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Climate

Posted by lahar9jhadav on October 5, 2006

global warming

Global warming will threaten millions say climate scientists

1.00pm Wednesday October 4, 2006
By Michael McCarthy

Drought threatening the lives of millions will spread across half the land surface of the earth in the coming century because of global warming, according to new predictions from Britain’s leading climate scientists.

Extreme drought, in which agriculture is effectively impossible, will affect nearly a third of the planet, according to the study from the Met Office’s Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research.

It is one of the direst forecasts so far of the potential effects of rising temperatures around the world – yet it may be an underestimate, the scientists involved said yesterday.

The findings, released at the Climate Clinic at the Conservative party conference in Bournemouth, drew astonished and dismayed reactions from aid agencies and development specialists, who fear that the poor of developing countries will be worst hit.

“This is genuinely terrifying,” said Andrew Pendleton of Christian Aid. “It is a death sentence for many millions of people. It will mean huge migration off the land at levels we have not seen before, and at levels poor countries cannot cope with. It will mean huge conflict.”

One of Britain’s leading expert on the effects of climate change on the developing countries, Andrew Simms from the New Economics Foundation, said last night: “There’s almost no aspect of life in the developing countries that these predictions don’t undermine – the ability to grow food, the ability to have a safe sanitation system, the availability of water. I think that for hundreds of millions of people for whom getting through the day is already a struggle, this is going to push them over the precipice.”

The findings represent the first time that the threat of increased drought from climate change, long feared, has actually been quantified with a modern supercomputer climate model such as the one operated by the Hadley Centre.

Their impact will be all the greater from the fact they may well be an underestimate, as the study did not include potential effects on drought from global-warming-induced changes to the earth’s carbon cycle, such as forests dying back in a warming world.

In one unpublished Met Office study, when the carbon cycle effects are included, future drought is even worse.

The current results are regarded as most valid at the global level and so far there is less confidence in them giving a regional picture, but the clear implication is that the parts of the world already stricken by drought, such as Africa, will be the places where the projected increase will have the severest effects.

The study, by Dr Eleanor Burke and two Hadley Centre colleagues, models how a widely-used measure of drought known as the Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI) is likely to increase globally during the coming century with predicted changes in rainfall and heat around the world because of climate change.

It shows the PDSI figure for moderate drought, currently at 25 per cent of the earth’s surface, rising to 50 per cent by 2100, the figure for severe drought, currently at about eight per cent, rising to 40 cent, and the figure for extreme drought, currently three per cent, rising to 30 per cent.

Senior Met Office scientists are sensitive about the study, funded by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), stressing it contains a number of uncertainties: there is only one climate model involved, one future scenario for emissions of greenhouse gases (a moderate-to-high one) and one drought index.

Other studies might give different results.

Nevertheless, the result is “significant”, according to Dr Vicky Pope, head of the Hadley Centre’s climate programme.

Further work would now be taking place to try and reduce the uncertainties and get a handle on the potential risk of different levels of drought in different places, she said.

The full study – ITALS Modelling the recent evolution of global drought and projections for the 21st century with the Hadley Centre climate model OFFITALS – will be published later this month in ITALS The Journal of Hydrometeorology OFFITALS.

It will be widely publicised by the British Government at the negotiations in Nairobi in November on a successor to the Kyoto climate treaty.

But a preview of it was given by Dr Burke yesterday in a presentation to the Climate Clinic, the roadshow-cum-think-tank formed to press politicians for tougher action on climate change by Britain’s major environmental groups, with The Independent as media partner.

The Climate Clinic has been in operation at all three party conferences.

Dr Burke agreed that the predictions in her study were possibly conservative and that an unpublished study she had done which included the global carbon cycle had shown more severe drought still in coming decades, although she declined to give details of it.

While the present study in its entirety will be widely seen as a cause for great concern, it is the figure for the increase in extreme drought that some observers find most frightening.

“It strikes me as overwhelming that we’re talking about 30 per cent of the world’s land surface becoming essentially uninhabitable in terms of agricultural production in the space of a few decades,” said Mark Lynas, the author of ITALS High Tide OFFITALS, the first major account of the visible effects of global warming around the world.

“These are parts of the world where hundreds of millions of people will no longer be able to feed themselves where they live, and will need to migrate to areas of the world that are still inhabitable.

“And it is such a crucial point that this is a conservative prediction and does not include the real rate at which carbon dioxide [the major greenhouse gas] will accumulate in the atmosphere.”

Andrew Pendleton of Christian Aid said: “This means you’re talking about any form of development going straight out of the window.

The vast majority of poor people in the developing world are small-scale farmers who have no technology and rely on rain for food and livelihood and survival; they’re in a position where if you push them only slightly, they’re going to fall off.

If we fail to take action to stop this we are committing what in my mind is effectively genocide.”

– INDEPENDENT


DROUGHT COULD DOUBLE BY END OF CENTURY, MET OFFICE HADLEY CENTRE RESEARCH SHOWS

New research revealed at the Climate Clinic at the Conservative Party Conference today (Tuesday 3 October) showed that the current extent of drought could double by the end of the 21st Century, threatening the survival of millions of people around the world.

In the second half of the last century just one per cent of the world was affected by extreme drought.

The research, funded by DEFRA and carried out by Dr Eleanor Burke of the Met Office Hadley Centre uses a climate model to look at future drought based on temperature and rainfall predictions. It shows that global drought is already increasing as a result of climate change – and there is a greatly increased risk of extreme drought by 2080.

The figures, which do not take into account all the science uncertainties or the potential for carbon feedbacks, send a stark warning to politicians as they discuss action to tackle global warming at the G8 summit in Mexico this week.

Andrew Simms, speaking on behalf of the Climate Clinic, said:

“This report is jaw-dropping. Lack of access to clean water and sanitation already kills 1.6 million children under five years old every year. Small scale farming in Africa provides most of the continents food and seventy per cent of employment, virtually all is dependent on regular rainfall. The new projections on drought from the Hadley Centre are like being told that this is the day the earth catches fire.

“Immediate, radical economic reform to cut emissions is desperately needed to prepare us to deal with such a scenario. And massive resources must be found to help people in
Africa, Asia and Latin America whose lives and livelihoods will be in peril. The G8 special summit on climate change now underway in Mexico must begin by correcting the ninety per cent shortfall in promises of new funds to help poor countries adapt.”

The Climate Clinic is calling on politicians of all parties to support urgent government action, both domestically and on the international stage, to prevent global temperatures rising more than two degrees above pre-industrial levels, beyond which our world faces disaster.

Organised by the UK’s leading green organisations and supported by business and the Energy Saving Trust, the Climate Clinic is taking place at each of the main party political conferences this year.

Climate Clinic Press: Ben Stewart: 07801 212967

Notes:
The research is to be published in the Journal of Hydrometeorology this month. Further details from the Met Office Hadley Centre.

The research used the Palmer Drought Severity Index and found that a global increase in drought is expected to continue throughout the 21st century.

Immediate release
Tuesday 19 September

POTENTIAL SEA LEVEL RISE WORSE THAN PREVIOUSLY THOUGHT, WORLD EXPERT TELLS CLIMATE CLINIC

Discharge from ice sheet greater and faster than expected

Scientific studies over the last year show that ice is being discharged from Greenland and the West Antarctic Peninsula at a much greater rate than glaciologists previously thought possible, Professor Chis Rapley told the Climate Clinic in Brighton today (Tuesday 19 September). Professor Rapley also said the discharge from Greenland, and probably also Antarctica, is accelerating. The findings have profound consequences for the world’s sea levels.

The Director of the British Antarctic Survey – an acknowledged world expert – said the scientific understanding of what was happening was moving quickly, with significant new evidence on the speed of ice loss coming to light in the last few months.

Satellite gravity data shows a loss of about 210 cubic kilometres per year from Greenland. In the West Antarctic a similar amount of ice is being lost annually, while on the Antarctic Peninsula 87 per cent of glaciers are retreating. The worrying behaviour of the ice sheets is almost certainly a consequence of global warming, Professor Rapley said.

“It’s like opening a window and seeing what’s going on, and the message is it’s worse than we thought,” Professor Rapley said.

He added that although the complexity of the situation made it difficult to predict the impact, historical evidence pointed to a potential rise of five metres in mean sea levels. The most intense sea level rise in the last 10,000 years, known as a ‘meltwater pulse’ saw levels rise by 5m in a single century. Professor Rapley says a similar catastrophic rate is unlikely to occur in the near future.

But even if carbon dioxide levels are successfully stabilised, sea levels will continue to rise into the future as a result of greenhouse gases already emitted, leaving a legacy for future generations.

Politicians must respond to the urgency of the issue, he said, adding that current international political action on curbing greenhouse gas emissions is inadequate.

“Climate change is real, climate change is serious, and climate change is now,” he said.

Professor Rapley was speaking at the Climate Clinic, a global warming conference within the Lib Dem conference in Brighton which has been organised by the UK’s leading green organisations with the support of business and the Energy Saving Trust.

Climate Clinic Spokesperson Phillip Sellwood said:

“Politicians from all parties must listen to what Professor Rapley has to say. We are facing a situation unlike anything we have ever faced before and they must respond accordingly. All parties must support urgent action to avert crisis and prevent the kind of devastating sea level rises that Professor Rapley tells us are possible.”

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