It took a contentious all-night session to bridge gaps between scientists and policy-makers, but participants at a U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change conference in Brussels emerged with a document that warns of dire consequences from global warming. Teri Schultz has the details for VOA from Brussels. The climate change panel's final report doesn't require governments to pass any laws, spend any money or take any action to combat global warming… but what scientists in the working group consider great progress is that now, the some 130 governments who approved the document agree, global warming is happening on every continent.
One of the co-authors of the International Panel on Climate Change report, Martin Parry, says this is a significant milestone.
"That's an important conclusion really because for the first time, we're not arm-waving 'This might happen.' It's what we call empirical information on the ground - we can measure it," he said.
And what scientists have concluded is that the situation is worse than previously thought. Glaciers are melting, desert land is increasing and the world's temperature is gradually rising - most of which the IPCC panel attributes to carbon-dioxide emissions caused by humans - all of which can increase human suffering.
Poor populations, already fragile, will be the worst-affected, Martin Parry warns, especially in the areas of food supply and health.
"Any amount of warming is going to decrease yields and that is exactly what we don't want," he said. "We've got 500 million hungry people in the world today, according to the FAO, and those numbers are likely to increase as a result of climate change."
According to the report, rising temperatures also threaten up to 30 percent of the species around the world with an increased risk of extinction.
Some scientists complained on the sidelines of the meeting that governments had been allowed to water down the scientific findings, but Parry says getting the policy-makers to sign on to the document is of vital importance.
"Painful it may be but it creates the intergovernmental agreed baseline of information," he said. "We may not be right at the frontiers but we consolidate what we truly know."
In May, the panel will produce a similar report on how humans can help to avert the worst effects of climate change.