Britain’s climate could get cooler over the next 80 years, a major UN report on global warming is to suggest.
4:15PM BST 26 Sep 2013 –
For the first time, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is due to give a clear prediction of how global warming will affect currents in the Atlantic Ocean.
It will say that the circulation of warm and cold water in the Atlantic, which includes the Gulf Stream, will weaken by 20 to 44 per cent by the end of the century.
Scientists claim that such a slow-down in the Gulf Stream will have a big impact on Britain, causing cooling of about 1.8F (1C) and disrupting weather patterns.
The Gulf Stream carries warm water from the equator to the west coast of Britain, making the country’s climate warmer than it otherwise would be.
Scientists warn that the resulting cooling would mask the impacts of global warming on the country, but play havoc with the weather.
The report will say that the warming of the oceans will interfere with the currents in the Atlantic, also known as the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC). It will state: “It is very likely that the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation will weaken over the 21st century. It is likely that there will be some decline in the AMOC by 2050, but there will be some decades when the AMOC increases.”
The report provides a basis for governments to draw up policies aimed at tackling climate change and reducing carbon dioxide emissions.
But tense discussions this week between officials from several governments over the final wording of the report have fallen a long way behind schedule.
Prof Corinne Le Quéré, the director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of East Anglia and one of the report’s authors, said: “The policymakers see the information from quite a different angle as they have to make a relationship with policy.
“They go through it line by line, paragraph by paragraph and suggest changes which the scientists then respond to.”
Delegates stayed up until 3am on Thursday morning as they deliberated over controversial points, such as the current “pause” in the global temperature rise.
Negotiations were expected to drag into the early hours of this morning as officials attempt to finalise the report.
Delegates have agreed the wording of the report’s summary on topics such as historic temperatures, sea level rise and the melting of glaciers. Debate on some sections including “attribution”, the extent to which humans are responsible for global warming, started on Thursday.
At one stage, officials from Britain, the USA, Brazil and other leading powers stepped in to alter the wording of a section addressing the comparatively slow rise in global temperatures over the past 15 years; the so-called warming “pause”.
They demanded that the wording be changed to explain the slowdown and wanted to insert clauses emphasising that global warming has not stopped.
A source at the meeting said the officials had “spent hours trying to make the language as clear as possible”.
Sceptics have pointed at the pause in global temperature increase as a sign that predictions of catastrophic global warming do not reflect the reality.
They have argued that the way the
climate responds to increasing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere is not fully understood, so major decisions by governments should be delayed.
Dr Benny Peiser, the director of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, warned that no previous climate change models had “predicted the warming pause”. He said the “IPCC is a highly political process and it often fails to reflect that the models do not accurately reflect what is going on”.
Lord Stern, who conducted a review into the economics of climate change for the Labour government, said the “kind of temperatures we risk” would “probably involve a recasting of where many people could live”. He said those opposing action on climate change would have to “argue that they are confident that the risks are small, which would be an astonishing statement to make”.