Warming acceleration inevitable, G8 leaders warned

Posted: 12 July 2005

Scientists with the world's largest climate modeling project are calling for a complete phaseout of fossil fuel emissions to stabilize the global climate. Even if humans were to totally stop emitting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere right now, they say, "a potentially dangerous level of global warming cannot be ruled out."

The scientists with climateprediction.net released their latest results at the Royal Society's Summer Science Exhibition in London at the eve of the G8 meeting. It was selected to be one of only 25 UK science projects showcased at the Royal Society, the UK's national academy of sciences.

Physicist and Oxford University professor Dr Myles Allen initiated the project five years ago. He said, "Our results show that stabilisation, even at today's greenhouse gas concentrations, may already be an unacceptable risk.

There is a delay in the Earth's climate system, he explained, which means that the full effects of the carbon dioxide that is already in the atmosphere have not yet been seen.

The climateprediction.net project has completed over 100,000 simulations of the Earth's climate, using spare processing time on personal computers donated by members of the public.

Allen says until more research is done, the safest course is to stop burning fossil fuels.

"Until we know more," Allen said, "we need to plan on bringing levels down again, by eventually phasing out fossil fuel emissions altogether. This goes far beyond anything [agreed] at the G8 summit."

Kyoto Protocol

All G8 leaders except the United States have ratified the Kyoto Protocol - an amendment to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change which requires them to lower greenhouse gas emissions an average of 5.2 per cent by 2012.

With about five percent of the world's population, the United States emits roughly 23 percent of the world's heat-trapping greenhouse gases.

In advance of the G8 summit, President George W. Bush urged other G8 countries to shift the debate on climate change away from limits on greenhouse gas emissions towards new energy technologies that would reduce environmental harm without affecting economic growth.

"My hope is - and I think the hope of [British Prime Minister] Tony Blair is - to move beyond the Kyoto debate and to collaborate on new technologies that will enable the United States and other countries to diversify away from fossil fuels so that the air will be cleaner and that we have the economic and national security that comes from less dependence on foreign sources of oil," said Bush in an interview with ITV's Tonight with Trevor McDonald.

Bush said, "I walked away from Kyoto because it would damage America's economy, you bet. It would have destroyed our economy. It was a lousy deal for the American economy. I felt there was a better way."

"I think you can grow your economy and at the same time do a better job of harnessing greenhouse gases," said Bush. "That's exactly what I intend to talk to our partners about. I don't think you can expect any American leader to wreck the economy, nor as an ally and a friend of America and a trading partner of America should you want us to wreck our economy."

"On the other hand, what you would want us to do is to use our investment capacity, as well as our research capacity to come up with new ways to power our economy, new ways to energize our economy," he said. "And that's precisely what we're doing, and I look forward to sharing those ideas."

British Prime Minister Blair, who hosted the G8 summit, has made mitigating climate change and ending poverty in Africa his key priorities.

Warmer temperatures

Bush noted that the United States has spent over $20 billion since he took office in 2001 "to not only research the issue of greenhouse gases, but to develop technologies that will enable us to diversify away from fossil fuels. And I look forward to discussing this agenda with not only the G8 leaders, but also with the leaders of developing countries, countries like India and China."

Climateprediction.net uses globes to show a comparison. Current summer temperatures are on the rear globe, compared with a possible response to current greenhouse gas concentrations in a low sensitivity model in the middle globe, and a possible response to current greenhouse gas concentrations in a high sensitivity model on the front globe.(Photo: Courtesy of Climateprediction.net)

Most of the simulations returned by climateprediction.net suggest that, even with current greenhouse gas concentrations, the climate of the world will eventually be one to 2.5 degrees centigrade warmer than it would have been in the absence of human influence, Allen says.

Climateprediction.net Chief Scientist David Stainforth commented, "The atmosphere and oceans can take decades to adjust to reach new temperatures. Just because today's climate is tolerable doesn't mean today's greenhouse gas levels are safe."

"Some models indicate a global warming of over four degrees centigrade with today's greenhouse gases," said Stainforth. "The further we let greenhouse gas concentrations rise above today's levels the more likely we are to see an even greater rise in temperature."

The United States could be in for longer, hotter summers unless greenhouse gas emissions are curbed. "Summer temperatures could rise a lot more over continental North America," Stainforth warned.

Source: Environment News Service, July 5, 2005.

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Climateprediction.net