Humans are warming the climate and the impacts are already being felt across the world – spring is occurring earlier, coasts are being eroded by higher sea level and people’s health is being affected by summer heatwaves.
So concludes the latest UN climate change report from the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) which was released Friday 6th April in Brussels.
Of the future the report predicts serious impacts on water resources, food supply, ecosystems and on people’s health. The report says almost a third of plant and animal species could be at increased risk of extinction if global temperatures rise by more than around 2 degrees C. More summer heatwaves are a serious risk for Europe.
Professor Julia Slingo, Acting Director of the Walker Institute, said: “The report highlights the very serious impacts of climate change and emphasises that a combination of both adaptation and mitigation will be vital to address the problem."
“To adapt adequately to climate change, governments and businesses now require more confident forecasts of local and regional changes in climate and extremes, not just for 2050, but for 2010 or 2015. Improving predictions of regional climate change and linking that information to models of food production and water resources are key aims of the Walker Institute.”
Dr Tim Wheeler, from the University’s Department of Agriculture and a reviewer of the Report said: “The report concludes that in Northern Europe warming could be pretty favourable for crop production. However, in the Mediterranean and in many drier parts of the sub-tropics, decreasing rainfall is the dominant factor and will mean increased reliance on irrigation to produce crops, with conflicts between water use for humans, crops and industry.
“Where we may get problems across the whole of Europe is with hot summers like 2003 and that's particularly drastic for crops. Hot and dry summers like 2003 are likely to get more frequent."
The impacts of climate extremes and hazardous weather on the insurance industry are the focus of the Walker Institute's involvement with the Willis Research Network. The network was established last September by Willis, the global insurance broker, to better quantify the frequency, severity and costs of future catastrophes world-wide.
Matthew Foote, Research Director, Willis Research Network, commented:"It is important for the insurance industry to be able to understand and quantify the potential impacts of climate change. There is still a need for more detailed and localised information about how extreme events and hazardous weather might change in the future - over the next year, decade and beyond. By working with the Walker Institute and others in the Willis Research Network we can improve fundamental scientific understanding to aid risk assessment."
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