No-one safe from climate change

The poor will be hardest hit, but everyone will suffer, says UN report

A professor from the University of Copenhagen is among the lead authors of a just-released UN report that claims climate change is worse than anyone expected. According to the British-born professor of agriculture, John R Porter, and the other authors, the dangers are going to worsen as the climate changes even more.

Several days of debate were needed before the more than 100 governments involved unanimously approved the scientist-written 49-page summary aimed at world leaders.  

The report paints a bleak picture of a dystopian world struggling to deal with food shortages, drought and diseases made worse by climate change. According to the report, things have deteriorated since the last such report was issued in 2007.

"The timeline is so serious that the children born in Denmark today will have barely graduated from public school before they face real problems," Porter told Belingske newspaper.

The poor get poorer
Although poorer populations in tropical areas are at most risk, Porter said that Europe would not escape unscathed. Temperature rises will put pressure on grain production, he said, which will affect food security all over the world.

In the northern latitudes, including Denmark, crop yields could actually increase in the coming decades, but a continued rise in greenhouse gas emissions and increasing temperatures could result in crop failures even in the north over the long-term.

Climate change will exacerbate problems that society already has, such as poverty, sickness, violence and refugees, according to the report, and the poor will be the worst affected.

However, one author, Richard Tol, an economist from the University of Sussex, asked for his name to be removed from the final report, saying that it was "too alarmist" and that there are benefits to climate change and that farmers would learn to adapt to rising temperatures.

READ MORE: Greenland’s ice sheet melting faster than previously believed

A dangerous game
Porter said that Tol was making a dangerous wager.

"We cannot bet on adapting to climate change," Porter said. "That is gambling with natural and human systems, including the world's food supply and economy."

The report is based on more than 12,000 peer-reviewed scientific studies and predicts that if greenhouse gases continue to rise, the world is facing an increase of 3.5 or 4 degrees C by 2100 instead of the international goal of not allowing temperatures to rise more than 1.2 degrees C.