Whatever hopes pinned on new century, it may turn… lean

Such a conclusion has been driven at by UN experts in a report just out in Austria. Massive flooding, disease and drought could hit rich and poor countries around the world over coming decades if global warming is not halted, the scientists warn. They said they foresaw glaciers and polar icecaps melting, countless species of animals, birds and plant life dying out, farmland turning to desert, fish-supporting coral reefs destroyed, and small island states sunk beneath the sea. For example, every second glacier may melt away in the Alps by 2100, southern Europe being faced with droughts, while Poland’s and Florida’s coast area will be choked with powerful floods, the report is cited by RIA Novosti as saying. "Projected climate changes during the 21st century have the potential to lead to future large-scale and possibly irreversible changes in Earth systems, resulting in impacts on continental and global scales," the report is quoted by Reuters as saying. Hinting at sharper global social conflict to come, it said poorer countries, and the poorest people in rich countries, would suffer the most - increasing the North-South divide and the poverty gap in the United States and Europe. The effects of a surge in hurricanes, floods, higher temperatures and water shortages "are expected to fall disproportionately on the poor because they are less able to adapt," Harvard professor James McCarthy, one of the authors of the report, told a news conference. He said farming in tropical and sub-tropical regions would be worst hit "and tens of millions of people will be at risk from sea-level rise."