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Contentious Climate Conference OKs Report

An international global warming conference approved a report on climate change Friday after a contentious marathon session that saw angry exchanges between diplomats and scientists who drafted the report.

"We have an approved accord. It has been a complex exercise," chairman Rajendra Pachauri told reporters after an all-night meeting.

Finalizing the report, which was years in the making, came down to an all-night session, described as very contentious, reports CBS News correspondent Mark Phillips.

"I'm wearing the same suit I wore yesterday morning and I've been sitting in a chair all night," said Pachauri.

Several scientists objected to the editing of the final draft by government negotiators but in the end agreed to compromises. However, some scientists on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change vowed never to take part in the process again.

The climax of five days of negotiations was reached when the delegates removed parts of a key chart highlighting devastating effects of climate change that kick in with every rise of 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit, and in a tussle over the level of confidence attached to key statements.

The United States, China and Saudi Arabia raised the most objections to the phrasing, most often seeking to tone down the certainty of some of the more dire projections.

The lead U.S. official at the meeting, Sharon Hays, said climate change is a global challenge that needs more study.

"Science in this area is evolving. Determination of the certainty that scientists can place any particular finding is important," she said. Pressed to describe changes sought by the U.S., Hayes would only say, "Every aspect of this report generated discussion."

The Bush administration remains opposed to mandatory caps on greenhouse gas emissions, reports CBS News White House correspondent Peter Maer. It prefers international cooperation to curb pollution. The president has argued that the mandatory caps on greenhouse gas emissions would hurt the economy.

But the major thrusts of the report could not be watered down. It concludes that those who are already suffering most in this world, are going to suffer worst due to global warming, reports Phillips.

The final report is the clearest and most comprehensive scientific statement to date on the impact of global warming mainly caused by man-induced carbon dioxide pollution.

It predicts that:

  • up to 30 percent of species face an increased risk of extinction if global temperatures rise 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit above the average in the 1980s and 90s.
  • Areas that now suffer a shortage of rain, in particular the already parched areas of sub-Sahara Africa, will become even more dry, adding to the risks of hunger and disease, and making those areas less able to support populations.
  • The world will face heightened threats of flooding, severe storms and the erosion of coastlines. The low-lying areas of Asia — called the mega-deltas — will be most vulnerable.
"It is the poorest of the poor in the world who are going to be worst hit, least able to adapt," said Pachauri.

But the rich countries are not immune, notes Phillips. The report warns of increased risk of brushfires in California and of insect infestations and increased frequencies of heat waves in the American cities already prone to them.

And the U.S. has its own low lying areas in the Southeast whose vulnerability will increase.

Meanwhile, Britain, as president of the United Nations Security Council, has called an open meeting April 17 to debate what its ambassador, Emyr Jones Parry, calls "one of the big challenges for the world for the next century." It will focus on the impact of global warming on issues that can spark conflicts including border disputes and access to energy, water and food.

That will raise the level of international attention and include the idea that global warming presents threats to international security, with a view to action that could be taken by the United Nations to control human-created greenhouse gasses in the future," says CBS News foreign affairs analyst Pamela Falk.

Global warming is an issue that is already moving away from science and into politics, reports Phillips.

The IPCC report will be presented at a Group of Eight leaders summit in June in Germany, which the EU will use to pressure President Bush to sign on to international talks to cut emissions.

James Connaughton, chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, rejected a reporter's characterization Friday morning that the administration is sitting out the Kyoto process as a "gross mischaracterization of the U.S. role internationally," reports Maer. Connaughton said the U.S. is engaging developing countries on strategies to reduce greenhouse gasses.

The final document will be the product of a United Nations network of 2,000 scientists as authors and reviewers, along with representatives of more than 120 governments as last-minute editors.

It will be the second volume of a four-volume authoritative assessment of Earth's climate being released this year. The last such effort was in 2001.

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