News story

New assessment shows risks of no action on climate change

The results of a major new scientific assessment of climate change has been published today, highlighting the effects the world could face if…

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

The results of a major new scientific assessment of climate change has been published today, highlighting the effects the world could face if global temperature changes are not limited to two degrees.

The assessment commissioned by The Rt Hon Chris Huhne MP, the UK’s Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, and lead by the Met Office Hadley Centre studied 24 different countries, from developed to developing. It notes that all the countries in the study have warmed since the 1960s and that the occurrence of extremely warm temperatures has increased whilst extremely cold temperatures have become less frequent.

If emissions are left unchecked, the report says temperatures would rise generally between three and five degrees Celsius this century. This could be accompanied by significant changes in rainfall patterns, leading in many cases to increased pressure on crop production, water stress and flood risks.

The Rt Hon Chris Huhne MP said:

“This report highlights some of the very real dangers we face if we don’t limit emissions to combat the rise in global temperature. Life for millions of people could change forever, with water and food supplies being placed in jeopardy and homes and livelihoods under threat. This makes the challenge of reducing emissions ever more urgent.

“The UK wants a legally binding global agreement to keep the global temperature rise below two degrees. If this is achieved this study shows that some of the most significant impacts of climate change could be reduced significantly. By the end of this week we need to see progress to move towards this goal.”

Richard Jones, Manager of Regional Climate Change Research at the Met Office Hadley Centre said:

“Projections of climate change impacts often fall in a wide range which can include both beneficial and detrimental outcomes. This study has begun the important work of applying a globally consistent approach to assess the impacts of climate change at the national level.

Key findings:

  • All countries studied show an increase in the number of people at risk from coastal flooding due to sea level rise. By the end of the century, in the worst case scenario, up to about 49 million additional people could be at risk, with the majority being in Bangladesh, China, India, Egypt and Indonesia;
  • The majority of countries studied are projected to see a significant increased risk of river flooding;
  • The production of staple food crops may decline in parts of Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Egypt, India, Russia, Turkey, and the USA. In some cases, crop yield increases may be expected for example in Germany and Japan. Food security is highlighted as a growing risk before 2040 in Bangladesh and India;
  • Water resources are threatened by drought and growing demand. Areas highlighted as likely to suffer increased water stress include parts of Italy, France and the southwest USA. In some cases however, water stress may decline in some regions.

Notes to editors:

  1. The reports can be viewed on the Met Office website.
  2. The reports have been published at a Met Office event: 3.30pm - 5.30pm in the EU Pavilion at the UNFCCC Climate Change Conference (COP17) taking place in Durban, South Africa.
  3. The project was led by the Met Office Hadley Centre, co-ordinating the work of a number of institutions across the UK including: University of Nottingham, Walker Institute, Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, University of Leeds and the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research.
  4. The reports consider how climate has been changing and what effect this has had and assess future impacts of climate change across 24 major economies including both developed and developing nations. The countries covered in the project are: Argentina, Australia, Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, China, Egypt, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Peru, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Republic of Korea, Spain, Turkey, UK and USA. The Canadian report was not completed in time for publication at Durban.
  5. This study does not claim to be global in coverage. It has used a consistent methodology across countries to allow for greater comparability in the assessment of the impacts of climate change.
  6. The project can be seen as a ‘pilot’ for future work on country level impacts assessments, which might cover a wider range of impacts and data and include many more countries.
Published 5 December 2011