Monday, November 29, 2010

Climate Change: Dire Predictions from the U.K. Royal Society

The U.K. Guardian (11-29-10) reports:

A hellish vision of a world warmed by 4C within a lifetime has been set out by an international team of scientists, who say the agonisingly slow progress of the global climate change talks that restart in Mexico today makes the so-called safe limit of 2C impossible to keep. A 4C rise in the planet's temperature would see severe droughts across the world and millions of migrants seeking refuge as their food supplies collapse.

"There is now little to no chance of maintaining the rise in global surface temperature at below 2C, despite repeated high-level statements to the contrary," said Kevin Anderson, from the University of Manchester, who with colleague Alice Bows contributed research to a special collection of Royal Society journal papers published tomorrow. "Moreover, the impacts associated with 2C have been revised upwards so that 2C now represents the threshold [of] extremely dangerous climate change."

The new analysis by Anderson and Bows takes account of the non-binding pledges made by countries in the Copenhagen Accord, the compromise document that emerged from the last major UN climate summit, and the slight dip in greenhouse gas emissions caused by the economic recession. The scientists' modelling is based on actual tonnes of emissions, not percentage reductions, and separates the predicted emissions of rich and fast-industrialising nations such as China. "2010 represents a political tipping point," said Anderson, but added in the report: "This paper is not intended as a message of futility, but rather a bare and perhaps brutal assessment of where our 'rose-tinted' and well-intentioned approach to climate change has brought us. Real hope and opportunity, if it is to arise at all, will do so from a raw and dispassionate assessment of the scale of the challenge faced by the global community."

A rise of 4C could be seen as soon as 2060 in a worst case scenario, according to research in the same journal, led by the Met Office's Richard Betts and first revealed in the Guardian last year. Betts accepts the scenario is extreme but argues it is also plausible given the rapidly rising trend in emissions. [See full text.]

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