LONDON The world will probably exceed a global
warming limit which the European Union calls dangerous,
scientists at Britain's MetOffice Hadley Centre said on
Tuesday, presenting a new, 5-year research program.
But not all scientists agree, demonstrating a shift in
debate from whether climate change is happening -- on which
where there is near consensus -- to how bad it will get and
what to do about it.
European Union (EU) leaders reiterated in March "the vital
importance" of restricting global warming to no more than 2
degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
That goal is the basis for a raft of EU climate measures to
cut emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases. MetOffice
researchers doubted it was achievable.
"I think it's well accepted that 2 degrees is likely to be
exceeded," said Vicky Pope, manager of the MetOffice Hadley
Centre's climate change research program.
"We need much more accurate, detailed information about how
climate change will happen in the future," she added.
Some scientists are optimistic about the EU target.
"This ambitious goal is not only scientifically justified
but also both economically and ethical imperative," the
Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research,
Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, told an EU Parliament hearing on
Dangerous global warming includes irreversible changes, for
example runaway melting of the polar ice caps, which is
expected to start above around 2 degrees warming.
"If we still cut emissions we have the chance to avoid
exceeding 2 degrees," said Malte Meinshausen, a Potsdam
Institute researcher, adding that the MetOffice estimate was as
valid as other studies but suggested a slightly higher risk
Largely thanks to man-made greenhouse gas emissions,
temperatures worldwide rose some 0.7 degrees last century, and
another 0.6 degrees is locked in as the world's oceans catch up
with quicker warming over land.
Efforts to cut man-made emissions of planet-warming gases
like carbon dioxide could stem the worst climate effects, and
understanding this better will form one plank of the new
MetOffice research program.
"A lot of work done so far has assumed we don't mitigate,"
In a major report in February, the Intergovernmental Panel
on Climate Change (IPCC) did not take account of climate
protection measures when it estimated between 1.8 and 4 degrees
warming worldwide this century.
The other main focus of the 86 million pound ($173.9
million) research program, funded by ministries for environment
and defense, will be into detailed, regional climate impacts
and assessing the risk of catastrophe.
Evidence has emerged, for example, that the Greenland ice
sheet may be melting faster than expected, with implications
for global sea level rise.
"It's about getting a handle on low probability, high
impact events," said Pope.
For a related table on rising global greenhouse gas
emissions and temperatures click on this number and then on the