Global warming could be on track to massively exceed internationally agreed “safe” levels by the end of the century, according to new Scottish research.
The news comes as the world awaits the outcome of crucial climate talks taking place in Paris.
Professor Roy Thompson, of the University of Edinburgh, has calculated that land temperatures could rise almost 8C above pre-industrial levels by 2100 if emissions continue to grow current rates. Oceans, which warm more slowly, are predicted to heat up by an average of 3C.
This would have a devastating impact on life on Earth, putting billions of people at risk from extreme temperatures, flooding, drought and food shortages.
An international panel of experts agreed that global temperature rises must not exceed 2C since the 1850s to avoid “dangerous” climate change – though many have recently claimed this should be revised down to 1.5C.
Prof Thompson said: “Estimates vary over the impacts of climate change. But what is now clear is that society needs to take firm, speedy action to minimise climate damage.”