The impacts of global warming are likely to be “severe, pervasive and irreversible”, a major report by the UN has warned.

Scientists and officials meeting in Japan say the document is the most comprehensive assessment to date of the impacts of climate change on the world.

Some impacts of climate change include a higher risk of flooding and changes to crop yields and water availability.

Humans may be able to adapt to some of these changes, but only within limits.

An example of an adaptation strategy would be the construction of sea walls and levees to protect against flooding. Another might be introducing more efficient irrigation for farmers in areas where water is scarce.

Natural systems are currently bearing the brunt of climatic changes, but a growing impact on humans is feared.

Members of the UN’s climate panel say it provides overwhelming evidence of the scale of these effects.

Our health, homes, food and safety are all likely to be threatened by rising temperatures, the summary says.

The report was agreed after almost a week of intense discussions here in Yokohama, which included concerns among some authors about the tone of the evolving document.

This is the second of a series from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) due out this year that outlines the causes, effects and solutions to global warming.

 

This latest Summary for Policymakers document highlights the fact that the amount of scientific evidence on the impacts of warming has almost doubled since the last report in 2007.

Be it the melting of glaciers or warming of permafrost, the summary highlights the fact that on all continents and across the oceans, changes in the climate have caused impacts on natural and human systems in recent decades.

In the words of the report, “increasing magnitudes of warming increase the likelihood of severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts”.

“Nobody on this planet is going to be untouched by the impacts of climate change,” IPCC chairman Rajendra Pachauri told journalists at a news conference in Yokohama.

Dr Saleemul Huq, a convening lead author on one of the chapters, commented: “Before this we thought we knew this was happening, but now we have overwhelming evidence that it is happening and it is real.”

Michel Jarraud, secretary-general of the World Meteorological Organization, said that, previously, people could have damaged the Earth’s climate out of “ignorance”.

“Now, ignorance is no longer a good excuse,” he said.

Mr Jarraud said the report was based on more than 12,000 peer-reviewed scientific studies. He said this document was “the most solid evidence you can get in any scientific discipline”.

US Secretary of State John Kerry commented: “Unless we act dramatically and quickly, science tells us our climate and our way of life are literally in jeopardy. Denial of the science is malpractice.”

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He added: “No single country causes climate change, and no one country can stop it. But we need to match the urgency of our response with the scale of the science.”

Ed Davey, the UK Energy and Climate Secretary said: “The science has clearly spoken. Left unchecked, climate change will impact on many aspects of our society, with far reaching consequences to human health, global food security and economic development.

“The recent flooding in the UK is a testament to the devastation that climate change could bring to our daily lives.”

The report details significant short-term impacts on natural systems in the next 20 to 30 years. It details five reasons for concern that would likely increase as a result of the warming the world is already committed to.

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