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Global warming: scientists reveal timetable

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  • mtneuman@juno.com
    Global warming: scientists reveal timetable By Michael McCarthy, Environment Correspondent 03 February 2005 Global warming: scientists reveal timetable A
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 3, 2005
      Global warming: scientists reveal timetable
      By Michael McCarthy, Environment Correspondent
      03 February 2005
      Global warming: scientists reveal timetable

      A detailed timetable of the destruction and distress that global warming
      is likely to cause the world was unveiled yesterday.

      It pulls together for the first time the projected impacts on ecosystems
      and wildlife, food production, water resources and economies across the
      earth, for given rises in global temperature expected during the next
      hundred years.

      The resultant picture gives the most wide-ranging impression yet of the
      bewildering array of destructive effects that climate change is expected
      to exert on different regions, from the mountains of Europe and the
      rainforests of the Amazon to the coral reefs of the tropics.

      Produced through a synthesis of a wide range of recent academic studies,
      it was presented as a paper yesterday to the international conference on
      climate change being held at the UK Met Office headquarters in Exeter by
      the author Bill Hare, of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact
      Research, Germany's leading global warming research institute.

      The conference has been called personally by Tony Blair as part of
      Britain's attempts to move the climate change issue up the agenda during
      the current UK presidency of the G8 group of rich nations, and the
      European Union. It has already heard disturbing warnings from the latest
      climate research, including the revelation on Tuesday from the British
      Antarctic Survey that the massive West Antarctic ice sheet might be
      disintegrating - an event which, if it happened completely, would raise
      sea levels around the world by 16ft (4.9 metres).

      Dr Hare's timetable shows the impacts of climate change multiplying
      rapidly as average global temperature goes up, towards 1C above levels
      before the industrial revolution, then to 2C, and then 3C.

      As present world temperatures are already 0.7C above the pre-industrial
      level, the process is well under way. In the near future - the next 25
      years - as the temperature climbs to the 1C mark, some specialised
      ecosystems will start to feel stress, such as the tropical highland
      forests of Queensland, which contain a large number of Australia's
      endemic plant species, and the succulent karoo plant region of South
      Africa. In some developing countries, food production will start to
      decline, water shortage problems will worsen and there will be net losses
      in GDP.

      It is when the temperature moves up to 2C above the pre-industrial level,
      expected in the middle of this century - within the lifetime of many
      people alive today - that serious effects start to come thick and fast,
      studies suggest.

      Substantial losses of Arctic sea ice will threaten species such as polar
      bears and walruses, while in tropical regions "bleaching" of coral reefs
      will become more frequent - when the animals that live in the coral are
      forced out by high temperatures and the reef may die. Mediterranean
      regions will be hit by more forest fires and insect pests, while in
      regions of the US such as the Rockies, rivers may become too warm for
      trout and salmon.

      In South Africa, the Fynbos, the world's most remarkable floral kingdom
      which has more than 8,000 endemic wild flowers, will start to lose its
      species, as will alpine areas from Europe to Australia; the broad-leaved
      forests of China will start to die. The numbers at risk from hunger will
      increase and another billion and a half people will face water shortages,
      and GDP losses in some developing countries will become significant.

      But when the temperature moves up to the 3C level, expected in the early
      part of the second half of the century, these effects will become
      critical. There is likely to be irreversible damage to the Amazon
      rainforest, leading to its collapse, and the complete destruction of
      coral reefs is likely to be widespread.

      The alpine flora of Europe, Australia and New Zealand will probably
      disappear completely, with increasing numbers of extinctions of other
      plant species. There will be severe losses of China's broadleaved
      forests, and in South Africa the flora of the Succulent Karoo will be
      destroyed, and the flora of the Fynbos will be hugely damaged.

      There will be a rapid increase in populations exposed to hunger, with up
      to 5.5 billion people living in regions with large losses in crop
      production, while another 3 billion people will have increased risk of
      water shortages.

      Above the 3C raised level, which may be after 2070, the effects will be
      catastrophic: the Arctic sea ice will disappear, and species such as
      polar bears and walruses may disappear with it, while the main prey
      species of Arctic carnivores, such as wolves, Arctic foxes and the
      collared lemming, will have gone from 80 per cent of their range,
      critically endangering predators.

      In human terms there is likely to be catastrophe too, with water stress
      becoming even worse, and whole regions becoming unsuitable for producing
      food, while there will be substantial impacts on global GDP.
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