- A detailed timetable of the destruction and distress
that global warming is likely to cause the world was unveiled yesterday.
- It pulls together for the first time the projected impacts
on ecosystems and wildlife, food production, water resources and economies
across the earth, for given rises in global temperature expected during
the next hundred years.
- The resultant picture gives the most wide-ranging impression
yet of the bewildering array of destructive effects that climate change
is expected to exert on different regions, from the mountains of Europe
and the rainforests of the Amazon to the coral reefs of the tropics.
- Produced through a synthesis of a wide range of recent
academic studies, it was presented as a paper yesterday to the international
conference on climate change being held at the UK Met Office headquarters
in Exeter by the author Bill Hare, of the Potsdam Institute for Climate
Impact Research, Germany's leading global warming research institute.
- The conference has been called personally by Tony Blair
as part of Britain's attempts to move the climate change issue up the agenda
during the current UK presidency of the G8 group of rich nations, and the
European Union. It has already heard disturbing warnings from the latest
climate research, including the revelation on Tuesday from the British
Antarctic Survey that the massive West Antarctic ice sheet might be disintegrating
- an event which, if it happened completely, would raise sea levels around
the world by 16ft (4.9 metres).
- Dr Hare's timetable shows the impacts of climate change
multiplying rapidly as average global temperature goes up, towards 1C above
levels before the industrial revolution, then to 2C, and then 3C.
- As present world temperatures are already 0.7C above
the pre-industrial level, the process is well under way. In the near future
- the next 25 years - as the temperature climbs to the 1C mark, some specialised
ecosystems will start to feel stress, such as the tropical highland forests
of Queensland, which contain a large number of Australia's endemic plant
species, and the succulent karoo plant region of South Africa. In some
developing countries, food production will start to decline, water shortage
problems will worsen and there will be net losses in GDP.
- It is when the temperature moves up to 2C above the pre-industrial
level, expected in the middle of this century - within the lifetime of
many people alive today - that serious effects start to come thick and
fast, studies suggest.
- Substantial losses of Arctic sea ice will threaten species
such as polar bears and walruses, while in tropical regions "bleaching"
of coral reefs will become more frequent - when the animals that live in
the coral are forced out by high temperatures and the reef may die. Mediterranean
regions will be hit by more forest fires and insect pests, while in regions
of the US such as the Rockies, rivers may become too warm for trout and
- In South Africa, the Fynbos, the world's most remarkable
floral kingdom which has more than 8,000 endemic wild flowers, will start
to lose its species, as will alpine areas from Europe to Australia; the
broad-leaved forests of China will start to die. The numbers at risk from
hunger will increase and another billion and a half people will face water
shortages, and GDP losses in some developing countries will become significant.
- But when the temperature moves up to the 3C level, expected
in the early part of the second half of the century, these effects will
become critical. There is likely to be irreversible damage to the Amazon
rainforest, leading to its collapse, and the complete destruction of coral
reefs is likely to be widespread.
- The alpine flora of Europe, Australia and New Zealand
will probably disappear completely, with increasing numbers of extinctions
of other plant species. There will be severe losses of China's broadleaved
forests, and in South Africa the flora of the Succulent Karoo will be destroyed,
and the flora of the Fynbos will be hugely damaged.
- There will be a rapid increase in populations exposed
to hunger, with up to 5.5 billion people living in regions with large losses
in crop production, while another 3 billion people will have increased
risk of water shortages.
- Above the 3C raised level, which may be after 2070, the
effects will be catastrophic: the Arctic sea ice will disappear, and species
such as polar bears and walruses may disappear with it, while the main
prey species of Arctic carnivores, such as wolves, Arctic foxes and the
collared lemming, will have gone from 80 per cent of their range, critically
- In human terms there is likely to be catastrophe too,
with water stress becoming even worse, and whole regions becoming unsuitable
for producing food, while there will be substantial impacts on global GDP.
- ©2005 Independent News & Media (UK) Ltd