Finding better words

ClimatechallengeA sidelight to Gareth’s post about the 4ºC map launched in London last week is the strength of the language used at the event by the Miliband brothers — foreign secretary David (left) and climate change secretary Ed. The Times reported that David Miliband accused the public of lacking a sense of urgency in the face of the potentially devastating consequences of climate change. People have grown apathetic, he said, when they needed to be galvanised into action before Copenhagen.

“For a lot of people the penny hasn’t dropped that this climate change challenge is real and is happening now. There isn’t yet that feeling of urgency and drive and animation about the Copenhagen conference.”

Continue reading “Finding better words”

Four degrees too far

The British government has stepped up its pre-Copenhagen campaign for a global emissions deal, yesterday releasing this interactive map of what a 4ºC temperature increase would mean for the world. Click on the map to explore the impacts listed across the bottom. A larger (full page) version is available here, and background here and here. At the launch in the Science Museum in London, Ed Miliband, the Energy and Climate Change Secretary emphasised the urgency:

“Britain’s scientists have helped to illustrate the catastrophic effects that will result if the world fails to limit the global temperature rise to 2 degrees. With less than 50 days left before agreement must be reached, the UK’s going all out to persuade the world of the need to raise its ambitions so we get a deal that protects us from a 4 degree world.”

The 4ºC projection can be thought of as a plausible worst case scenario – the sort of outcome that we have to take seriously when deciding on emissions reductions. Based on modelling done at the UK Met Office’s Hadley Centre (discussed at this recent conference, BBC coverage here), the map shows what could happen if global emissions continue to rise unchecked — but not when we would get there. Some model runs suggest it could be as early as the 2060s. One key point to note: a 4ºC rise in the global average does not mean a 4ºC rise everywhere. Some places (like NZ) will be shielded from the full warming by cool oceans, but in the Arctic, for instance, the rise could be as much as 15ºC, and over continental interiors such as the USA and Asia 6 – 8ºC. Large parts of central Australia will be 6ºC hotter — as will much of Antarctica. The planet will be radically transformed, and not in a good way. More coverage at the Telegraph, Independent and Guardian.