Friday, February 17, 2006

Alarming new research?

A report from the Tyndall Centre is getting some attention on the the BBC:
The UK could face major flooding and tropical temperatures by the year 3000 if greenhouse gas emissions are not sharply reduced, a new study says.

The report, from the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, claims Britain could look radically different with sea levels rising as much as 11.4m.
That's a rather garbled take on what is a very speculative bit of research. The high-end numbers are based on projections in which mankind burns not just all the oil and coal, but even the "exotic" fossil fuel resources like methane clathrates, at a rapidly increasing rate over the next few centuries. They base the emissions on the old IS92a from the IPCC SAR, which was already known to be an outdated and fairly extreme scenario at the time of the TAR, and then extrapolate up from that over the subsequent centuries. While it is obviously fun to play around with ideas like this, the suggestion that it has much to do with current policy decisions is tenuous at best. I'm sure that the People's Federation of Great Europia (or however the world is organised by then) will be quite capable of making their own decisions over carbon emissions in the 24th century, and I doubt they will feel bound by our opinions on the matter. Anyway, if the last remnants of humanity are going to be eking out a perilous existence on the fringes of the Arctic, it's hard to see how they will also be burning fossil fuels at more than 6 times the current rate :-)

Before blaming the BBC for misrepresenting the research, have a look at the press release (New science shows urgent action needed today on climate change) and the report itself. For a much more realistic look at mitigation strategies, try this recent well-written RealClimate article instead.

[I note in passing that the Tyndall Centre report misrepresents the results, although it doesn't directly affect the results they generated (they only use it to support their claim that things could turn out even worse). Given the misleading manner in which those results themselves were presented, I suppose it's hardly surprising.]

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