Friday, June 22, 2012

Bracing for an unknown future with a hotter climate

Irene Quaile in Deutsche Welle: Climate change causes floods, droughts and desertification, forcing experts to test strategies tailored to each region. But uncertainty about which strategy might work is not being accepted as an excuse for inaction.

Scientists have come up with many different models for forecasting the progress of climate change. They have predicted just as many scenarios of how climate change may affect our future. All these models depend on just how much oil, coal and gas are burned and how much CO2 is emitted in the process, climate scientist Mojib Latif from the Helmholtz Centre for Marine Research in Kiel explained in an interview with DW.

When it comes to working out exactly when storms, heavy rain or dry periods are likely to hit a particular region, the business of climate forecasting becomes even more complex, Latif explained. The interaction of changing temperatures with wind, ocean currents or cloud formation makes it extremely difficult to make predictions. Models based on past events are always helpful, as climate change-affected shifts are specific to a particular place.

When it comes to adapting to a changing climate, it is essential to concentrate on local developments, explained Keith Alverson, Head of Climate Adaptation and Terrestrial Ecosystems at the United Nations Environment Programme. He used the example of sea-level change, which varies in different parts of the world.

"Something a lot of people don't realize is that sea level rise is not a global signal. Off the west coast of the USA, sea level has been going down for the last 20 years," Alverson explained. At the same time, rising seas threaten to completely submerge island states like the Maldives...

The island of Thilafushi in the Maldives, shot by Fizan, public domain

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