New reportshows climate change faster than predicted Media Release

Nov 14, 2007 - 10:38am

A new report for The Climate institute shows that the window of opportunity for a smooth transition to a low carbon, clean energy economy is closing faster than many have predicted.

The report, prepared by Dr Graeme Pearman and the Climate Adaptation Science and Policy Initiative at the University of Melbourne shows that science emerging since that considered by the IPCC up until mid 2006 has shown temperatures and greenhouse pollution are rising faster than predicted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
The report shows:

The global temperature warming trend is accelerating faster than expected.1If continued such a trend will lead to a temperature rise of approximately 3oC by the end of this century (relative to pre-industrial temperatures) tipping us into dangerous climate change - defined as over 2oC.

Carbon dioxide emissions growth is accelerating. The growth rate is increasing from 1.1% per year for 1990-1999 to over 3% per year for 2000-2004. This recent high growth rate exceeds that in the most fossil fuel intensive emissions scenarios used by the IPCC.

The recent rapid decreases in Arctic sea ice extent are occurring much faster than any of the climate model projections suggest would happen. The current summer minima are approximately 30 years ahead of a range of simulation model forecasts. On the basis of current trends, an ice free Arctic Ocean might occur much earlier than 2050 – 2100 as previously thought.

A recent review of climate observations compared to projections suggests that the IPCC projections may have underestimated sea-level rise. The observed sea-level rise for 1993 to 2006 shows a linear trend of 3.3 +/- 0.4 mm/year - higher than the IPCC projected best estimate of 2mm/year.2 Rahmstorf estimates a sea level rise of 0.5 to 1.4 meters by 2100,3 which is much higher than the range of projections in the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report.

Recent scientific work suggests that the capacity for the land and oceans to absorb carbon dioxide emissions is declining. As terrestrial ecosystems respond to anthropogenic climate change, including warming everywhere and drying in some regions, it is likely that some regions that have been sinks of atmospheric carbon will change to sources, through decreases in net primary production, increased occurrence of wild fires, and changes in ecosystem composition.

“Data on the economic impact of reducing greenhouse pollution shows that the greatest risk to jobs and the Australian economy lies in not acting now. All available economic research shows economic growth continues even with significant cuts to greenhouse pollution.” Said Climate Institute Chief Executive John Connor.

“This science report shows that it is even more critical than previously thought that we act quickly to reduce greenhouse pollution and make the transition to a clean energy economy.”

Download the full report  

The Climate Adaptation Science and Policy Initiative (CASPI), is a cross-disciplinary initiative at the University of Melbourne that connects science and public policy to meet the local and global challenges of climate change. Prof Jim Falk is the convenor of CASPI and Mr Roger Bodman is the Research Officer.

Dr. Graeme Pearman was elected to Fellowship of the Australian Academy of Science in 1988 and has been a member and chair of many Australian and international meteorological/global change committees. Graeme was the former head of CSIRO Division of Atmospheric Research. He was also a recipient of a United Nation’s Environment Program Global 500 Award in 1989 for his active involvement in a national awareness program on climate change and in 1999 he was awarded the Australian Medal of the Order of Australia for his services to atmospheric science and promotion of the science of climate change to the public.

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