Three billion lives hang on three degrees, warns scientist
GLOBAL temperatures are set to rise by more than 3C, sparking a massive drought that could put 400 million people at risk of hunger, the government's chief scientific adviser has warned.
Professor Sir David King called for the world to take immediate action to alleviate the looming crisis, which could also jeopardise water supplies for up to three billion people.
His warning, on the back of an official report by a leading UK climate change centre, highlights the huge gulf between government's goals on gas emissions and the level of cuts needed to curb global warming.
Even by the most optimistic assessments, carbon dioxide levels are set to rise to double what they were during the industrial revolution, Prof King said.
In Britain, the main threat would come from flooding and "coastal attack" as sea levels rose. He said it was essential that the world began to take action to cope with the changes over the next 100 years.
"We don't have to succumb to a state of despondency where we say, 'There is nothing we can do so let's just carry on living as per usual'. It is very important to understand that we can manage the risks to our population."
Global levels of carbon emissions need to be cut by 27 per cent more than the current goal of 550 parts per million in the atmosphere to achieve a 2C rise in temperatures - the level deemed acceptable by the EU and Tony Blair. Going beyond this level would force temperature and sea-level rises which would be "extremely difficult for populations to manage".
Prof King was also scathing about politicians who believed they could rely on new technologies to produce cleaner fuels. "There is a difference between optimism and head in the sand," he said. His criticism will be seen as a clear swipe at President George Bush, who has refused to sign up to international agreements to cut gas emission and has instead pledged to look to new technologies to combat climate change.
Prof King said global warming might be unavoidable, given the Americans' refusal to cut emissions and the need for China and India to boost their economies to tackle poverty.
However, environmentalists warned it would be dangerous to accept a 3C rise in temperatures - - from a current global average of 14.7C - and accused him of not going far enough.
Duncan McLaren, Friends of the Earth Scotland's chief executive, said: "It is technologically possible to significantly reduce our emissions and deliver 2C. Professor King should be pressing for policies to deliver on this rather than accepting the current lack of political will and talking of 3C as inevitable."
Peter Ainsworth, the Shadow Environment Secretary, questioned whether the government was "throwing in the towel" over climate change. "Sir David King's pessimism on climate change is disturbing," he said. "The world's poorest people would be hit first and hardest [if temperatures rose by over 2C]," he added.
Prof King's warning was based on Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change, a report by the UK's Hadley Centre, a world leader in climate projection. It came on the final day for submissions to the government's UK Energy Review.
Meanwhile a report from MPs - to be released on Monday - will warn nuclear is not a solution to the energy crisis.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Wednesday 22 May 2013
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