Science - September 16, 2004

Stricter climate policy needed

If we are to keep the effects of climate change under control, global temperatures must not rise by more than two degrees Celsius. This will require an emissions reduction of sixty to eighty percent by 2100.

Dutch climate researchers presented a report with these conclusions to the president of the House of Representatives Frans Weisglas this Thursday.

Climate researchers at Alterra, the Environmental Economics group, the meteorological office KNMI and a research bureau in Delft, have gathered together the most recent figures on climate at the request of the Dutch parliament. Although this was also done in 1996, according to Dr Ronald Hutjes of Alterra there were gaps in the data then. ‘The conclusions are now much more certain.’

The researchers agree that climate change is caused by human action. The global temperature has risen by 0.6 degrees since 1996, which has led to a rise in the sea level of between ten and twenty centimetres. If no action is undertaken, the temperature will continue to rise by as much as 5.8 degrees Celsius until 2100. Greenhouse emissions are also worrying. There has been an eight percent rise in carbon dioxide emissions since 1990, and concentrations have not been as high as they are now for 420,000 years.

According to the researchers, the climate changes are clearly reflected in changed weather patterns, rising sea levels, melting glaciers and ice caps and shifts in areas occupied by different plants and animals. If the effects are to be contained, temperatures must not rise by more than two degrees Celsius, but even such a small change will require a reduction in emissions of sixty to eighty percent by 2100. Hutjes admits that this is an enormous amount: ‘And even this will not totally prevent climate changes from taking place.’ / MW

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