Times Online : Global warming 'cannot be stopped'

Monday, September 04, 2006

Global warming 'cannot be stopped'

By Mark Henderson | September 4, 2006

Our correspondent reports from the British Association for the Advancement of Science's Festival of Science

THE world must be more realistic about the chances of preventing climate change and prepare for the inevitability of global warming, the head of one of Britain’s foremost scientific societies will urge today.

Politicians and environmentalists have failed to understand how difficult it will be to curb global warming and are overlooking the importance of adapting to the hotter world it will bring, according to Frances Cairncross, the President of the British Association for the Advancement of Science.

While measures to cut the greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming are essential, they have been emphasised over and above the equally vital need to develop ways of coping with climate change, Ms Cairncross will say. The “ineffectual” Kyoto Treaty will not stop temperatures rising, as the US and large developing nations such as China and India are not involved, and even if a global agreement to limit carbon dioxide emissions is reached, a significant degree of warming is still likely.

As a result, scientists and governments need to think now about measures, such as better flood defences and wildlife corridors, that will help threatened species to migrate as habitats are lost.

“Adaptation policies have had far less attention than mitigation, and that is a mistake,” Ms Cairncross will say in her presidential address to the association’s Festival of Science in Norwich.

“We need to think about policies that prepare for a hotter, drier world, especially in poorer countries. That may involve, for instance, developing new crops, constructing flood defences, setting different building regulations, or banning building close to sea level.”

Ms Cairncross’s message will be controversial as many environmental groups have discouraged talk of adapting to global warming as an inevitability for fear that it will hand politicians an excuse for fail- ing to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Ms Cairncross, an economist who is also Rector of Exeter College, Oxford, believes, however, that there is no reason why adaptation and mitigation cannot proceed hand-in-hand. “There are some things that we can’t adapt: we can’t relocate the Amazon rainforest or replace bleached coral reefs, but we have to think about adaptation with mitigation,” she said.

# State-educated pupils who get an A grade at maths A level should be rewarded with a cash bounty to share with their teachers, Ms Cairncross will say. The prize, which she suggests should be about £500, would be a valuable incentive that would encourage more bright teenagers to study maths and science, she said.


Wildlife corridors Conservation areas from north to south would allow species to migrate when present habitats become too hot

Coastal defences Decisions must be taken now to strengthen sea walls or manage the inundation of vulnerable stretches of land

Flood plains Building on flood plains should be restricted or banned, to reduce the risk of catastrophic flooding amid more extreme weather and higher sea levels

Building regulations More insulation would save energy in winter, keep buildings cooler in summer. More covered public spaces would provide shade and shelter from storms

New crops Drought and heat-tolerant strains of crops will be needed for a warmer world.