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U.N. Report: Climate Change Poses Bleak Future

A United Nations panel of scientists reports it is highly confident that humans are warming the Earth's climate.

The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change builds on an earlier report in February, which declared that most scientists see a clear contribution to climate change from greenhouse gases. Most of those gases come from cars, factories and power producers around the world, as well as cutting down or burning forests.

The new study, released Friday, predicts widespread droughts in some places, but flooding in others. Some regions, such as North America, are likely to suffer less from a warming climate. Low-lying areas will experience more flooding from rising oceans or stronger storms, however. There will also be increases in the range of insect pests and diseases now more common in tropical areas. Dry regions in the southern part of the country may also get drier. Some regions however may enjoy benefits, such as longer growing seasons for agriculture.

Scientists and diplomats from more than 120 countries debated all-night on the final wording in the climate report.

Government officials from China and Saudi Arabia insisted that scientists say they had "high confidence" rather than "very high confidence" that climate change was already damaging plants and animals around the world. They also criticized language pointing out that poorer countries that contribute the least to the warming of the planet may well suffer the most.

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Christopher Joyce is a correspondent on the science desk at NPR. His stories can be heard on all of NPR's news programs, including NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and Weekend Edition.