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U.N. panel predicts bigger weather disasters

WASHINGTON — Global warming is leading to such severe storms, droughts and heat waves that nations should prepare for an onslaught of deadly and costly weather disasters, an international panel of climate scientists said in a report issued Wednesday.

The greatest threat from extreme weather is to highly populated, poor regions of the world, the report warns, but no corner of the globe — from Mumbai to Miami — is immune. The document by a Nobel Prize-winning panel of climate scientists forecasts stronger tropical cyclones, including hurricanes in the United States, and more frequent heat waves, deluges and droughts.

The 594-page report blames the scale of recent and future disasters on a combination of man-made climate change, population shifts and poverty.

In the past, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, founded in 1988 by the United Nations, has focused on the slow rise of temperatures and oceans as part of global warming.

This report by the panel is the first to look at the less common but more noticeable extreme weather changes, which have been costing on average about $80 billion a year in damage.

The report specifically points to New Orleans during 2005's Hurricane Katrina, noting that "developed countries also suffer severe disasters because of social vulnerability and inadequate disaster protection."

In coastal areas of the United States, property damage from hurricanes and rising seas could increase by 20 percent by 2030, the report said. And in parts of Texas, the area vulnerable to storm surge could more than double by 2080.

Globally, the scientists say that some places, particularly parts of Mumbai, India, could become uninhabitable from floods, storms and rising seas.

U.N. panel predicts bigger weather disasters 03/28/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 28, 2012 11:00pm]
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