Renew On Line (UK) 55
Extracts from NATTA's journal
|Welcome Archives Bulletin|
8. Climate gets worse
2005 looks like being the year in which climate change really started to be taken seriously- with the UK playing a key role. February saw climate scientists gather at the Met Office in Exeter to review the latest analyses, under the title ‘Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change’. As we will be seeing in detail in Renew 156, it covered the latest computer modelling projections and also looked at possible solutions- although the emphasis seemed to be on carbon sequestration, either via biomass, or in undersea strata. One paper on the latter commented that the resource was large but ‘deployment of such a strategy is viewed as best value bridging technology towards much more drastic CO2 reductions between about 2020 and 2050’. The papers are at: www.stabilisation2005.com.
Tony Blair also highlighted the importance of dealing with this issue at the World Economic Forumin Davos in Switzerland, while Margaret Beckett from DEFRA, argued that this need not be seen as cost but an opportunity. Between 1990 and 2003, Britain had reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 14% but had increased its GDP by 36%. Doing nothing was not an option. The heat wave of 2003 led to 26,000 premature deaths in Europe and cost roughly £13.5 billion, and she noted, the insurance company, Swiss Re, recently estimated that damage from global warming would double to US$ 150 billion a year over the next ten years.
The possible dangers were further highlighted by a new study that suggested that greenhouse gases could cause global temperatures to rise by more than double the maximum warming so far considered likely by the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). This was the interim conclusion of the world’s largest climate prediction experiment, published in the journal Nature. The first results from climateprediction.net, a UK based global experiment using computing time donated by the general public, show that average temperatures could eventually rise by up to 11°C- if carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere reach twice those found before the industrial revolution, which is expected to be the case, around the middle of this century, unless deep cuts are made in greenhouse gas emissions. Under the “worst-case” scenario, northern countries could actually fare worse. With sea level rises of up to 20ft, London would be under water and average temperatures in the UK could be up to 20C higher than at present.
The project, funded by the UK Natural Environment Research Council, is ongoing and involves more than 95,000 people from 150 countries. Schools, businesses and individuals across the globe can download the free climateprediction.net software which incorporates the Met Office’s climate model and runs in the background when their computers are idle. The programme runs through a climate scenario over the course of a few days or weeks, before automatically reporting results back to climate researchers at Oxford University and collaborating institutions worldwide, via the internet. Participants have simulated over four million model years and donated over 8,000 years of PC time, making it the world’s largest climate modelling experiment, exceeding the processing capacity of the world’s largest supercomputers. This allows the project to explore a wide range of uncertainties, picking up previously unidentified high-impact possibilities.
* Prof. Bob Spicer of the Open University, has developed extensive web-based educational materials around the project. He said, “Schools can run the software and build the experiment into science, geography and maths lessons with help from our new teaching materials. And everyone can take part in the lively debates on our internet discussion forum that has attracted more than 5,000 people.” In May the OU will start a distance-learning course based on the project. Anyone can register and learn even more about simulating and predicting climate change.
‘Uncertainty in the predictions of the climate response to rising levels of greenhouse gases’, Nature, 27 Jan. 05, vol 433. For more info and hi resolution colour images & animations: www.climateprediction.net/press
Reactions: ‘40% cut’ by 2020
The Institute for Public Policy Research (ippr) waded in on climate change with a report calling on the Government to commit to reduce UK emissions of CO2 by 40% below 1990 levels by 2020- matching Germany’s pledge of a 40 % cut by 2020 and following on from the UK’s existing target of a 20% cut by 2010. It’s research shows that if global average temperature is allowed to rise more than 2°C above the pre-industrial level, dangerous climate change impacts are likely to occur:
* billions more people facing water shortages worldwide;
* crop losses hitting major food exporting countries;
* a very high proportion of coral reefs dying; and
* the irreversible decline of the Amazon rainforest.
The report presented new evidence showing that to have an 80% chance of preventing global temperature rising by more than 2°C, the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere would need to be stabilised at the equivalent of about 400 parts per million (ppm) of CO2 by 2100 (compared to 379ppm of CO2 only in 2004 and 280 ppm of CO2 in pre-industrial times). By contrast, stabilising at 550ppm, the basis of the Government’s current 2050 target, would provide only a 10-20 per cent chance of keeping global temperature rise under 2ºC.
Currently, the Government has a long-term goal of a 60 per cent cut by 2050, but ippr’s research indicates that this will fall short of what will be necessary. To allow for a rise in prosperity and emissions in the developing world, the new research suggests that the UK will need to reduce its CO2 below 1990 levels by about 40% by 2020 and about 90% by 2050. These reductions could it says be achieved through substantial increases in energy efficiency and renewable energy generation, and by greater action to protect forests and soils which absorb CO2, matched also by measures to slash emissions of other greenhouse gases, such as methane.
The report, ‘Setting a Long Term Climate Objective’, was prepared as part of research for the International Climate Change Taskforce set up in March 2004 by the ippr, the Centre for American Progress and the Australia Institute.
BWEA says '25% by 2025'
The British Wind Energy Association and10 other renewable energy trade associations also waded in with a manifesto urging the government to set a target of getting 25% of UK energy from renwables by by 2025. It also calls for revenue funding for biomass and micro power - and for a Department of Energy and Environment!
…and if all else fails -
a new London Flood Barrier
With fears about climate change growing there are radical plans to erect a new 10-mile flood protection barrier across the Thames- from Sheerness in Kent to Southend. It would cost £20 bn. and could house turbines to use tidal flows to generate electricity. But it’s not going to happen in a hurry. By 2030 it is believed the existing Thames Barrier will be inadequate, and, although modification could help keep it viable, the chance of a major flood- inundating Westminster and the city with 6 foot of water - will rise, so that by 2100 a new barrier could be required. But Sarah Lavery, from Thames 2100, argued that “If we do something about climate change by reducing emissions we will not have to lumber our children with these vastly expensive schemes to prevent the city flooding.”
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