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.