Warming threatens famine, drought - theaustralian May 05, 2006
Warming threatens famine, drought
Mark Henderson, London
May 05, 2006
THE world will warm by 3C, even under the most optimistic emissions
projections for 2050, according to the UN group that studies global
The increase, which would cause drought and famine for 400 million
people and devastate wildlife, is predicted by the Intergovernmental
Panel on Climate Change in its most confident assessment yet of how
greenhouse gases are affecting global temperatures.
A draft of part of the panel's fourth report, which the US
Government has released on the internet, shows that it has, for the
first time, placed a likely figure on the progress of global
warming, indicating a degree of scientific certainty that it has
avoided in the past.
It says that temperatures could increase by between 2C and 4.5C when
atmospheric carbon dioxide reaches double the pre-industrial level,
but it declares 3C to be the "most likely value" for such change.
A 3C rise is the level at which a British Meteorological Office
conference last year judged that "dangerous" climate change would
Previous reports from the IPCC, a traditionally cautious body, have
given only wider ranges of possibilities, which it acknowledged to
be highly uncertain.
While the panel does not indicate when this rise will occur, experts
think it probable that pre-industrial carbon dioxide levels will
double by 2050, even given successful efforts to contain greenhouse
David King, Britain's chief scientific adviser, has argued that
stabilisation of carbon dioxide at this level - 550 parts per
million - is the best target that the world can hope for, and his
view is endorsed by many leading climatologists.
A report issued by Professor King last month suggested a 3C rise
would put 400 million people at risk of starvation because of lost
arable land and water shortages.
The draft document is the report of the IPCC's Working Group I,
which examines the physical science basis for climate change.
The analysis of Working Groups II and III, which consider detailed
consequences and mitigation strategies, have not been released.
Its contents came to light yesterday when the journal Nature
reported that the US had published the draft on a website, inviting
comments from experts and other interested groups.
The unusual manner of its release has alarmed some scientists and
environmental groups, who questioned whether President George
W.Bush's administration was seeking to defuse its bold conclusions
before the final version is published in February.
Roger Pielke Jr, of the University of Colorado, told Nature: "If the
report is already out there in circulation, then the 'news' value is
likely to be much diminished when the official report is finally
Friends of the Earth said the US Government had repeatedly tried to
undermine the IPCC in the past.
Apart from providing the most precise estimates yet of the likely
course of climate change, the document's language is much more
confident than that of the IPCC's third report, which was published
It points to decisive new evidence that the rising temperatures
recorded over the past 50 years are the result of human activity and
not natural variation.
The pattern of warming ocean, surface and lower atmosphere
temperatures, together with melting ice at the poles and falling
temperatures in the stratosphere, now make it "highly unlikely (less
than 5 per cent)" that natural changes could be responsible.
There has been increasing concern about global climate change being
caused by human activity, in particular the release of gases such as
carbon dioxide into the atmosphere by automobiles and industrial
The Times, AP