(Picture Source: Wikipedia Commons)
Okay, I should really have done something about this a week ago, but, hey, it's been a busy time after coming back from holiday! Besides, the weather since then has sort of borne out some of the predictions which were covered in the Government's latest report on Climate Change (covered in the Guardian , 19/06/09, David Adam). Basically, the forecast for the next 80 years is that it's going to get hot – very hot!
The study was produced by the Met Office, who calculated that the average temperature across the UK could rise by over 2˚C by 2050. By the 2080s, temperatures could reach 41˚C (glad I won't be around then!) There will be regional variations, of course, with summer rainfall in the Southeast of England likely to drop by 19% to 131mm per annum (this is projected on the basis of climate change brought about by medium emissions). There is a 10% probability that it will fall by 41%! In contrast, winter rainfall in Western Scotland is predicted to rise by 15%, whilst there is a 10% probability that it will rise by 29% over the next forty years.
A quick glance at the figures for the UK seem to suggest that we will face hotter summers and milder, wetter winters. The study is based on three possible variables for a carbon future, whereby emissions are either low, medium or high. In the worst case scenario, the Met Office calculates that where emissions are highest, there is a 10 % chance that the average temperature in London could be 5.9˚C higher, whilst in Wales it will be 5.7˚C on current levels. This is if international efforts to curb carbon emissions have little or no effect.
I'm reminded of James Lovelock's warnings in this respect. He stated that it won't make the slightest bit of difference what reductions we bring in, if I rightly recall. Due to the fact that the Gaia System works on positive feedback, the damage has already been done. Besides, it's not just carbon emissions from industry and transport which causes climate change, it's also the amount of carbon produced by the respiratory systems of humans and animals, and at present there is a lot of us on the planet, cultivating animals to eat as food through mass agriculture. I suppose this could potentially derail any attempts to curb carbon emissions (let's hope he's wrong!)
I'm reminded of the information I saw on the interpretational board last week in the Electric Mountain Visitor Centre, regarding the future climate outlook for Snowdonia. Basically, it said higher temperatures, lower snow cover, more intense rain and flooding. Looking at the figures for Wales and the West Mids by 2050 (the general area where the book is set) we're looking at +2.1˚C increase in average temperature (in comparison to the period 1971 to 2000) and a 17% decrease in rainfall. So there will be many hot days, and (I suspect) when it does rain it will bucket down. The worst case scenario is based on the 10% chance that the hottest 24 hours in Wales will be 27.1˚C, whilst summer rainfall could decline by -36%, in the West Mids the hottest 24 hours could be 29.4˚C, summer rainfall decreasing by 37%. Phew, this could be worse than how I envisioned it in the story, but I it seems like I was along the right lines! No wonder the people then could be more impoverished, with frequent drought and famine.
I noticed in George Monbiot's section (Comment, Guardian, 19/06/09), attached to the main article, that he mentioned that "the UK could be a second or third World country by then." He suggested that his could be as a direct result of our current economic malaise. My scenario takes into account the impact of Peak Oil production, so it could be even worse (then again, Dragon Line is a worst case scenario!) What are the likely effects? Declining public health (more heat related deaths; an increase in malaria bearing mosquitoes – though unlikely to be a major threat; increased exposure to UV light), changing agricultural practices, changes in wildlife distributions (including visits by Great White Sharks!!), climate refuges from Southern Europe and beyond (understandably escaping dreadful conditions in their own countries) heading this way and increased flooding. Apparently, it doesn't need the ice caps to melt to cause sea levels to rise. Basic physics – if temperatures rise, water expands, this could cause increased coastal erosion and inundation. The east coast and London could be particularly under threat.
Its an interesting, yet at the same time troubling scenario. Let's hope we change it before its too late (unless, of course, the idea of hotter summers appeals to you!) You can read more of the article and related subjects here: