An international climate change panel currently meeting in Yokohama has agreed to state that coral reefs and Arctic sea ice have already suffered irreversible damage due to global warming in an upcoming report.

An international climate change panel currently meeting in Yokohama has agreed to state that coral reefs and Arctic sea ice have already suffered irreversible damage due to global warming in an upcoming report.


The agreement came at a plenary session of Working Group II of the U.N. International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on Friday.


The IPCC is meeting in Yokohama to assess the impact of ongoing warming of the planet.


There will be serious effects on the natural environment when global average temperatures rise by 1.6 degrees Celsius (2.9 degrees Fahrenheit) from the pre-Industrial Revolution level, and they will worsen further with a rise of 2.6 degrees Celsius (4.7 degrees Fahrenheit) degrees Celsius, according to the IPCC. Thus the agreement will affect ongoing international negotiations over global warming countermeasures, the main aim of which is to keep temperature rises within 2 degrees Celsius.


At the beginning of the agreement, the working group acknowledges that "Observed impacts of climate change are widespread and substantial" and "In recent decades changes in climate have caused impacts on natural and human systems on all continents and across the oceans."


These acknowledgments are more serious than those in the previous report released in 2007, which said, "Observational evidence from all countries and most oceans shows that many natural systems are being affected by regional climate changes, particularly temperature increases."


Later in the agreement, the working group touches on the effect temperature increases have on the environment. The current world average temperature has risen by 0.6 degrees Celsius from the level before the Industrial Revolution. A temperature increase of 1.6 degrees Celsius from that time will have a wider impact on fragile natural systems that are not capable of adjusting to global warming, the working group warns.


As examples of such fragile natural environments, the group listed Arctic sea ice and coral reefs.


In the Arctic Ocean, sea ice has been melting for several years. Large swathes of coral reefs, including one near Okinawa Prefecture, have been turning white as a result of sea temperature increases. The IPCC specifically stresses that irreversible effects on natural systems have accelerated.


Meanwhile, the working group forecasts that the risk of death from heatstroke and heat exhaustion due to exposure to high temperatures will increase, mainly in metropolitan areas, with a 1.6 degrees Celsius increase from pre-industrial temperature levels.


With a 2.6 degrees Celsius increase, drought and unreliable rainfall will cause a decrease in crop production and shortages of drinking water as well as water for agricultural irrigation, according to forecasts by the group.


The target to keep average temperatures within 2 degrees Celsius of the pre-Industrial Revolution level was set at a summit held five years ago. However, some have said it is hard to achieve this target and that the goal should be eased.


The IPCC’s report, which will be released Monday, will provide the basis for international negotiations on greenhouse gas mitigation to be held in 2020 and after.