Tough call on climate change

January 30th, 2013

Tough limits on global emissions of greenhouse gases could avoid 20 to 65% of the damaging effects of climate change by 2100, according to new research.

Dr Simon Gosling, an expert in climate change impacts in the University’s School of Geography, assessed the effects of climate change on water stress. He said: “This is the first comprehensive assessment to show the benefits that global action on climate change could have across different sectors of society. Essentially, we found that the sooner emissions peak and decline, the greater the benefits are.”

The research, published in Nature Climate Change, looked at a stringent emissions scenario that kept the global temperature rise below 2°C and had greenhouse gas emissions peaking in 2016 and then reducing at five per cent per year to 2050. The 2° target is the focus of international climate negotiations. However, relatively little research has been done to quantify its benefits.

Crop productivity, flooding and energy for cooling would see the greatest benefit from emission reductions, experiencing a reduced global impact of 40 to 65% by 2100 if warming can be limited to 2°. The impact on water availability, however, would only reduce by 20% as even a small amount of warming can alter rainfall patterns.

Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Edward Davey, said: “We can avoid many of the worst impacts of climate change if we work hard together to keep global emissions down. This research helps us quantify the benefits of limiting temperature rise to 2°C and underlines why it’s vital we stick with the UN climate change negotiations and secure a global legally binding deal by 2015.”

The research is part of the AVOID research programme funded by DECC/Defra and led by the Met Office in a consortium with the Walker Institute, Tyndall Centre and Grantham Institute. The research was led by the University of Reading’s Walker Institute in collaboration with the Met Office, University of Southampton, Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, The University of Nottingham, PIK in Potsdam, the University of Aberdeen and the University of East Anglia.

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