Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Rich nations must plan for floods, heat and drought now, warns panel

Guardian (UK): Two thousand people killed during a summer heatwave; mosquitoes at Heathrow carrying malaria parasites picked up from infected holidaymakers; road-builders switching to a melt-resistant tarmac.

If anyone is in any doubt that climate change is already affecting the UK, this is your answer. "It's not just a question of impacts in the future. We are actually looking at impacts right now," said Chris West, director of the UK Climate Impacts Programme. His job is to advise the government, private and voluntary sectors on how changes to the UK's climate will affect how they operate.

The most severe and immediate impacts of climate change will hit developing countries. But the rich, developed world will also be affected, and adapting to the changes will be extremely expensive. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) Fourth Assessment report last year included a detailed breakdown of impacts for regions around the world. Europe must prepare for warmer, wetter winters in the north and hotter, drier summers in the south.…

Like Europe, the US will experience the greatest warming in winter at high latitudes and hotter summers in the south-west, according to the IPCC. Climate modellers expect extremes of hot weather, wildfires, water stress, insect outbreaks and a range of health problems to increase; but there will also be benefits.

…But probably the hardest hit of the developed regions will be Australia. In temperate regions, the IPCC climate models predict up to 32 more days in a year over 35°C (95F) by 2020 and up to 84 more by 2050. Water security will become a major concern with prolonged droughts a regular feature, while extreme weather and sea-level rise will cause problems for Australia's predominantly coastal population….

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