In the broadest consensus yet on climate change, scientists have agreed that climate change is already having an impact and are 90 per cent certain that human activity is driving it.
Poorer countries, which are less able to adapt to change, will suffer the worst from the unavoidable impacts of climate change.
The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its latest report today (2 February) compiled by some 600 scientists from 40 countries and agreed to by representatives from 113 governments.
It states that carbon dioxide gas already released by human activities — such as through the burning of fossil fuels — will continue to contribute to global warming and sea level rise for the next millennium.
It estimates that sea levels will rise by 28–43 centimetres by 2100 — an unavoidable scenario even if greenhouse gases emissions were immediately reduced to zero.
The report also predicts that "hot extremes, heat waves, and heavy precipitation events will continue to become more frequent".
It forecasts more intense typhoons and hurricanes, and that subtropical regions are likely to see less rainfall.
The authors have also refined their estimation of global warming since the last IPCC report in 2001. They now estimate global temperatures will rise three degrees Centigrade by 2100.
"This is bad news for most developing countries with vulnerable ecosystems," said Saleem Huq, director of the climate change programme at the UK-based International Institute for Environment and Development.
He told SciDev.Net that the impacts of climate change would be particularly severe in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
Andrew Pendleton, Christian Aid's senior climate change analyst said the IPCC report confirmed that climate change caused by human activity was "already threatening the lives and livelihoods of poor people".
He added that, "the industrialised world — where the majority of emissions have been emitted — must compensate poor countries to help them adapt and survive".
Nancy Colleton, president of the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies said the predictions will increase the burden "on the already-stressed systems of developing countries".
"This brings a whole new level of urgency for the UN Environment Programme and others to ensure that developing country leaders have the best information tools with which to make decisions and navigate this uncertain future," she told SciDev.Net.