October 23, 2009 – Original Source: Scotsman, by Jenny Fyall
Professor Julia Slingo told a summit in Edinburgh yesterday many people could experience a 4C rise within their lifetime.
It is generally accepted that to avoid dangerous climate change the global temperature must increase by no more than 2C.
However, Prof Slingo, the chief scientist at the Met Office, said at the Royal Society of Edinburgh: “It’s possible to reach a 4C world by 2060 under a high-emission scenario.”
Her words coincided with the publication by the government of a map that revealed the likely consequences of a 4C temperature rise. It predicted mass melting of ice sheets, flooding, famines and droughts.
According to the map, put together by the Met Office Hadley Centre, Europe would see an 8C rise in the hottest days of the year – making the heatwaves that killed thousands in 2003 a regular occurrence.
Prof Slingo said: “The impacts (of a 4C temperature rise] are very large and they are really quite frightening.”
She warned that we were taking the planet into “uncharted territory” and said it was now inevitable that the world would experience a rise of at least 2C, “even with very aggressive emissions targets”.
This was because of the time lag between releasing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and their impact on the climate. Even if no emissions were produced from now on across the globe, the climate would still heat up by 2C, she said.
“We cannot get back to pre-industrial climate,” she added. “We are committed to irreversible changes.”
Prof Slingo was talking at a summit held ahead of a major climate change conference in Copenhagen in December.
Scottish Secretary Jim Murphy told the audience: “The stakes at Copenhagen are huge, and we have to get a deal which is right for us now and right for the future generations who will bear the burden of the negotiation results.”
However, John Ashton, the foreign secretary’s special representative for climate change, warned that the United States could derail the progress of the talks because of delays getting legislation through Congress.
Meanwhile, thousands of people have signed a letter questioning the Conservatives’ commitment to securing energy supplies after the Tory business spokesman, Ken Clarke, suggested that wind farms should not be built onshore.
The letter from the Climate Change Secretary, Ed Miliband, to Tory leader David Cameron said Mr Clarke’s comments raised “urgent questions about whether your party is serious about supporting low-carbon jobs and energy generation”.
Mr Miliband called on Mr Cameron to disown the comments, in which Mr Clarke said the few remaining wild open spaces left in Britain should not be used for wind turbines.
More than 3,000 people have signed the letter since it was posted online, officials said.