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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Environmentalists Warn of Cataclysms

GENEVA -- Floods will swamp New York and Miami, pest attacks will threaten Russian cities, permafrost will melt in Canada and more than half of Japan's sandy beaches will be destroyed by rising sea levels.

These were some of the scenarios presented in a new report by the Swiss-based environmental group World Wide Fund for Nature, or WWF, on the effects of global warming in 15 countries in the coming decades. The report, published Tuesday, was based on projections by climate researchers at the University of East Anglia. However, its conclusions may be challenged by scientists who downplay the importance of man-made global warming.

The study said greenhouse gases, which affect the planet's climate, could have devastating effects in the coming decades, ranging from fires and floods to droughts and intense heat.

It said heat waves would hit Tokyo, while in Japan's southern Nansei Shoto Islands, warming oceans will damage coral reefs - among the most beautiful of underwater ecosystems - that are sensitive to changes in temperature that kill the algae on which the coral feed.

The report projected increases in annual summer temperatures of between 0.1 and 0.3 degrees Celsius per decade in Indonesia, Japan and the Philippines, between 0.2 and 0.6 C in Brazil, between 0.2 and 0.7 C in Canada and between 0.15 and 0.55 C in Zimbabwe, Spain and Portugal. The United States will warm more rapidly than the global average and will also become wetter overall. Rising sea levels and floods will threaten low-lying coastal U.S. cities such as New York, Boston and Miami, the report said.

The biggest Japanese cities - Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya - will also face flooding, while rising sea levels may destroy more than half of Japan's sandy beaches by the 2080s, said the report.

Zimbabwe will be threatened by higher temperatures, outbreaks of malaria and more droughts, while in Latin America large areas of the Amazon will become prone to forest fires, it said.

In Russia, precipitation is expected to increase across much of the country, while rapid warming will threaten vast expanses of boreal forests and increase the risk of forest fires and pest attacks, the WWF said.

A framework for cutting the emission of gases thought to cause harmful climate change was hammered out at a United Nations conference in Kyoto, Japan, in December 1997.

But talks since then have failed to resolve differences between the United States and Europe over limits on emissions trading. Disputes remain on how large developing countries like China and India would limit gases from smokestack industries.