UN Study: Global Warming Effects to Last 'Centuries'

And countries are not well-prepared, the new report says.

Icebergs float in the water July 30, 2013, off Narsaq, Greenland. Researchers have found that parts of the Greenland Ice Sheet are melting faster than expected.

Icebergs float in the water July 30, 2013, off Narsaq, Greenland. Huge chunks of ice around the world are melting faster than expected as a result of the planet's changing climate, studies have found.

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The effects of global warming are already being felt across the globe and countries remain “ill-prepared for risks from a changing climate,” a new report by a United Nations climate panel has found.

“We live in an era of man-made climate change,” said Vicente Barros, an emeritus professor at the University of Buenos Aires who helped lead the study for the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. “In many cases, we are not prepared for the climate-related risks that we already face. Investments in better preparation can pay dividends both for the present and for the future.”

More than 740 authors and editors from 70 countries contributed to the study, which was released Monday, along with another 1,729 expert and government reviewers. The greatest risks from climate change, they concluded, are “vulnerability,” or a lack of preparedness; “exposure,” or people and assets that are in harm’s way; and “hazards,” or actual climate changes and trends.  

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Notably, the contrast between wet and dry regions will continue increasing, with wet areas becoming even wetter and dry regions even drier, the study said. Also, sea levels will keep rising as glaciers continue to melt, the ocean will continue growing more acidic and the atmosphere will keep warming. From 1880 to 2012, researchers found, the atmosphere warmed an average of 0.85 degrees Celsius, or about 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit.

“Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, and since the 1950s, many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia,” a statement on the study said. “The atmosphere and ocean have warmed, the amounts of snow and ice have diminished, sea level has risen, and the concentrations of greenhouse gases have increased.”

The report urged lawmakers not only to reduce carbon emissions, but also to take action to make communities around the world more adaptable and resilient to the effects of global warming.

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“Most aspects of climate change,” the report warned, “will persist for many centuries even if emissions of CO2 are stopped.”

The next IPCC report will be released in October.