The Climate and Environment at Imperial blog has moved. Visit our new blog.
On 27th October I convened a meeting at the Royal Society of London to discuss the results of a recent 20-year research horizon scanning exercise for Antarctic Science (Kennicutt et al. 2014). Part of the discussion focused on the research needed to better quantify Antarctica’s likely contribution to sea level rise in the coming decades and beyond, as published in the new Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Synthesis Report.
The report states that, ‘Global mean sea level rise will continue during the 21st century, very likely at a faster rate than observed from 1971 to 2010, and will likely be in the ranges of 0.26 to 0.55 m [in the lowest emissions scenario] … and … 0.45 to 0.82 m [in the highest emissions scenario – the closest to “business as usual”]’.
In a lecture to the Global Warming Policy Foundation, the former UK Environment Secretary Owen Paterson has criticised the current government’s climate and energy policies, suggesting there is too much emphasis on renewables and that the consequences of climate change have been exaggerated. A discussion of Mr Paterson’s comments on UK energy policy appears in another Grantham blog by Dr Simon Buckle. Here I will discuss one of the reasons for Paterson’s position, the belief that climate change has been exaggerated.
Paterson suggested that the Earth has not warmed as much as had been predicted, “ … I also accept the unambiguous failure of the atmosphere to warm anything like as fast as predicted by the vast majority of climate models over the past 35 years, when measured by both satellites and surface thermometers.
The House of Commons Energy and Climate Change Committee report on the Working Group 1 contribution to the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report, which is published today, has found the IPCC process to be robust. The committee launched an inquiry into the IPCC WG1 report in October 2013, following criticism by some commentators of the IPCC review process and its conclusions.
The Grantham Institute submitted written evidence to the committee (you can read our evidence here) and our Chair Professor Sir Brian Hoskins was called before the committee to give oral evidence.
The committee found that “the IPCC has responded extremely well to constructive criticism in the last few years and has tightened its review processes to make its Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) the most exhaustive and heavily scrutinised Assessment Report to-date.
By Helena Wright, Research Postgraduate, Centre for Environmental Policy
Helena Wright, an Imperial PhD student, looks at worst possible scenarios from the IPCC Working Group II report.
The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently released its latest report, featuring the most up-to-date science on global climate change.
As a researcher, I had an opportunity to contribute to a table in one of the chapters and have read through each of the 30 chapters of the Working Group II report (on Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability). Here is my personal take on seven of the most frightening findings from the WG2 report:
- CO2 levels of 1000ppm could impact on mental performance
The health chapter explains how climate change will affect global health, including direct impacts of heat stress, drought and extreme events, as well as indirect impacts on nutrition and mental health.
Governments, planning authorities, companies and individuals all need information about the impact of climate change on extreme weather in the future. A recent paper  investigates changes in extremes both globally and locally.
We can be relatively certain of the signature of climate change on a global or continental scale. On the other hand, estimating changes on a country-wide scale is harder and estimating them on a local scale (i.e. to the nearest few kilometres) is very difficult.
In the new study, scientists calculated the proportion of global land area in which certain weather extremes are expected to increase.
BBC’s Question Time on 14 November saw Lord Lawson citing the IPCC findings to support one of his arguments. Did I dream that? Then I realised that, of course, the reference to the IPCC was incomplete and misleading so I knew I was awake and back in the strange media-distorted world of the UK debate on climate change.
According to the Daily Express, Lord Lawson said that “If you look at the inter-governmental panel on climate change they say there is absolutely no connection between climate change and tropical storms.” Wrong, but convenient for someone who argues we probably don’t need to do anything much about climate change.
The IPCC has released corrected figures for past carbon dioxide emissions and future emissions trajectories quoted in the Summary for Policy Makers of the Working Group 1 report, “Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis”. The original numbers were published in the report released on 27th September, which was subject to copy edit and final layout changes.
In total, six values from the summary have been changed. As noted by Professor Sir Brian Hoskins, Director of the Grantham Institute, these corrections are minor adjustments to historical greenhouse gas emissions and to the cumulative emissions consistent with achieving a 2 degree warming target with different levels of probability.
Two years to go and counting down. That’s the real significance of COP19, the Warsaw Conference of the Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which runs from 11-22 November. A new universal climate agreement effective from 2020 is what is at stake, and Warsaw is a step on the path.
The COP21 meeting in Paris at the end of 2015 will hopefully be the successful culmination of many years’ of hard work by the UNFCCC Secretariat, government climate negotiators and many, many others. It’s time for governments to act on the words they agreed in the IPCC Summary for Policy Makers launched on 27 September – namely that substantial and sustained reductions in emissions are required to limit climate risks.