The IPCC claim that their procedures are 'constantly being reviewed and updated to ensure that they remain strong, transparent and reliable'. But this embracement of transparency has gone a little further than the panel might have liked: a leaked copy of the second instalment of the IPCC's fifth assessment report is now available on the web.
Although marked "final draft" a spokesperson for the IPCC was keen to point out that the document "is a work in progress and likely to change" before its official release in March 2013. Nevertheless, the report makes for very uncomfortable reading, as the inevitability of climate change to exacerbate human suffering is laid bare.
For example climate change impacts will persist for many centuries even if emissions of greenhouse gases cease immediately. So issues of human struggle, associated political tensions between nations, and the potential for economic collapse appear certain to worsen.
The report predicts that food production will decrease by up to 2% per decade for the rest of this century, while global food demand may rise by as much as 14% each decade. Water supplies are also at risk: for every degree increase in temperature, an additional 7% of the world's population will see a decline in water resources of 20%. Extreme weather and pest outbreaks will also pose an increasing risk to food supplies as the planet warms.
According to the report humans will inhabit a planet more vulnerable to flooding, heat waves, fires and droughts. Subsequent resource shortages, infrastructure failures, food insecurity, famine, disease outbreaks and a surge in the number of climate refugees will undoubtedly lead to outbreaks of violence in hard hit parts of the world.
"Climate change indirectly increases risks from violent conflict in the form of civil war, intergroup violence and violent protests by exacerbating well-established drivers of these conflicts such as poverty and economic shocks," the report says.
A third report, analyzing potential ways to limit the rise of greenhouse gases, is due for release in Berlin in April, but if history is anything to go by we'll probably see a leaked version by Christmas!
Andrea Gear is Assistant Editor of The Ecologist.