The Met Office on the urgency of emission reductions

2008-10-05

in Politics, Science, The environment

The Met Office is the official national weather service of the United Kingdom, subsidiary to the Ministry of Defence. Their website provides a wealth of information about climate change. For instance, they have projections based on in-house models, a PDF containing “the known facts about climate change.” One page on the site lists the six key facts about the issue of global warming:

  1. Climate change is happening and humans are contributing to it
  2. Temperatures are continuing to rise
  3. The current climate change is not just part of a natural cycle
  4. Recent warming cannot be explained by the Sun or natural factors alone
  5. If we continue emitting greenhouse gases this warming will continue and delaying action will make the problem more difficult to fix
  6. Climate models predict the main features of future climate

It is very refreshing to see this kind of thing from an authoritative source: providing comprehensible information on the strength of the scientific consensus. The head of the Met Office recently published an article in The Guardian stressing the urgent need to cut greenhouse gas emissions:

Even with large and early cuts in emissions, these projections indicate that temperatures are likely to rise to around 2C above pre-industrial levels by the end of the century. If action is delayed or is slow, then there is a significant risk of much larger increases in temperature. The uncertainties in the science mean that even if the most likely temperature rise is kept within reasonable limits, we cannot rule out the possibility of much larger increases. Adaptation strategies are therefore needed to deal with these less likely, but still real, possibilities…

Even if emissions start to decrease in the next two years and reach a rapid and sustained rate of decline of 3% per year, temperatures are likely to rise to 1.7C above pre-industrial levels by 2050 and to around 2C by 2100. This is because carbon dioxide already in the atmosphere will be around for many years to come and the climate takes some time to respond to these changes. Only an early and rapid decline in emissions gets anywhere close to the target of 50% reduction in emissions by 2050 put forward by the G8.

Contrast that with a world where no action is taken to curb global warming. Then, temperatures could rise as high as 7C above pre-industrial values by the end of the century. This would lead to significant risks of severe and irreversible impacts.

Clear, scientifically-informed, and forcefully expressed – we would be lucky to see climate change discussed in such a manner in some of the developed and developing nations less progressive on the issue than the United Kingdom has generally shown itself to be.

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

. October 3, 2008 at 6:59 pm
Jay October 5, 2008 at 8:59 am

You’re right, a breath of fresh air.

. December 22, 2008 at 11:13 am

Hadley Center study warns of “catastrophic” 5-7°C warming by 2100 on current emissions path

Dr. Vicky Pope, head of climate change predictions at the Met Office’s Hadley Centre, writes in the UK Times that

“In a worst-case scenario, where no action is taken to check the rise in Greenhouse gas emissions, temperatures would most likely rise by more than 5°C by the end of the century.”

It may be “a worst-case scenario” for rational people like her, but right now even Hadley understands it is better described as the “business-as-usual” case

. February 12, 2009 at 10:23 am

‘Apocalyptic climate predictions’ mislead the public, say experts

Met Office scientists fear distorted climate change claims could undermine efforts to tackle carbon emissions

Experts at Britain’s top climate research centre have launched a blistering attack on scientific colleagues and journalists who exaggerate the effects of global warming.

The Met Office Hadley Centre, one of the most prestigious research facilities in the world, says recent “apocalyptic predictions” about Arctic ice melt and soaring temperatures are as bad as claims that global warming does not exist. Such statements, however well-intentioned, distort the science and could undermine efforts to tackle carbon emissions, it says.

. September 28, 2009 at 4:33 pm

Four degrees of warming ‘likely’
By David Shukman
Environment correspondent, BBC News

In a dramatic acceleration of forecasts for global warming, UK scientists say the global average temperature could rise by 4C (7.2F) as early as 2060.

The Met Office study used projections of fossil fuel use that reflect the trend seen over the last 20 years.

Their computer models also factored in new findings on how carbon dioxide is absorbed by the oceans and forests.

The finding was presented at an Oxford University conference exploring the implications of a 4C rise.

The results show a “best estimate” of 4C being reached by 2070, with a possibility that it will come as early as 2060.

Richard Betts of the Met Office Hadley Centre described himself as “shocked” that so much warming could occur within the lifetimes of people alive today.

“If greenhouse gas emissions are not cut soon then we could see major climate changes within our own lifetimes,” he said.

“Four degrees of warming averaged over the globe translates into even greater warming in many regions, along with major changes in rainfall.”

The model finds wide variations, with the Arctic possibly seeing a rise of up to 15C (27F) by the end of the century.

Western and southern parts of Africa could warm by up to 10C, with other land areas seeing a rise of 7C or more.

. October 19, 2009 at 10:40 am

Tories ‘may sell off Met Office’

A Conservative government would consider privatising the Met Office, shadow defence secretary Liam Fox has suggested to the BBC.

The Tories are committed to reducing Ministry of Defence costs by a quarter and this could include selling assets such as the Met Office.

Mr Fox told BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show there was a “very strong case” for looking at offloading MoD assets.

He disputed suggestions that 22,000 MoD jobs could go as costs are cut.

Mr Fox said the Conservatives’ policy had to be “about giving things to the front line”, adding: “We can’t afford to have 16% of the whole civil service in the MoD.”

Milan October 19, 2009 at 6:26 pm

Privatizing your nation’s main climate science organization doesn’t strike me as a smart move. That’s especially true if you are going to invest billions of Pounds in mitigation and adaptation.

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