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Flooding and storms in UK are clear signs of climate change, says Lord Stern

 
Flooding in Somerset, U.K.

Flooded houses in the village of Moorland on the Somerset Levels. Writing in the Guardian, Lord Stern says failure to cut emissions will result in ‘even more devastating consequences’. Photograph: Matt Cardy/Getty Images

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Flooding and storms in UK are clear signs of climate change, says Lord Stern” was written by Conal Urquhart, for theguardian.com on Thursday 13th February 2014 20.29 UTC

The devastating floods and storms sweeping Britain are clear indications of the dangers of climate change, according to Lord Stern, the author of a 2006 report on the economics of climate change.

Writing in the Guardian, the crossbench peer said the flooding and storm damage demonstrate the need for Britain and the rest of the world to continue to implement low-carbon policies to reduce the probability of greater tragedies in the future.

He said the five wettest years and the seven warmest years in the UK have happened since 2000, which is explained by a clear body of evidence showing that a warmer atmosphere contains more water and causes more intense rainfall. When this is combined with higher sea levels in the English Channel, the risk of flooding increases.

Recent UK weather is part of an international pattern of extreme weather which proves the dangers of climate change and the need to cut carbon emissions, Stern said.

“If we do not cut emissions, we face even more devastating consequences, as unchecked they could raise global average temperature to 4C or more above pre-industrial levels by the end of the century.

“The shift to such a world could cause mass migrations of hundreds of millions of people away from the worst-affected areas. That would lead to conflict and war, not peace and prosperity.”

Stern, chair of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics, noted that Australia has just had its hottest year on record, Argentina one of its worst heatwaves in late December, while parts of Brazil were struck by floods and landslides following record rainfall.

He said that delay is dangerous: “Inaction could be justified only if we could have great confidence that the risks posed by climate change are small. But that is not what 200 years of climate science is telling us. The risks are huge.”

Britain must continue to implement the 2008 Climate Change Act, he said. This commits the UK to cut its emissions by at least 80% by 2050.

Stern said that the risks were greater than he anticipated in his 2006 report for the government. “Since then, annual greenhouse gas emissions have increased steeply and some of the impacts, such as the decline of Arctic sea ice, have started to happen much more quickly.

“We also underestimated the potential importance of strong feedbacks, such as the thawing of the permafrost to release methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, as well as tipping points beyond which some changes in the climate may become effectively irreversible.”

 

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