Leading article: A climate change warning we ignore at our peril

Alarming new temperature forecasts show the need for urgent action

Share
Related Topics

Two years ago, the United Nation's International Panel on Climate Change forecast an increase in global temperatures by the end of the century of between 1.8C and 4C, depending on the success of nations in reducing their carbon emissions. But now an international team of scientists, led by Professor Corinne Le Quéré of the University of East Anglia, argues that the world is in fact on course for a 6C rise in temperature by 2100. These might sound like small numbers. But their implications could not be bigger – or more dangerous.

We have long known that, unchecked, climate change is likely to result in a serious reduction in global agriculture, chronic drought, rising sea levels and the mass displacement of populations. But the implications of a 6C rise are more disastrous still. They include the acidification of the oceans, the loss of all polar ice and the combustion of the rainforests. It is doubtful that mankind could survive such a catastrophe.

The instinct of many will be to dismiss such forecasts as scaremongering. That would be a serious mistake. These forecasts are based on authoritative research. They are not the predications of religious fanatics or superstitious hysterics, but men and women of impeccable scientific credentials. And unless we get our carbon emissions under control over the next decade there is a real chance that we will be heading for the sort of world they describe.

According to this latest study, between 1990 and 2000 the average annual increase in carbon emissions was 1 per cent. But between 2000 and 2008 they increased by 3 per cent on average a year. Far from coming down, our emissions are accelerating. And the explanation can be reduced to one word: China. The world has been on an unsustainable high emissions path for many decades. But the breakneck industrialisation of the Middle Kingdom over the past decade has put us on a short road to irreversible disaster.

We also report today of renewed hope that there might yet be a deal between the Obama administration and Beijing over emissions cuts – probably not in time to produce a binding global agreement for the UN Copenhagen summit next month, but possibly sufficient to enable a successor to the Kyoto Protocol to be signed next year. What this latest scientific temperature projection emphasises is that such a deal is not a political luxury, but a moral necessity.

Since the recession broke, resistance has been growing among some politicians around the world to the measures which will be needed to reduce emissions – taxing carbon-emissions, mandating greater energy efficiency, investing heavily in low-carbon energy sources, paying money for developing nations to conserve their rainforests – on the grounds that the costs will have to be borne by the public.

The scenarios associated with a 6C temperature rise ought to expose is just how wrongheaded and short-sighted such an attitude is. Any upfront costs that will be required to clean up our economies cannot rationally be compared to the costs that runaway climate change threatens to inflict on the entire planet.

But delay is just as dangerous as myopia. The longer our leaders leave it to begin the work of cutting carbon emissions, the more the opportunity to limit the rising temperature of the earth shrinks. The warnings are clear. The time for action is now.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior QA Engineer - Agile, SCRUM

£35000 - £50000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior QA Engineer (Agil...

Marketing Executive - West Midlands - £28,000

£26000 - £28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Digital Marketing Executive (SEO, PP...

Retail Business Analyst

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our retail client ...

Senior C++ Developer

£400 - £450 Per Annum possibly more for the right candidate: Clearwater People...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: We are winning the fight against extreme poverty and hunger. It's time to up the ante

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
David Cameron addresses No campagn supporters in Aberdeen  

Scottish independence: Cameron faces a choice between destroying his country or his party

Matthew Norman
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week