Animated map brings global climate crisis to life

LONDON Mon May 19, 2008 11:01am EDT

A man at the LG/Phillips booth tries out a 52'' touch screen displaying Google Earth at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nevada January 8, 2008. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

A man at the LG/Phillips booth tries out a 52'' touch screen displaying Google Earth at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nevada January 8, 2008.

Credit: Reuters/Rick Wilking

LONDON (Reuters) - A new animated map of the earth from space illustrates the potential impact of climate change over the next century and can be viewed on your computer.

The project, Climate Change in Our World, is the result of cooperation between web search engine Google, Britain's environment ministry and the country's Met Office.

Based on Google Earth which uses NASA satellite images, viewers can run a time lapse series to watch the earth warm under medium case scenarios up to 2100 either from a planetary perspective or zeroing in on countries and even cities.

"This project shows people the reality of climate change using estimates of both the change in the average temperature where they live, and the impact it will have on people's lives all over the world," said environment secretary Hilary Benn.

"By helping people to understand what climate change means for them and for the world we can mobilize the commitment we need to avoid the worst effects by taking action now."

Leaders of the major world economies tentatively agreed last year that carbon emissions should be cut by half by 2050 from 1990 levels. But there is now a stand-off between rich and poor nations over who should make the first move.

The Google map shows the world heating as the years advance, with some of the greatest temperature increases at the ice-bound poles where vast areas turn red indicating rises well into double digits.

The map also offers specific information on local impacts and actions people can and in some cases already are taking.

Scientists say global average temperatures will rise by between 1.8 and 4.0 degrees Celsius this century due to carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels for power and transport, causing floods and famines and threatening millions of lives.

But within this global average there will be vast local and regional variations.

"Climate change is arguably one of the biggest issues facing the world today," said Met Office chief John Hirst.

"Merging the Met Office's unparalleled climate science expertise with the exciting technology of Google Earth is a great way of bringing the impacts of a warming world to life."

See the new animated map at snipurl.com/29lkd

(Reporting by Jeremy Lovell; editing by Keith Weir)

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