The effects of climate change will be felt sooner than scientists realised and the world must learn to live with the effects, experts have warned.
Martin Parry, a climate scientist with the British Met Office, said destructive changes in temperature, rainfall and agriculture were now forecast to occur several decades earlier than thought.
He said vulnerable people such as the old and poor would be the worst affected, and that world leaders had not yet accepted their countries would have to adapt to the likely consequences.
Speaking at a meeting to launch the full report on the impacts of global warming by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Professor Parry, co-chairman of the IPCC working group that wrote the report, said: “We are all used to talking about these impacts coming in the lifetimes of our children and grandchildren. Now we know that it’s us.”
Prof Parry said it was “very unlikely” that average temperature rise could be limited to 2C, as sought by European governments. That would place 2 billion more people at risk of water shortages, and hundreds of millions more will face hunger, the report says.
He added politicians had wasted a decade by focusing only on ways to cut emissions, and had only recently woken up to the need to adapt. “Mitigation has got all the attention, but we cannot mitigate out of this problem. We now have a choice between a future with a damaged world or a severely damaged world.”