The most recent IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report was released 31st March informing policy makers that the impacts of climate change are likely to be severe, universal, and irreversible. Scientists and officials from the IPCC met in Japan to finalise the document which is the most comprehensive assessment to date of the worldwide impacts of climate change.
The amount of scientific evidence on the impacts of warming has almost doubled since the last report was published in 2007. The impacts include higher risk of flooding, and changes to crop yields and water availability. This new report provides overwhelming evidence of the scale of the effects; health, homes, food, and safety are all likely to be threatened by increasing temperatures. Changes in the climate have caused impacts on both natural and human systems on all continents and across all oceans in recent decades. Nobody on the planet will be unaffected by climate change.
The report is based on more than 12,000 peer-reviewed scientific studies so provides solid reliable evidence. Unless we act dramatically and quickly, the science tells us, our way of life is at risk and we need to match the urgency of our responses with the scale of the science. This report provides the scientific evidence for policy makers to base their future decisions on so we will have to wait and see how they respond.
What does this mean for us in the UK?: a mixed bag weather-wise. The Met Office has reported that British winters are likely to be milder and wetter and summers hotter and drier but we can still expect cold spells and washouts. The British weather varies year on year due to natural processes and detecting trends is difficult due to influences from the Atlantic Ocean and the unpredictability of the jet stream (which is still not yet fully understood). However, a warmer atmosphere can hold more moisture, so increased temperatures will mean more rain.
Although the UK weather is hard to predict and has not yet been definitely linked to climate change, we will still feel other impacts of climate change from other parts of the world, especially with regard to food. The UK imports over 40% of its food so we could face repeats of the price rise in 2010 when an extreme heat wave in Russia and eastern Europe damaged the wheat harvest leading to UK food prices increasing by 5%. Adaptation to climate change is difficult and building is still taking place on flood plains in the UK, which suggests that some of those in charge haven’t quite got the message yet. What is clear from the reports released in March is that climate change is happening and if we want to do anything to limit its effects we need to act now.
A Rocha UK Comments: As an organisation we believe the climate is changing due to manmade causes.
Sources: BBC website March 2014; Guardian online March 2014