‘Unequivocal’ evidence of global warming

The government has called for urgent international action to tackle climate change, after a new United Nations report found “unequivocal” evidence for global warming.

The long-awaited study from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) today declares with “very high confidence” that human activity is responsible for heating up the planet – and that it is “very likely” that this will speed up in the next century.

Temperatures could rise by between 1.8 and four degrees Celsius, by the end of the century, the report warns. Melting ice caps could cause sea levels to rise by between 18cm and 59cm, causing major damage to low-lying areas.

In addition, the report – which has been drawn up with contributions from 1,200 scientists across the world – warns incidences of hot spells and heavy rain will increase, and hurricanes, storms and winds will become stronger and more intense.

“Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, as is now evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising global mean sea level,” the IPCC report says.

Environment secretary David Miliband welcomed the study as “another nail in the coffin of the climate change deniers”, adding: “The debate over the science of climate change is well and truly over.”

More than 110 countries have signed the report, and it is likely to form the basis of a major summit in Bali later this year, where ministers from around the world try to agree on a deal to cut emissions to succeed the Kyoto protocol when it expires in 2012.

Mr Miliband warned: “What’s now urgently needed is the international political commitment to take action to avoid dangerous climate change. This has been absent so far.”

He added: “Man-made climate change poses an increasing risk to people and business across the globe. It will have disastrous consequences if we don’t act now.”

Environmental groups welcomed the strong language used in today’s IPCC report but questioned the commitment of countries to take action on its warnings.

“Talk comes cheap and I always say that you need to watch the actions of the politicians, not just what they say. And what is needed now in Europe is to take this report seriously and to agree to cut emissions 30 per cent by 2020,” said Hans Verolme of the WWF.

The report confirms the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere had “increased markedly as a result of human activities since 1750”, adding it is “very likely” this increase is responsible for the rise in global temperatures in the last 50 years.

Click here to read the IPCC report summary and to see more responses to it visit our issue of the day.