Just as European leaders are faltering in their efforts to tackle climate change, a new survey of the science by WWF has found that the climate is changing much faster, stronger and sooner than even the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) forecast.
According to WWF, research on climate change and its impacts published since the latest assessment report from the IPCC is revealing that global warming is accelerating at times far beyond IPCC 2007 forecasts.
The report argues that the first ‘tipping point’ may have already been reached in the Arctic, where sea ice is disappearing up to 30 years ahead of IPCC predictions and may be gone completely within five years – something that hasn’t occurred for a million years.
Extrapolating this forward, WWF warns that ‘extreme weather events’ such as the hot summer of 2003, which caused an extra 35,000 deaths across southern Europe from heat stress and poor air quality, will happen more frequently.
It could result in rapid and abrupt climate change rather than the gradual changes forecast by the IPCC. Other findings include:
* Global sea level rise could more than double from the IPCC’s estimate of 0.59m by the end of the century.
* Natural carbon sinks, such as forests and oceans, are losing their ability to absorb CO2 from the atmosphere faster than expected.
* Rising temperatures have already led to a major reduction in food crops resulting in losses of 40m tonnes of grain per year.
* Marine ecosystems in the North and Baltic Sea are being exposed to the warmest temperatures measured since records began.
* The number and intensity of extreme cyclones over the UK and North Sea are projected to increase, leading to increased wind speeds and storm-related losses over Western and Central Europe.
The report has been endorsed by Professor Jean-Pascal van Ypersele, the newly elected Vice Chair of the IPCC, who said: “It is clear that climate change is already having a greater impact than most scientists had anticipated, so it’s vital that international mitigation and adaptation responses become swifter and more ambitious.”
The report is published to coincide with Environment Ministers meeting in Luxembourg today, who are to discuss new proposals aimed at tackling climate change. But it comes days after European leaders seemed to reject cuts above 20 per cent, which WWF says is “insufficient”.
Looking at the evidence it quite clearly is not enough ..