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Map: impacts if we fail to limit climate change

[Link: 4-degrees-large-map-final (flash)]

Climate map shows impacts if we fail to limit dangerous climate change

A new map illustrating the global consequences of failing to keep climate change to under 2 degrees Celsius was launched today by the UK Government. With just 45 days to go before international climate change talks begin in Copenhagen, British ministers are pressing for the most ambitious deal possible in order to avoid these dangerous impacts.

The map – launched at the Science Museum by Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, Climate and Energy Secretary Ed Miliband, along with the UK‟s Chief Scientist, Professor John Beddington, was developed using the latest peer-reviewed science from the Met Office Hadley Centre and other leading impact scientists. The poster highlights some of the impacts that may occur if the global average temperature rises by 4 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial climate average.

Ahead of December‟s international climate change talks in Copenhagen, the Government is aiming for an agreement that limits climate change as far as possible to 2 degrees Celsius. Increases of more than 2 degrees will have huge impacts on the world.

The poster shows: that a 4 degree average rise will not be spread uniformly across the globe. The land will heat up more quickly than the sea, and high latitudes, particularly the Arctic, will have larger temperature increases.

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The average land temperature will be 5.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels.

The impacts on human activity shown on the map are only a selection of those that may occur, and highlight the severe effects on water availability, agricultural productivity, extreme temperatures and drought, the risk of forest fire and sea level rise.

Agricultural yields are expected to decrease for all major cereal crops in all major regions of production. Half of all Himalayan glaciers will be significantly reduced by 2050, leading to 23% of the population of China being deprived of the vital dry season glacial melt water source.

The Foreign Secretary, David Miliband said, “We cannot cope with a 4 degree world. This map clearly illustrates the scale of the challenge facing us today - climate change is a truly global problem that needs a global solution and it is a solution we have within our grasp. But to tackle the problem of climate change, all of us - foreign ministries, environment ministries, treasuries, departments of defence and all parts of government and societies - must work together to keep global temperatures to 2 degrees. It is only by doing this that we can minimise the huge security risks presented by a future 4 degree world.”

Ed Miliband, Energy and Climate Change Secretary said, “This map shows that the stakes couldn’t be any higher at the Copenhagen talks in December. Britain’s scientists have helped to illustrate the catastrophic effects that will result if the world fails to limit the global temperature rise to 2 degrees. With less than 50 days left before agreement must be reached, the UK’s going all out to persuade the world of the need to raise its ambitions so we get a deal that protects us from a 4 degree world.

Vicky Pope, Head of Climate Change Advice at the Met Office says: “If emissions continue at the current rate the global average temperature are likely to rise by 4 degrees Celsius by the end of this century or even substantially earlier. The science tells us that this will have severe and widespread impacts in all parts of the world, so we need to take action now to reduce emissions to avoid water and food shortages in the future.”

Prof. Chris Rapley CBE, Director of the Science Museum and Professor of Climate Science at University College London said:

“The map provides graphic evidence of the dramatic transformation of our world that a 4 degree global temperature rise would trigger. It leaves no doubt of the paramount importance of a successful outcome of the Copenhagen negotiations.”

Notes to editors

Further information on the science of the map can be found at www.metoffice.gov.uk/climatechange/guide/effects/

The online version of the 4 degree world map provides an interactive web tool which allows the user to focus on certain impacts, geographies and access more information about the science behind the map. The map is available to be embedded on any website and the embed code can be accessed at www.actoncopenhagen.decc.gov.uk/4degrees from 22nd October.

The map was launched at the Science Museum alongside the unveiling of its latest exhibit, „Prove It! All the evidence you need to believe in climate change‟. Further information: www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/proveit

Background to the +4 degree C temperature rise impact poster.

This poster highlights some of the human impacts that may occur if the global average-temperature rises by 4 degree

C above the pre-industrial climate average.

Map projection

The map projection was generated using Met Office Hadley Centre‟s HadCM3 QUMP ensemble model runs, for the A1B and A1FI Scenarios for all the models that showed a global average temperature rise of +4 degree C before the end of the century . There were 23 runs in total, and these were averaged at the point they each reached a +4 degree C rise. This projection does not therefore represent a particular point in time, as each model reached +4 degree C at a different time.

Things to note include the higher temperatures over land compared to the sea, and the extreme temperatures increases in the Arctic.


The impacts featured in this poster are not an exhaustive list. A selection of impacts was chosen to cover the major headline themes, (water, food, etc.), but not every impact across the globe is covered. The selection of the results was also chosen to reflect some of the research that is going on across the UK since IPCC, and work that has looked in particular at what high-end climate change would mean.

The poster focuses on human impacts. Impacts on ecosystems and biodiversity have been deliberately excluded. The only exception is the information about Amazon die-back, which is there because it also represents a significant economic loss to the region.

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