February 2, 2006
Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change
Science reported today on Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change, the book recently released based on materials from the Exeter Conference held last year. The full report and an executive summary are available from UK's DERFA. Executive Summary.
Here's Science's take:
CAMBRIDGE, U.K.--As climate change climbs up the political agenda, researchers have pooled much of the most recent research into what many believe is a compelling case for the immediacy of global warming.
This week's report, based on a meeting convened last year at the request of U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair, warns of catastrophic consequences if steps are not taken now. It says a range of measures, from emissions trading to nuclear power, are needed to both minimize future impacts and cope with those that cannot be avoided. "It is clear from the work presented that the risks of climate change may well be greater than we thought," says Blair in a foreword to the report. "The U.K. government is taking this issue very seriously," says glaciologist David Vaughan of the British Antarctic Survey, "and it's nice to see the government consulting scientific opinion."
During 2005, Blair was both chair of the G8 leaders of industrial powers and president of the European Union and pledged to use his twin roles to combat global poverty and climate change. To advance the climate initiative, 200 researchers from across the globe met at the Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research in Exeter last February. The meeting came 4 years after the last assessment report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)--the benchmark for global warming--and the scientists chewed over new results. "It was a good time to take stock," says steering committee chair Dennis Tirpak, head of the climate change unit at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development in Paris.
According to the meeting report, "compared to the [IPCC's 2001 assessment], there is greater clarity and reduced uncertainty about the impacts of climate change." The report contains models showing how the acidity of the oceans will increase as a result of more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. It also forecasts a 1000-year rise in sea levels as a result of thermal expansion of the oceans and melting of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, even if greenhouse gas emissions are stabilized. "Once peripheral melting is under way around Greenland," Vaughan says, "the ice sheet may enter a state where it can't sustain itself."
Tirpak says politicians need to realize that time is running out and that the next generation may live on a planet that has no icecaps in the summer months. "It will be a profoundly different world, and we cannot imagine what that will mean," he says. "Do you want to risk the consequences?"
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