How much flooding is in the UK’s future? A look at the IPCC report

  • 02 Apr 2014, 13:00
  • Roz Pidcock

From posing a threat to natural ecosystems to damaging business, property and livelihoods, a report out this week from the UN's official climate body reviews the wide-ranging damages extreme flooding can cause.

With the UK currently dealing with the impact of widespread flooding, we look at what the report has to say about how serious a risk it could be in the future as the climate changes further.

Getting wetter

Last September, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a bumper assessment of how and why the climate is changing, including projections for how everything from rainfall to arctic sea ice is likely to change in the coming decades.

Scientists expect a warming world to lead to more extreme rainfall. The image below shows the UK receiving about 10 per cent more rainfall on average per year by 2100 (right) compared to 1986-2005 (left).


The UK is set to see about a 10 per cent rise in annual average rainfall by 2100 (right) compared to the period 1985-2005 (left). Source: IPCC 5th Assessment Report  Sumary for Policymakers (p20).

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Daily Briefing | Accusations of 'false balance' in climate change reporting

  • 02 Apr 2014, 09:15
  • Carbon Brief staff

Credit: Roland Unger

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Government accuses BBC of creating 'false balance' on climate change with unqualified sceptics 
A new parliamentary report has criticised programmes across the BBC of attributing the same weight to opinions and scientific fact when covering climate science. The Science and Technology Committee said it was "disappointing" that the broadcaster does not "reflect the actual state of climate science in its output."  The Financial Times has the story and an Independent editorial lends strong support to the committee's conclusions. "Ministers who question the majority view among scientists should "shut up" and instead repeat the Government line on the issue", is the Times's take on the report's findings. The BBC has responded by saying, "We don't believe in erasing wider viewpoints even if the select committee doesn't agree with them." The Today Programme featured a discussion between chair of the cross-party committee Andrew Miller and BBC director of editorial policy David Jordan (listen from 8:35am). 
The Independent 

Climate and energy news:

Lib Dems 'block Conservative plan to halt new wind farms' 
Nick Clegg has blocked a proposal by David Cameron to restrict the construction of onshore windfarms. The Prime MInister is coming under increasing pressure from some within his party to make a manifesto commitment on wind energy, through a cap on the onshore turbines' output, lower subsidies or tighter planning restrictions, reports Rowena Mason for The Guardian. But capping the number of onshore wind turbines would mean resorting to more expensive alternatives, says the Guardian's Damian Carrington. The BBC's Today Programme featured a short discussion on the Tory party stance on renewable energy ahead of the 2015 general election. 
BBC News 

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BBC climate coverage singled out for criticism by cross-party parliamentary committee

  • 02 Apr 2014, 00:00
  • Ros Donald

The government, the media - particularly the BBC-  must up their game in communicating the science of climate change to the public. That's the conclusion of a report by a Parliamentary select committee, out today. 

Detrimental to trust

"A lack of clear, consistent messages on the science has a detrimental impact on the public's trust in climate science."

So says the cross-party Science and Technology Committee's report, 'Communicating climate science', compiled following evidence sessions with a range of experts and representatives of government and the media.  It calls on the government to implement a strategy for communicating climate change "as a matter of urgency" and has harsh words for media outlets that it says have been guilty of confusing scientific evidence with opinion. 

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Calculating damages: How much will climate change cost?

  • 01 Apr 2014, 16:30
  • Roz Pidcock & Mat Hope

Today's Financial Times features professor Richard Tol's take on what a new UN report says about how much climate change could cost the world. But examining the report's summary reveals a list of reasons why the IPCC believes the costs are likely to be a lot higher.

With the launch of the latest IPCC report, a fair amount of attention has focused on what it says about how much climate change could cost in terms of GDP as temperatures rise.

In part, that's because a lead author of the economics chapter became quite vocal in his opinion that the IPCC's Summary for Policymakers (SPM) is too "alarmist".

In interviews for BBC and Sky News yesterday, Richard Tol - an economics professor at Sussex University - argued the SPM takes too much of a "four horseman of the apocalypse" tone.

Today, Tol has an  opinion piece in the Financial Times, headlined "Bogus prophecies of doom will not fix the climate".

Tol's take is that while climate change requires a response, reducing emissions has been over-prioritised. To make his case, he refers to a figure from the IPCC report for the cost of two degrees warming:

"According to Monday's report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a further warming of two degrees could cause losses equivalent to 0.2 to two per cent of world gross domestic product."

In other words, Tol says,

"[H]alf a century of climate change is about as bad as losing one year of economic growth."

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Trees at risk, poverty pockets and the risk of tipping: five hidden stories about the impacts of climate change

  • 01 Apr 2014, 12:00
  • Robin Webster

The UN's much anticipated landmark report into the future impacts of climate change was finally  launched yesterday - covering everything from  fisheries to flooding. We've dug out five hidden stories you may have missed. 

Hundreds of scientists have collated all the available research investigating climate change's effect on natural systems and human societies around the world and put them together in a  summary report. Food prices will rise, security risks increase and the weather will get more extreme, the report  predicts. But not all the stories have made it onto the front pages

1. Don't be a tree   

A large fraction of both land-based and freshwater species face extinction risks as a result of temperature rise this century, according to yesterday's report - especially as climate change interacts with other stresses like  habitat destruction or over-exploitation, pollution and invasive species. 

The survival of many plant and animal species is already under  threat as a result of human activity. 

Only a few species have gone extinct so far as a result of the changing climate, the IPCC says - but as temperatures rise, this could soon change. 

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‘Climate change poses risks for human and natural systems’: Key quotes from the IPCC’s Working Group 2 report

  • 01 Apr 2014, 11:55
  • Roz Pidcock & Mat Hope

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a big report on the impacts of climate change yesterday. The report looked at everything from how climate change puts species and societies at risk, to what rising emissions may mean for marine life and extreme weather events.

We pick out some key quotes from the IPCC's Working Group 2 Summary for Policymakers.

Impacts of climate change

"Human interference with the climate system is occurring, and climate change poses risks for human and natural systems"

"In recent decades, changes in climate have caused impacts on natural and human systems on all continents and across the oceans."

"Some risks of climate change are considerable at 1 or 2°C above preindustrial level. Global climate change risks are high to very high with global mean temperature increase of 4°C or more ... and include severe and widespread impacts on unique and threatened systems, substantial species extinction, large risks to global and regional food security"

"Climate-change impacts are expected to exacerbate poverty in most developing countries and create new poverty pockets in countries with increasing inequality, in both developed and developing countries."

Food production & security

"All aspects of food security are potentially affected by climate change, including food access, utilization, and price stability (high confidence)."

"Based on many studies covering a wide range of regions and crops, negative impacts of climate change on crop yields have been more common than positive impacts (high confidence)."

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Daily Briefing | Reflecting on the impacts of climate change

  • 01 Apr 2014, 09:45
  • Carbon Brief staff

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Climate catastrophes in other countries will hit UK's food security, experts say 
Consultancy PWC says with nearly 40% of all UK food imported to feed a population of about 63m and overseas assets worth trillions of dollars, the UK is particularly exposed to climate change. Britain is also vulnerable because its population is expected to add more than 10m people in the next 40 years, it says. The comments come in response to the IPCC"s latest big climate report, released yesterday.

Climate and energy news:

UK seen saving 1 bln pounds/year if imports more European power 
The UK could save around £1 billion a year by importing more electricity from the continent, grid operator National Grid claims. Doing so would involve improving interconnectors which allow the UK to get electricity from mainland Europe quickly and efficiently, it says. Britain now has around 4 gigawatts of capacity available on interconnectors, cables that allow electricity to flow between countries, with France, Ireland, the Netherlands and Northern Ireland. Doubling this figure by 2020 could help bring down energy costs, a report by National Grid says. 

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The IPCC's report on the impacts of climate change: a summary for everyone

  • 31 Mar 2014, 13:30
  • Ros Donald

Peter Blanchard/Flickr

Today an international group of hundreds of  climate scientists released a report on how climate change will affect the world, and what might be done to adapt to it.

The story so far

The report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the second of three reports. It updates the panel's last bumper report, released in 2007.

Scientists know that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, meaning it traps heat in the atmosphere and oceans.

Over time, scientists have come to understand more about how gases like carbon dioxide, emitted when people burn fossil fuels like oil and gas, affect the climate.  

The first instalment of the IPCC's report, released last September, says scientists are more sure than ever - 95 per cent certain - that humans are causing extra warming. And as a result, oceans, land and atmosphere are getting warmer, snow and ice is melting and sea levels are rising.

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Lunchtime roundup: UK media coverage of the IPCC’s Working Group 2 report

  • 31 Mar 2014, 12:45
  • Mat Hope & Robin Webster

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a report on the impacts of climate change today. Cue something of a media frenzy.

Fortunately, we've read the key coverage so you don't have to.


Easy reads

The IPCC's authors have just spent a week finalising the language on a summary of the report, known as the Summary for Policymakers. If you're looking for an easy summary, here's a few to choose from:

  • We've done a summary for everyone, as well as going through and picking out the key  messages along with   three intriguing charts: looking at the overall impacts, species endangerment, and climate change's effect on crops.
  • The  Guardian summarises five key points from the report: Looking at food threats, human security, economic inequality, temperature changes, and what the IPCC recommends we do about it.
  • Greenpeace's EnergyDesk  has been through and pulled the key quotes from the summary.
  • The  Telegraph bullet points the key regional impacts, looking at the challenges posed by climate change, and adaptation options identified in the report.

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Big impacts: The main messages from today’s big UN climate report

  • 31 Mar 2014, 12:30
  • Roz Pidcock

A landmark new report on climate change came out earlier today, looking at the impact of past and future warming on ecosystems and human society. Here's our rundown of the report's main messages, on everything from fisheries to flooding.

We're already feeling the impacts of climate change

That the planet is warming is not in doubt. Global temperature has risen by  0.85 degrees  over the industrial period (1880 to date). We're already seeing the impacts of this amount of warming over much of the land and oceans.

The Summary for Policymakers ( SPM) says some risks of climate change are considerable at 1 or 2°C above preindustrial levels and that further warming will "increase the likelihood of severe, pervasive, and irreversible impacts."

Greater confidence in the extent and pace of climate change since the last assessment report comes from having more data and new ways of analysing earlier measurements.

Our weather will get more extreme

Climate change is already leading to more hot days and nights and fewer cold days and nights. Heatwaves have become more common and more intense in the last half century.

In general, wet places are set to get wetter, and dry places to get drier. Some parts of the world are already seeing more frequent and more serious drought, leading to a reduction in water availability.

In other regions, changing rainfall patterns and melting glaciers are altering river flow, causing a rise in flooding. The SPM says:

"The fraction of global population experiencing water scarcity and the fraction affected by major river floods increase with the level of warming in the 21st century."

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