MOO Reports:
The Shanghai Summit of the IPCC

At the end of January 2001, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change met at Shanghai to discuss and to re-draft their predictions and guidelines for Global Warming over the next 100 years.

As mentioned in a Beginner's Guide before, the IPCC is a large international group made up of the cream of the world's scientists interested in Global Warming. For this reason, the reports published carry a lot of weight for politicians and policy makers. The latest report entitled 'Global Waming 2001: A Scientific Perspective' has been no different, and has been commented upon extensively in the media, particularly as the publication of the report coincides with the change of US President.

So what exactly does the report say? The report has different sections called 'best possible outcomes' and 'worst possible outcomes'. For obvious reasons, it is normally the worst possible outcomes that are featured in the media. This years' updated report has seen a shift since 1995. Whereas in 1995 the IPCC claimed that the most temperature would increase by 2100 is 4 degrees, this has now been changed to 5.7 degrees. Naturally this means that there would be an associated rise in sea level of up to a metre. This compares to a rise of about 15cm between 1900 and 2000.

Sceptics in the debate about whether Global Warming is a danger claimed that this would be no problem as the natural vegetation and temperature systems would adapt. The IPCC do not completely rule this out, although they do say that there is no evidence that this is yet happening. They suggest that the changes are currently too quick for vegetation to adapt - the Guardian newspaper suggests that this alone could be 'potentially disastrous'.

How would such changes in the climate affect us in Britain? Journalists suggest that in the north there would be a longer growing season. In the south, the extra temperature is anticipated to see a migration towards coastal regions, maybe such as Bournemouth. Computer models suggest that the UK would have 2% more rain than now, which could mean that we see further flooding like we have this summer. In Europe, there are more worrying predictions, especially that regions like Southern Spain would be too dry to grow anything. Some world regions, including areas of Bangladesh, Egypt and China would be threatened by the rise in sea level.

Scare-mongers have even claimed that the Gulf Stream which warms Britain and other areas of northern Europe might break down during the changes. This would see a total realignment of world temperatures. The IPCC did not comment on this, but recommended extra research into ocean currents.

All of this is important politically because of the conservative view of Global Warming by the new Republican President George W. Bush. The United States has already been slow to join some of the more progressive European countries in being more environmentally friendly. It is particularly important that the US does join in, because it has much higher emissions than any other industrialised country. Although it is not totally clear how the new administration will react to this news because they have not yet been briefed, many followers are pessimistic. Met Office spokesperson Sir John Houghton has called for political action now, but we will have to watch and wait to see exactly whether and how this takes place.



. 1999-2003 Justin Taylor / John Dray

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