Support us | Visit us | Contact us
24 November 2009
The UK is at the forefront of tackling dangerous climate change, underpinned by world class scientific expertise and advice. Crucial decisions will be taken soon in Copenhagen about limiting and reducing the impacts of climate change now and in the future. Climate scientists from the UK and across the world are in overwhelming agreement about the evidence of climate change, driven by the human input of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
As three of the UK’s leading scientific organisations involving most of the UK scientists working on climate change, we cannot emphasise enough the body of scientific evidence that underpins the call for action now, and we reinforce our commitment to ensuring that world leaders continue to have access to the best possible science. We believe this will be essential to inform sound decision-making on policies to mitigate and adapt to climate change up to Copenhagen and beyond.
The 2007 Assessment Report of the UN’s climate change panel (the IPCC) – made up of the world’s foremost climate scientists – provided unequivocal evidence for a warming climate, and a high degree of certainty that human activities are largely responsible for global warming since the middle of the 20th century. However, the IPCC process is based only on information already published and even since the last Assessment Report the scientific evidence for dangerous, long-term and potentially irreversible climate change has strengthened significantly:
We expect some of the most significant impacts of climate change to occur when natural variability is exacerbated by long-term global warming, so that even small changes in global temperatures can produce damaging local and regional effects. Year on year the evidence is growing that damaging climate and weather events - potentially intensified by global warming - are already happening and beginning to affect society and ecosystems. This includes:
These emerging signals are consistent with what we expect from our projections, giving us confidence in the science and models that underpin them. In the absence of action to mitigate climate change, we can expect much larger changes in the coming decades than have been seen so far.
Some countries and regions are already vulnerable to climate variability and change, but in the coming decades all countries will be affected, regardless of their affluence or individual emissions. Climate change will have major consequences for food production, water availability, ecosystems and human health, migration pressures, and regional instability. In the UK, we will be affected both directly and indirectly, through the effects of climate change on, for example, global markets (notably in food), health, extent of flooding, and sea levels.
The accumulation of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will lead to long-term changes in the climate system that will persist for millennia. Our growing understanding of the balance of carbon between the atmosphere, oceans and terrestrial systems tells us that the greater the accumulation of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the greater the risk of long-term damage to Earth’s life support systems. Known or probable damage includes ocean acidification, loss of rain forests, degradation of ecosystems, and desertification. These effects will lead to loss of biodiversity and reduced agricultural productivity. Reducing emissions of greenhouse gases can substantially limit the extent and severity of long-term climate change.
The 2007 IPCC Assessment, the most comprehensive and respected analysis of climate change to date, states clearly that without substantial global reductions of greenhouse gas emissions we can likely expect a world of increasing droughts, floods and species loss, of rising seas and displaced human populations. However even since the 2007 IPCC Assessment the evidence for dangerous, long-term and potentially irreversible climate change has strengthened. The scientific evidence which underpins calls for action at Copenhagen is very strong. Without co-ordinated international action on greenhouse gas emissions, the impacts on climate and civilisation could be severe.
Prof. Julia Slingo Chief Scientist, Met Office
Prof. Alan Thorpe Chief Executive, Natural Environment Research Council
Lord Rees President, the Royal Society
Further information on the facts of climate change can be found on the Met Office web site (http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/climatechange/guide/bigpicture/)
Advising UEA on independent scientific experts
G8 aid for Africa under threat from climate change, warns Lord May
’Breaking the Climate Deadlock’
Climate Science Statement
Royal Society launches new short guide to the science of climate change
Learn about our mission to expand the frontiers of knowledge.
Explore our annual science exhibition
The Government’s spending decisions for the financial year 2015-16 provide an important opportunity to strengthen the role of research and innovation as drivers of UK growth and competitiveness, according to the UK’s four national academies, including the Royal Society.
A paper published in Biology Letters today reveals a new species of ichthyosaur (a dolphin-like marine reptile from the age of dinosaurs) which revolutionises our understanding of their evolution and extinction.
Pioneers of the Internet, computing, climate modelling and virtual surgery are just some of the experts who have been announced as new Fellows of the Royal Society today (3 May 2013).
For a full archive please see the news pages.
Latest press releases about our activities.
Announcements about articles in our journals.
There are about 1,450 Fellows and Foreign Members.
We have had 350 years at the heart of scientific progress.
Contact the Society's press team.