Friday, August 24, 2012

UK scientist's grim warning on climate change

Tom Clarke on Channel 4 News (UK): Speaking before he steps down as chief scientist at the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs, Sir Bob Watson also warned that governments couldn't afford to do nothing about greenhouse gas emissions despite the economic downturn, writes Channel 4 News Science Editor Tom Clarke.

At global climate summits like in Copenhagen in 2009 it was agreed to try and limit global warming to two degrees centigrade above pre-industrial temperatures. "There is really almost no chance now of meeting that political target," said Dr Watson, who also served chair of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. "If we continue the way we are we've got a 50-50 shot of a 3 degree [warmer] world and I would not rule out a 5 degree world."

Researchers are confident that level of warming would see the tropical forests of the Amazon and sub-Saharan Africa become arid zones, forcing mass movements of people and agriculture north and southwards. The increased amount of energy in the atmosphere would result in new weather patterns, including more intense rainfall across the globe.

There is currently debate among climate scientists as to whether extreme weather events like the ongoing drought in the US, heatwaves in Europe, and summer flooding in the UK should be directly attributed to a warming climate. If we continue the way we are, we've got a 50-50 shot of a 3 degree world - and I would not rule out a 5 degree world.

According to Dr Watson, the row is an academic one."There is no question the earth's temperature is warmer than it was 100 years ago. There's no question we're seeing more floods, more droughts, more heatwaves, all of which are totally consistent with the hypothesis of human induced climate change, which points to the fact we humans are changing our environment."...

A C-141 Starlifter leaves a contrail over Antarctica, US Air Force photo

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