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UN Expert: Extreme Weather A New Norm

March 7, 2014

By John Vidal

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The wettest winter in 200 years, and the floods and gales experienced across Britain are a foretaste of what is to occur in a warming world, the head of the UN`s climate science panel has told the Guardian.

Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said: "Each of the last three decades has been warmer than the last. Extreme events are on the increase. Even if what we have just had [this winter] was not caused by anthropogenic climate change, events of this nature are increasing, both in intensity and frequency."

Pachauri was speaking before the publication next month of a global assessment of the impact of climate change on the world`s food supplies, human health, cities and rural areas. Leaked copies seen by the Guardian warn of crop yields falling 2% a decade even as the demand from a rapidly growing population increases by 14% a decade.

"Due to sea level rise, coastal and low-lying areas will experience adverse impacts such as coastal erosion and flooding. Without adaptation, hundreds of millions of people will be affected by coastal flooding and will be displaced due to land loss," says the draft copy of the report, prepared by the IPCC.

Negotiators from 193 countries resume the UN`s climate talks in Bonn on Monday. UN climate chief Christiana Figueres, told the Guardian that the "very strange" weather experienced across the world recently was a sign that we are already experiencing climate change.

"If you take them individually you can say maybe it`s a fluke. The problem is you can`t take them individually," she said. "What it`s doing is giving us a pattern of abnormality that`s becoming the norm. We are experiencing climate change."

"Climate change is now built into the system," said Pachauri. "The Mediterranean will have severe problems with water scarcity which will impact on food. Some parts of Africa could have declines of 50% [in crop yields] as soon as 2020."

He added that the world did not have much time. "There is a very short window of opportunity to cut emissions enough to hold temperatures to an increase of 2C."

Pachauri`s warnings came as a new paper in the journal Nature suggests that even a 1C rise in temperatures could lead to an extra 3m malaria cases a year in children under 15 years of age.

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(c) 2014 Guardian Newspapers Limited.

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Story image: Flood waters inundate the area as one house stands alone and dry near the flooded village of Moorland in Somerset, southwest England, Thursday Feb. 13, 2014. The AP Photo/Steve Parsons, PA

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