* Stress on risk makes climate action seem like insurance
* Climate change threatens health, water, crops-draft
* Governments to meet in Warsaw next week on global warming
By Environment Correspondent Alister Doyle
OSLO, Nov 6 Global warming poses a mounting
threat to health, economic growth, crops and water supplies,
according to a draft report by top scientists that puts
unprecedented emphasis on the risks of a changing climate.
A leaked 29-page draft by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel
on Climate Change (IPCC), about the impacts of rising
temperatures and due for release in March 2014, mentions "risk"
139 times against just 41 in its last assessment in 2007.
The increased stress on risk may make the case for cutting
greenhouse gas emissions clearer both to policymakers and the
public by making it sound like an insurance policy for the
planet, analysts say.
Many governments, meeting in Warsaw from Nov. 11-22 for U.N.
talks on climate change, have long pleaded for greater
scientific certainty before making billion-dollar investments in
everything from flood barriers to renewable energies.
But certainty is elusive in climate science, as it is in
predicting anything from the weather to Wall Street.
"The IPCC has transitioned to what I consider to be a full
and rich recognition that the climate change problem is about
managing risk," Christopher Field, co-chair of the IPCC group
preparing the report, told Reuters.
The report, posted on a climate sceptical website
"nofrakkingconsensus" on Nov. 1, resembles a previous draft that
warns that parts of society and nature are more vulnerable than
expected to climate change.
Field, a professor at Stanford University, also said there
was more certainty about many aspects of climate change than in
2007. He cautioned the draft was subject to change in editing.
It says, for instance, that a rise of temperatures of more
than 2.5 degrees Celsius (4.5 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial
times could lead to economic losses of between 0.2 and 2.0
percent of global income.
It also says that warming will exacerbate threats to health,
damage yields of major crops in many areas and lead to more
floods. It could also exacerbate poverty and economic shocks
that are root causes of violent conflicts.
"Responding to climate-related risks involves making
decisions and taking actions in the face of continuing
uncertainty about the extent of climate change and the severity
of impacts in a changing world," the draft says.
The panel's credibility is under extra scrutiny, for its
last report in 2007 wrongly exaggerated the melt of Himalayan
glaciers. Several reviews said that this error, however, did not
undermine the key findings in 2007.
James Painter, of the Reuters Institute for the Study of
Journalism at Oxford University, said that the focus on risk may
make the panel's message clearer.
"More risk language helps to shift the public debate away
from the idea that decisions should be delayed until absolute
certainty is obtained - something that may never be achieved."
He said politicians and businesses were used to making
decisions based on risks. And many people insure their homes
against fire even though the risks of a blaze are small.
Field said the report tries to capture a wide range of
risks, including highly unlikely events that might have a major
impact. "That's the way risk is generally formulated if you are
an insurance company or figuring out an anti-terrorism policy."
The report is the second in a four-part IPCC assessment
meant to guide governments that have promised to agree a pact in
2015 to slow climate change. The first, in September, raised the
probability that most global warming is man-made to at least 95
percent from 90 in 2007.
(Editing by Mark Heinrich)