Climate Change News
Climate change will make Britain hot, wet and wild says Met Office -
19 June 2009
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|It is August 2084 and in the olive
groves of Bedfordshire, the temperature has just topped 41C for the
fourth day running.
Luton’s silk industry may be thriving, but on the radio, there are
reports of wildfires raging across the Yorkshire moors. Hospitals
are overflowing with elderly victims of the heat wave, some stricken
with tropical diseases.
It may sound far-fetched but it is one possible future as laid out
yesterday by the Met Office, where Britain is still recognisable —
but only just.
Across the Home Counties, the rolling lawns and herbaceous borders
have been edged aside by palms and pistachio trees.
To the west and north, recurrent winter flooding and erosion have
left whole swaths of the Severn Estuary and Norfolk virtually
abandoned but for a few hardy souls.
UK Climate Projections 2009 from the Met Office is packed with
caveats about the uncertainties of the science and the probability
of the different scenarios presented. Nevertheless, the message is
clear. Without concerted action to tackle climate change, Britain is
facing a much hotter, wetter future in which volatile and intense
weather will be increasingly frequent, with wide ranging
implications for ordinary people, business and government.
The European Union wants average global temperatures not to exceed
2C above pre-industrial levels, but the report raised serious
questions about the chances of that target being met, at least in
Yesterday scientists expressed guarded support for the study.
“Whichever way you look at it this report represents the
best-informed view of what the future might be like,” said Bob
Spicer, Professor of Earth Sciences at the Open University. “To
ignore it, and encourage others to ignore it, and refuse to take
wise preparatory action, is to invite misery for those who are
likely to be adversely affected.”
Paul Williams, climate scientist at the University of Reading, said:
“Sceptics will no doubt question how scientists can confidently
predict the climate of 2080, when we cannot even forecast next
week’s weather with any skill. But climate prediction and weather
forecasting are completely different problems.”
However, Bob Ward, policy and communications director of the
Grantham Institute on Climate Change and Environment at the LSE,
offered a slightly more cautious judgment, particularly on the
likelihood of some of the more extreme scenarios set out in the
“We are slightly cautious about some of the claims being made about
what is going to happen in 2080,” he said. “It’s difficult to be
that specific with any real confidence.”
He said that it was important to distinguish between two distinct
periods under analysis.
In the first, over the next two or three decades, we are faced with
changes that are already in train and we cannot do anything about
because of the lag between our historic emissions of carbon dioxide
and their impact on the climate. During this first phase, there is
some uncertainty inherent to climate models.
But beyond that the uncertainty becomes far greater because the
climate will also be dependent on what actions are taken now.
“This is why the Met Office has given three scenarios: business as
usual, one in which we curb our emissions somewhat, and one in which
we do a good job or curbing our emissions,” Mr Ward said. “The
predictions are grim whichever scenario we are talking about.”
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