Catastrophic climate change 'inevitable', scientists warn
The Daily Telegraph
November 20, 2009 12:01am
THE world is spinning toward a catastrophic climate change scenario, with temperatures now far more likely to rise by 6C by the end of the century, a leading international team of scientists has warned.
An increase of 6C would have irreversible consequences, rendering large parts of the globe uninhabitable and destroying much of life on earth.
The study by Professor Corinne Le Quere, from the British Antarctic Survey and East Anglia University, is the most comprehensive so far of how economic changes and shifts in the way people used land over the past 50 years have affected CO2 concentration in the atmosphere.
It also claims the Earth's natural ability to absorb CO2 into soil, forests and oceans is declining.
The nightmarish possibility of a 6C temperature rise was made public by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2007, when it was then only a worst-case scenario.
But according to Professor Le Quere it is now all but inevitable.
"We're at the top of the IPCC scenario," she told Nature Geoscience, a respected science journal, which published the study yesterday.
Her research - backed by 31 top researchers from seven countries including Australians involved in the Global Carbon Project - found there had been a 29 per cent rise in global CO2 emissions from fossil fuels between 2000 and 2008.
The annual average CO2 increase of 3.4 per cent since 2000 compared with increases of only 1 per cent the previous eight years.
She said there was no doubt carbon dioxide emissions from transport and industry and deforestation were squarely to blame.
Governments around the world are trying to find agreement to limit the rise to 2C, the level believed required to avoid extremely dangerous climate change.
Professor Le Quere said next month's UN climate conference in Copenhagen had to come out with a clear and decisive global policy.
"If the agreement is weak or the commitments not respected, it is not 2.5C or 3C we will get, it's 5C or 6C, that is the path we're on," she said.
An Earth 6C hotter than today's temperatures would be a nightmarish place, according to most predictions.
All ice on both poles would have melted, pushing sea levels at least 6m higher. Temperate bushland and even rainforests would become deserts, while methane fireballs could erupt from oceans where marine life had died because of a lack of oxygen.
Australian pressure group The Climate Institute said on current emission trends, unmitigated climate change is likely to have catastrophic global impacts.
Minister for Climate Change and Water, Senator Penny Wong, yesterday said Australia must act now to reduce the country's carbon pollution and that a global deal at Copenhagen was difficult but vital.