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'Extremely likely': Top scientists blame mankind more clearly than ever for global warming

Top climate scientists blamed mankind more clearly than ever as the main cause of global warming in a report on Friday meant to guide governments in dealing with rising temperatures, delegates said.

Calling man-made warming "extremely likely," the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) used the strongest words yet on the issue as it adopted its assessment on the state of the climate system. 

"It's been accepted," Jonathan Lynn, spokesman for the IPCC, told reporters of a final summary for policymakers approved at the end of the week-long meeting in Stockholm.

In its previous assessment, in 2007, the U.N.-sponsored panel said it was "very likely" that global warming was man-made. 

It now says the evidence has grown thanks to more and better observations, a clearer understanding of the climate system and improved models to analyze the impact of rising temperatures. 

"Our assessment of the science finds that the atmosphere and ocean have warmed, the amount of snow and ice has diminished, the global mean sea level has risen and the concentrations of greenhouse gases have increased," said Qin Dahe, co-chair of the working group that wrote the report. 

The full 2,000-page report isn't going to be released until Monday, but a summary for policymakers with the key findings was published Friday. It contained few surprises as many of the findings had been leaked in advance. 

As expected, the IPCC raised its projections of the rise in sea levels to 10-32 inches (26-82 centimeters) by the end of the century. The previous report predicted a rise of 7-23 inches (18-59 centimeters). 

The IPCC assessments are important because they form the scientific basis of U.N. negotiations on a new climate deal. Governments are supposed to finish that agreement in 2015, but it's unclear whether they will commit to the emissions cuts that scientists say will be necessary to keep the temperature below a limit at which the worst effects of climate change can be avoided. 

Using four scenarios with different emissions controls, the report projected that global average temperatures would rise by 0.3 to 4.8 degrees C by the end of the century. That's 0.5-8.6 F. 

Only the two lower scenarios, which were based on significant cuts in CO2 emissions, came in below the 2-degree C (3.6 F) limit that countries have set as their target in the climate talks to avoid the worst impacts of warming. 

At this point, emissions keep rising mainly due to rapid growth in China and other emerging economies. They say rich countries should take the lead on emissions cuts because they've pumped carbon into the atmosphere for longer. 

Climate activists said the report should spur governments to action. 

"There are few surprises in this report but the increase in the confidence around many observations just validates what we are seeing happening around us," said Samantha Smith, of the World Wildlife Fund. 

One of the most controversial subjects in the report was how to deal with a purported slowdown in warming in the past 15 years. Climate skeptics say this "hiatus" casts doubt on the scientific consensus on climate change. 

Many governments had objections over how the issue was treated in earlier drafts and some had called for it to be deleted altogether. 

In the end, the IPCC made only a brief mention of the issue in the summary for policymakers, stressing that short-term records are sensitive to natural variability and don't in general reflect long-term trends. 

Almost 200 governments have agreed to work out a U.N. deal by the end of 2015 to combat global warming, partly by shifting from fossil fuels towards renewable energies.

 

CREDIT: AP With Reuters

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