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Climate Change

Volume 706: debated on Wednesday 14 January 2009

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what are the recent developments in climate science and in the analysis of potential impacts referred to in part 1 of the First Report of the Committee on Climate Change. [HL373]

The recent developments in climate science and in the analysis of potential impacts referred to in the First Report of the Committee on Climate Change are advances in these fields that have been made since the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution recommended that the UK should reduce CO2 emissions by 60 per cent by 2050 in its report published in 2000.

These advances are summarised in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's Fourth Assessment Report (which summarises scientific research in these areas published or in press up until 2006) or, in the case of more recent material, published in peer-reviewed academic journals. The specific developments are outlined on page 9 of the report, and include advances such as:

work on the carbon cycle has highlighted the danger that global warming will reduce the rate of absorption of atmospheric CO2 by terrestrial carbon sinks, indicating that for any given level of manmade emissions there will be a higher long-term increase in CO2 concentrations and hence temperatures;

increasingly, models have estimated the warming caused by all greenhouse gases, including non-CO2 gases;

research has shown that atmospheric pollution is likely to have masked about 0.3°C to 0.5°C of the greenhouse gas-induced warming that would otherwise have occurred this century;

the reduction in summer Arctic sea ice extent in recent years has been at the high end of model predictions and the summer melt of the Greenland ice sheet has accelerated; and

there have been advances in our understanding of the range of potential climate change impacts, their regional variation and the possibility of abrupt or irreversible changes. For example, there is new and stronger evidence of observed impacts of climate change on unique and vulnerable systems, with increasing levels of adverse impacts as temperatures increase.