The head of the United Nations’ expert group of climate scientists has said humanity has pushed the world’s climate system to the brink, leaving itself only scant time to act.
“We have five minutes before midnight,” warned Dr Rajendra Pachauri, whose organisation will this month release the first volume of a new assessment of global warming and its impacts.
The French newsagency AFP reports he was speaking at a conference marking the 20th anniversary of the environmental organisation Green Cross International.
“May I submit that humanity has completely ignored, disregarded and been totally indifferent to the debits?
“Today we have the knowledge to be able to map out the debits and to understand what we have done to the condition of this planet,” Dr Pachauri said.
It is due to release the first volume of its long-awaited Fifth Assessment Report on September 27.
AFP reports the first tome will look at the scientific evidence for climate change; two more follow next year, focussing on the impacts and the options for tackling the problem.
A leaked draft two weeks ago said that human activity had almost certainly caused climate change.
The draft also forecast that sea levels could rise by 90 centimetres by the end of the century, and all but dismissed recent claims of a slowdown in the pace of warming which climate-change sceptics have seized upon.
In its previous reports, the IPCC has warned that unimpeded global warming will drive many species to extinction.
It will also increase the frequency or intensity of droughts, heatwaves and floods, affecting food security and water supplies for many millions of people.
Reining in greenhouse-gas emissions was still possible if countries, including in the developing world, rethought their approach to economic growth, he said.
That would boost energy security, cut pollution and improve health, and also offer new job opportunities, he added.