Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Hot enough for ya?

If not, just wait a while. Maybe not that long a while.

Just to be clear at the top, the Met Office is the UK’s National Weather Service. The Hadley Centre is the internationally-respected agency of that office that examines and studies global warming.

Well, according to a new study done for the UK's Department of Energy and Climate Change by scientists at the Met Office Hadley Centre, global temperatures could well rise by 4oC (7.2oF) by 2070 or even by 2060. Previously, 4oC was the high end of the IPCC's "most likely" range for future global temperature increase - and that was for 2100.

Put another way, the world not only could hit the upper end of the "most likely" range, it could do it as many as 40 years sooner than predicted. That increase is in comparison to the 2oC increase that most involved scientists label as the breaking point - that is, beyond a 2oC increase, the effects of climate change become "dangerous."
"We've always talked about these very severe impacts only affecting future generations, but people alive today could live to see a 4C rise," said Richard Betts, the head of climate impacts at the Met Office Hadley Centre, who will announce the findings today at a conference at Oxford University. "People will say it's an extreme scenario, and it is an extreme scenario, but it's also a plausible scenario."

According to scientists, a 4C rise over pre-industrial levels could threaten the water supply of half the world's population, wipe out up to half of animal and plant species, and swamp low coasts.
What's more, the model used for the prediction shows
wide variations, with the Arctic possibly seeing a rise of up to 15C (27F) by the end of the century.

Western and southern parts of Africa could warm by up to 10C, with other land areas seeing a rise of 7C or more.
Previous analyses, such as those presented in the 2007 report of the IPCC which suggested that possibility of a 4oC rise by 2100, were based on scenarios where the emission of greenhouse gases would continue to rise - but the studies assumed that scenarios where the use of fossil fuels actually intensified were unlikely and so they were de-emphasized. However,
[a] report last week from the UN Environment Programme said emissions since 2000 have risen faster than even this IPCC worst-case scenario. "In the 1990s, these scenarios all assumed political will or other phenomena would have brought about the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by this point. In fact, CO2 emissions from fossil-fuel burning and industrial processes have been accelerating," [Betts said.]
Which means, in turn, that things will get worse faster, including the reaching of "tipping points" where the rising temperatures themselves result in the release of more carbon into the atmosphere and the cycle starts to feed itself.

How bad is that? It could be "catastrophic." Which puts an accent mark on the latest round of negotiations toward a new international climate treaty aimed at limiting global temperature increase to 2oC. The plan for a "bigger, bolder" agreement to replace Kyoto is supposed to be finalized at a meeting in Copenhagen in December, a wrap-up to two years of negotiations.

And how is that going? Well, it appears that industrialized nations are going to be talking about reducing their rate of increase of carbon emissions rather than actually reducing them. And UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown says a climate deal is in peril. So you tell me.

But hey, so what? 2060? I'll be dead by then. What do I care?

Footnote: The Hadley Centre's release on the study is at this link.

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