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Crops, cities and poor already feeling it, U.N. Climate Panel says

Published: Monday, March 31 2014 12:10 p.m. MDT

The dry bed of the Stevens Creek Reservoir is seen on Thursday, March 13, 2014, in Cupertino, Calif. Lack of seasonal rain has meant water shortages for Californians this winter. Climate changes are also already impacting economies and endangering cities, according to the world's leading environmental scientists at the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Marcio Jose Sanchez, Associated Press

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Climate change is already hurting the poor, impacting crops and amplifying economic shocks, according to the world's leading environmental scientists at the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The Nobel Prize-winning panel said the effects of climate change will grow, and damage could lead to "the loss of several percentage points of gross domestic product in low-lying developing countries and island states," and could "indirectly increase risks of violent conflicts in the form of civil war and inter-group violence" by intensifying poverty and economic uncertainty, according to The Washington Post.

Much of the report focused on practical responses to global warming and preparation, such as installing emergency flood shelters for cyclones, shifting farming techniques to adapt to higher temperatures and water conservation in drought-prone areas.

Some of the most likely worsening effects of climate change are more intense heat waves and fires, increased water- and foodborne illness and rising sea levels in coastal areas, including the U.S. East Coast.

"We need to think about reducing risks and building more resilient societies," said Chris Field, co-chair of the working group that wrote the report, in a statement. One of our best assets, the Post quoted the report as saying, is innovation, "drawing on 'deep pools' of creativity."

However, report authors warned that leaders would have to act to slow climate change to reverse its most severe, long-reaching effects, not just adapt to it, and that inaction would lead to increased likelihood of "pervasive and irreversible impacts." These impacts include the growing vulnerability of coastal cities that tend to be large and economically important.

Co-author Gary Yohe of Wesleyan University told the Post: "I teach my students that the answer to every economic question is: 'It depends.' You don't want to be poor, you don't want to be young, you don't want to be old, and you don't want to live along the coast."

Email: laneanderson@deseretnews.com

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