LONDON, UK, November 19, 2009 (ENS) – The latest European climate research shows that human emissions of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide will need to be reduced close to zero by the end of this century if a rise in the planet’s mean global temperature beyond 2°Celsius is to be avoided.

A temperature rise of no more than 2°C is widely acknowledged as the “safe limit” that must be achieved to avoid the most dangerous consequences of climate change.

In the first study of its kind, scientists developed a new climate mitigation scenario constructed using the same principles that will be adopted by the next assessment review by the Intergovernmental Panal on Climate Change due out in 2014. It uses concentrations of greenhouse gases and other climate forcings as a starting point.

One year after the 2007 wildfires swept Greece’s Peloponnese peninsula, the land was still dry. (Photo by Ralf Becker)

Modellers were able to establish what level of emissions would need to be achieved to restrict global temperature rise to a “safe” level.

These findings were revealed at a symposium, “Ensembles – A changing climate in Europe” at the Met Office in Exeter that concludes today.

The study is the culmination of five years of research from 66 institutes across Europe, led by the UK’s Met Office Hadley Centre and funded by the European Commission – the largest ever integrated climate change research project.

John Mitchell, director of climate science at the Met Office and Ensembles co-ordinator, said, “This latest research emphasizes the necessity to make drastic cuts in emissions as quickly and as soon as possible if we are to avoid dangerous climate change.”

He said the findings highlight “the importance of the negotiations that will take place in Copenhagen in December.”

Ensembles research gives probable temperature increases for 32 European capital cities in the period 2012-2035 derived from an ensemble of 16 computer simulations.

They show that the summer temperature in London is projected to increase by 1.4°Celsius (2.5°F) by 2035.

The northern European countries are projected to have summer temperature increases of around 1°Celsius by 2035, and the central European countries would see increases of around 1.5°Celsius, while in the south, Rome is projected to see a 2°Celsius rise in summer temperature.

The Ensembles research also yielded a prediction system giving the first climate projections of temperature and rainfall changes for Europe over the coming century.

The Ensembles project also predicts the effect of an average 2°Celsius temperature rise in Europe over the next century on sectors such as agriculture, health, energy, water resources and insurance.

An increase in extreme winter wind storms over northwestern Europe can be expected, researchers state, particularly in the United Kingdom.

Rough seas at Tynemouth, England. Increasingly extreme winter storms are projected for the UK. (Photo by Ian Britton courntesy FreeFoto.com)

Heat stress in Greece throughout the century, and increased water scarcity in Italy’s Tiber River and Poland’s Vistula River are also projected.

Starting in 2010, Portugal and Denmark can expect a 20 to 40 percent probability of increased nitrogen leaching and a 20 to 40 percent yield decline in crops as a result.

Scandinavian countries can expect an increase from 20 to 35 days per year of fire risk by 2050 and an increase of bark beetle infestations with damage and loss of forests, the research shows.

By 2060, Poland will experience a decrease in yields of wheat and potato crops due to a decrease in water available for agriculture.

The climate models project a 15 percent increase in storm loss potential for properties in the UK, Ireland, France, Germany, Benelux, Spain in the time period 2071 to 2100.

This research is enabling a clearer picture of the physical, chemical, biological and human-related feedbacks in the climate system and how to represent them in models that will increase certainty in climate predictions, the climate scientists said.

“All of these results have relevance to decisions that need to be taken by policymakers now,” they said.

Ensemble scientists also have developed the first high resolution climate observation datasets for Europe that can be used to validate ensemble predictions.

UK Minister for Rural Affairs and Environment Dan Norris said the research shows that “not only do we need to tackle the causes of climate change but also that we must deal with the consequences.”

Norris said the research findings and symposium reinforce “the leadership role that the UK and other member states are playing in international climate science and policy.”

“It’s a chance to take stock,” Norris said, “to discuss the science that has been developed, advances made, and to look at the priorities and the next set of questions we need to address.”

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2009. All rights reserved.