Average global temperatures could rise by 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit by 2060, according to a new report from the United Kingdom's Met Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research. The startling new predictions come after a major letdown on climate progress at last week's G20 meeting, and as hopes fade that world leaders will make significant headway on a new international agreement this year.
Their report, conducted on behalf of the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change, found that they could see a 10 degree or greater rise in temperatures in some regions, which would cause droughts in some areas, flooding in others, sea level rises, and ecosystem system collapse. The Arctic could be up to 15.2 degrees warmer if we continue on our current high-emissions path, which would be "enhanced by melting of snow and ice causing more of the Sun’s radiation to be absorbed."
Land areas could warm by 7 degrees or more, with the highest in western and souther Africa, where average temperatures could increase by 10 degrees. Rainfall is expected to decrease by 20 percent or more in some regions, with the largest decreases expected in western and southern Africa, Central America, the Mediterranean and parts of coastal Australia. It is expected to increase by 20 percent or more in other areas, like India, which would increase flood risks.
"Together these impacts will have very large consequences for food security, water availability and health," said Richard Betts, head of climate impacts at the Hadley Centre, in a statement. "However, it is possible to avoid these dangerous levels of temperature rise by cutting greenhouse gas emissions. If global emissions peak within the next decade and then decrease rapidly it may be possible to avoid at least half of the four degrees of warming."
The paper was presented at the "4 Degrees and Beyond" conference at Oxford University, which looked at the consequences of a level of warming that far exceeds previous estimates. Meanwhile, world leaders only recently consented to a goal of limiting warming to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius). But as this study indicates, the world is already well on its way to far greater increases.
This report is even more dire than another study released last week that analyzes a recent report from the United Nations Environment Program. The analysis, conducted by Robert Corell, chair of the Climate Action Initiative, and climate researchers at the Sustainability Institute, Ventana Systems and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, projects a 6.3 degree Fahrenheit temperature increase by the end of the century—even if countries followed through on the most aggressive emissions reductions proposals. If countries continue to emit at current levels, the world would warm by an average of 8.13 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100.
The predictions do vary, but what is clear is that both indicate that the planet is getting hotter than expected, and it's doing it a lot faster than previously anticipated. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Report in 2007 estimated warming of between 3.1 and 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century in their most likely scenario.