Published on Sunday, November 12, 2000 in the Sunday Times of London
Scientists Claim Nothing Will Stop Global Warming
by Jonathan Leake and Guy Dennis
SCIENTISTS have warned thousands of government officials and politicians gathering for international climate talks in the Hague that the rise in global temperatures is irreversible, and that the best they can hope for is to slow it down by a fraction of a degree.
Their research shows that even if delegates implement all the proposals before them in full, this will cut only about six-hundredths of a degree from a temperature rise that could be as much as 5C by 2100.
The warning comes from researchers at the Hadley Centre, the British Meteorological Office's climate change prediction centre, who will present the results in the Hague next week.
The aim of the talks is to find ways to implement the agreement in Kyoto, Japan, in 1997 under which developed countries would reduce emissions of gases, mainly carbon dioxide, to 5.2% below 1990 levels by 2012.
Geoff Jenkins, head of the Hadley Centre, said: "This has to be seen as just the first stage. If we want to minimise global warming we have to achieve emission cuts of 60% or more within the next few decades."
The centre's research shows that even with 60% cuts, the rise in temperatures will not be halted but could be restricted to only about 2C by 2100. This would cause a sea level rise of about 30cm.
However, with cuts of just 5.2%, temperatures would rise by up to 5C and sea levels would rise more than 60cm, flooding many low-lying areas.
The obstacles facing even a 5.2% reduction are huge. This weekend Michael Meacher, the environment minister, said the key was to persuade America to cut its emissions. "The US has just 5% of the world's population but it emits a quarter of all the gases," he said.
Meacher and others are worried that America favours emissions-trading, under which countries would get quotas for emitting gases which could be sold on the open market. It could then buy the right to emit gases without making real cuts.
Britain has led the way in climate change negotiations. At Kyoto it volunteered to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 20% from 1990 levels by 2010.
Meacher and John Prescott, the deputy prime minister, will propose a tough regime to force every developed country to make real cuts and promote renewable energy sources.
The rise in temperatures has led to increasingly unpredictable weather. Last Christmas Eve a storm hit northern France, killing scores of people and ripping up more than 400,000 trees. Recently towns and cities across Britain have been hit by flooding.
This weekend residents in Sussex were again bracing themselves for severe floods.Ray Kemp, of the Environment Agency, said the critical time would be between midnight last night and this morning, with up to 25mm of rain expected in some places.
Copyright 2000 Times Newspapers Ltd