Saturday, December 7, 2013

Sea-level rise too fast for current forecast tools

Jim Efstathiou in the Insurance Journal: By the time climate change reduces crop yields or frequently floods New York City subways, it will be too late to avert damage without better forecasting tools, a panel of scientists said in a report released today.

Dangerous rises in the sea level or heat waves that kill crops can arrive quickly and leave little time to put preventative measures in place, according to a study from the National Research Council, a group of scientists providing information for U.S. government decision-makers.

The report — one of two issued today on climate change — calls for an early warning system to monitor climate conditions and improved models for predicting changes that impact the way people live. The alerts could be modeled on such programs as the National Integrated Drought Information System created by Congress in 2006 or the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Famine Early Warning System Network.

“It’s important to look down the road and try to identify what are the abrupt changes that we can plan for with some degree of confidence, and then make the best of them rather than having them hit us in the face,” said Anthony Barnosky, professor of integrated biology at the University of California in Berkley and a co-author of the report.

In a separate report today, James Hansen, who warned of the dangers of global warming as early as 1988, said a United Nations-endorsed target for capping global warming is too high and will ensure future generations suffer “irreparable harm.”

Even limiting warming to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial times would submerge coastlines, cause the mass extinction of species and trigger extreme weather, according to Hansen, former director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and co-author of the report published today in the journal PLOS One....

The 1872 Baltic sea flood in southern Lolland, Denmark. Xylography from Illustreret Tidende

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