Climate report urges Britain to prepare for hotter future

The UK Climate Projections 2009 report released this week suggests that Britain needs to begin planning for severe flooding and drought that will result from a warmer climate.

The UK SMC wrapped up comment on the report from scientists:

Professor Leonard Smith at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at London School of Economics and Political Science, said:

“The Government commissioned an independent review in January, the report of which has been published today.  The independent review notes that known systematic errors in today’s global models are not corrected, or even reflected, in the 25 kilometre and 5 kilometre projections published today, so while they are helpful, we know they are missing impacts that play a pivotal role in decision-making.  All that is provided is a range of examples of local climate consistent with the global models, not a sample of what we expect to actually happen from the science.  Things we know have high economic importance, but cannot model, are simply not reflected in the projections. Unfortunately we are already seeing comments in the media, and even examples of good practice provided by the UK Climate Impacts Programme, which suggest the clear warnings of the review are not being heeded.”

Dr Nicola Ranger, a research fellow at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at London School of Economics and Political Science, said:

“These model projections confirm that the UK is likely to face increasing climate change impacts in the next few decades, even if we are successful in reducing global emissions of greenhouse gases. It is essential that businesses and public policy-makers consider how they should adapt to the impacts that might happen.  There are uncertainties in our knowledge, but that should not be used as an excuse to do nothing.  If we wait until we are certain about the changes we face, we will find it much more difficult and expensive to adapt.  But we need to consider the limitations of these projections, because it could prove costly and dangerous if business and governments over-rely on them for decisions about future adaptation to climate change.”

Dr David Stainforth, senior research fellow at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at London School of Economics and Political Science, said:

“It is clear that we need to prepare for future changes in climate. The prominence given to this issue by the Government and the UK Climate Impacts Programme is extremely welcome. These new projections have used one approach to interpreting models and suggest one approach to planning climate change adaptation.  There is however a very active and lively debate in the scientific community about how to tackle the problem of climate prediction at local scales.  This diversity of views needs to be reflected in the way we plan for the future.  It is critical that the existence of these results does not suppress the development of alternative and potentially more robust methods.”

Professor John Beddington, Government Chief Scientific Adviser, said:

“The projections offer new insights into the climate risks facing the UK. They will be a valuable tool to help us make risk based decisions and investments now that are resilient to the climate changes that are possible through this century.

“We now know that some further climate change over the next two to three decades is already unavoidable due to past emissions. But what the projections also show is that strong mitigation action now can start to make a real difference by 2050 and lead to very different climate outcomes by the 2080s.”

Dr Stephan Harrison, Associate Professor of Quaternary Science at the University of Exeter, said:

“The new UKCP09 scenarios will help policy-makers appreciate the uncertainties inherent in regional climate projections.  It is now vital that scientists and government work together to communicate this uncertainty effectively to the public – without confusing the message about the role of humans in global warming, which is not in doubt.”

Prof Lord Julian Hunt, Professor of Climate Modelling at University College London, said:

“This will certainly provide useful guidance for industry, local government etc.  But there are significant differences between some of the predicted and observed trends in local climate change (e.g. in precipitation), and these differences vary across Europe.

“It is therefore essential that organisations and regional centres monitor their own climate (in relation to regional predictions), inform their communities and stakeholders, and also publicise their local targets and achievements in mitigation and adaptation.  A number of communities are beginning programmes of this sort.”

Dr Paul Williams, Climate Scientist at the University of Reading, said:

“Sceptics will no doubt question how scientists can confidently predict the climate of 2080, when we cannot even forecast next week’s weather with any skill.  But climate prediction and weather forecasting are completely different problems.  For example, we can say with confidence that July is always warmer than January, simply because more sunlight is received.  Similarly, we can say with confidence that the 2080s will be warmer than the 2000s, simply because of the extra heat trapped by greenhouse gases.”

Prof Bob Spicer, Professor of Earth Sciences at The Open University, said:

“Whichever way you look at it this report represents the best informed view of what the future might be like.  To ignore it, and encourage other to ignore it, and refuse to take wise preparatory action, is to invite misery for those who are likely to be adversely affected.  As a society we have a duty to anticipate change and manage it as effectively as we can.”