Is 'Twice As Bad'
By Steve Connor
27 January 2005
warming might be twice as catastrophic as previously thought, flooding
settlements on the British coast and turning the interior into an unrecognisable
tropical landscape, the world's biggest study of climate change shows.
some of Britain's leading universities used computer modelling to predict
that under the "worst-case" scenario, London would be under
water and winters banished to history as average temperatures in the
UK soar up to 20C higher than at present.
temperatures could reach 11C greater than today, double the rise predicted
by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the international
body set up to investigate global warming. Such high temperatures would
melt most of the polar icecaps and mountain glaciers, raising sea levels
by more than 20ft. A report this week in The Independent predicted a
2C temperature rise would lead to irreversible changes in the climate.
The new study, in
the journal Nature, was done using the spare computing time of 95,000
people from 150 countries who downloaded from the internet the global
climate model of the Met Office's Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction
and Research. The program, run as a screensaver, simulated what would
happen if carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere were double those
of the 18th century, before the Industrial Revolution, the situation
predicted by the middle of this century.
of Oxford University, the chief scientist of the latest study, said
processing the results showed the Earth's climate is far more sensitive
to increases in man-made greenhouse gases than previously realised.
The findings indicate a doubling of carbon dioxide from the pre-industrial
level of 280 parts per million would increase global average temperatures
by between 2C and 11C.
Mr Stainforth said:
"An 11C-warmed world would be a dramatically different world...
There would be large areas at higher latitudes that could be up to 20C
warmer than today. The UK would be at the high end of these changes.
It is possible that even present levels of greenhouse gases maintained
for long periods may lead to dangerous climate change... When you start
to look at these temperatures, I get very worried indeed."
Attempts to control
global warming, based on the Kyoto treaty, concentrated on stabilising
the emissions of greenhouse gases at 1990 levels, but the scientists
warned that this might not be enough. Mr Stainforth added: "We
need to accept that while greenhouse gas levels can increase we need
to limit them, level them off then bring them back down again."
Professor Bob Spicer,
of the Open University, said average global temperature rises of 11C
are unprecedented in the long geological record of the Earth. "If
we go back to the Cretaceous, which is 100 million years ago, the best
estimates of the global mean temperature was about 6C higher than present,"
Professor Spicer said. "So 11C is quite substantial and if this
is right we would be going into a realm that we really don't have much
evidence for even in the rock [geological] record."
Myles Allen, of
Oxford University, said: "The danger zone is not something we're
going to reach in the middle of the century; we're in it now."
Each of the hottest 15 years on record have been since 1980.
News & Media (UK) Ltd.