activists call it a warning sign for the planet.

“The IPCC’s horrifying evidence of escalating climate impacts is set to show a nightmare painted in the dry language of science,” Head of climate justice issues at ActionAid InternationalTeresa Anderson said in a statement.

Scientists won’t yet say specifically what’s in the report because its critical summary is still subject to intense negotiation between the authors and governments over next two weeks, with consensus needed for the final version. Drafts that have circulated publicly will be changed, sometimes dramatically, before it is publicly released on February 28.

Floodwaters from Hurricane Katrina fill the streets near downtown New Orleans. PHOTO: AFP
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