Prepare For 4 Degree Celsius Rise in Temperature, Top UK Government Scientist Warns

flooding in oxfordshire UK photo

photo by dachalan via flickr

In a very much armchair-psychology survey, I'd like to present two quotes from a recent article in The Guardian on climate change and then ask for readers to respond. The quotes are about preparing for a 4 degree temperature rise due to global warming.

A Reminder: A 4 Degree Temperature Rise Will Be Globally Catastrophic
What will we have to prepare for? Coastal flooding will more greatly affect 7-300 million people annually. Water availability in Southern Africa and the Mediterranean would be 30-50% less than it currently is. African agricultural yields will decline 15-35%. Somewhere between 20-50% of animal and plant species could have extinction. The biggest impact in the UK would be from rising sea levels and increased inland flooding, with rainfall increasing in the winter and summers being drier.

Here are the quotes:

2 Degrees an 'Ambitious Target'
Prof. Bob Watson, chief scientific advisor for the UK Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs:

There is no doubt that we should aim to limit changes in the global mean surface temperature to 2C above pre-industrial [levels], but given this is an ambitious target, and we don’t know in details how to limit greenhouse gas emissions to realise a 2 degree target, we should be prepared to adapt to 4C.

A Defeatist Attitude?
In the original article, one climate change researcher, Prof Neil Adger says that it could ultimately be dangerous to plan for such a temperature increase:

At 4 degrees we are basically into a different climate regime. I think that is a dangerous mindset to be in. Thinking through the implications of 4 degrees of warming shows that the impacts are so significant that the only real adaptation strategy is to avoid that at all cost because of the pain and suffering that is going to cost.

There is no science on how we are going to adapt to 4 degrees warming. It is actually pretty alarming.

Or Simply Realist?
Given the catastrophic stakes admitted to by both sides, is it really a defeatist attitude, a dangerous attitude, to really be planning for a worst case scenario?

Would you truly be less likely to make changes in your lifestyle today towards reducing carbon emissions if you thought we weren’t going to be able to avoid the sort of catastrophic changes that a 4 degree temperature rise would require?

To me that would be the more defeatist approach, but what do readers think?

via :: The Guardian
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