4 degree warming could happen within a human lifetime

Dr Richard Betts, Head of Climate Impacts at the Met Office Hadley Centre, will present the new findings at a special conference called 4 degrees and beyond at Oxford University. The conference, to be attended by 130 international scientists and policy specialists, is the first to consider the global consequences of climate change beyond 2 degrees Celsius. 4degrees and beyond will take place on 28-30 September 2009 and is jointly sponsored by Oxford University’s Environmental Change Institute, the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, and the Met Office Hadley Centre.

The Met Office research describes the possibility of a 4 degree warming happening before the end of the century, with some extreme regional implications. This high emissions scenario is based on no action being taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions significantly, starting in the next few years. If carbon cycle feedbacks are strong then a 4 degree warming could occur even earlier.

Extreme regional potential implications include:

• for the Arctic, a warming by 10 degrees or more due to melting of snow and ice causing more of the sun’s radiation to be absorbed;

•  for Africa, the western and southern regions experiencing both large warming (up to 10C) and drying;

•  rainfall could decrease by 20% or more in major global regions: although there is a spread in the magnitude of drying, most models indicate reductions in rainfall over western and southern Africa, Central America, the Mediterranean and parts of coastal Australia.

“4 degrees of warming averaged over the globe translates into even greater warming in many regions, along with major changes in rainfall” said Dr Betts.  “If greenhouse gas emissions are not cut soon then we could see major climate changes within our own lifetimes”.

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