British Scientists Warn that Rising Temperatures Will Bring Greater Disasters

Climate scientists at Bristol University in Britain warn that rising global temperatures will increase the risk of forest fires, droughts, and flooding over the next two centuries. Even if the carbon emissions that drive global warming were cut now, many parts of the world would still face a greater risk of natural disasters.

The researchers gathered results from 52 computer simulations to calculate the risks from climate-induced changes to the world's key ecosystems. The results were grouped according to the degree of warming: less than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit); 2-3C (3.6F-5.4F); and more than 3C (5.4F).

Marko Scholze at the Department of Earth Sciences was the lead author of a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. He said the findings revealed a direct link between rises in global temperature and damage to ecosystems. With rising temperatures, the risks of wildfires, flooding, and reduced freshwater supplies increase steeply and affect increasingly large areas.

Areas that would likely experience the worst forest loss include Eurasia, eastern China, Canada and the Amazon. Areas of western Africa, southern Europe and the eastern United States are most at risk from dwindling freshwater supplies and droughts. Any temperature increase of more than 3C (5.4F) could result in land “carbon sinks” releasing stored carbon into the atmosphere, accelerating global warming.

“'More Disasters' for Warmer World,” BBC News Online, 14 August 2006.