Four Degrees and Beyond Special Issue Journal

Tyndall Centre brings the latest climate change research to the UN Summit in Mexico. The Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research is a major contributor to a specially themed '4 degrees and beyond' edition of the Royal Society’s prestigious journal Philosophical Transactions A.

The special edition was released today to coincide with the start of the UN climate change summit in Cancun, Mexico. To enable the widest dissemination to climate change policy makers and non-academics, the papers in this normally specialist journal are open access and free to download

The collection of papers by leading international scholars from the Tyndall Centre, Oxford University, the Met Office and overseas institutes, explores the likelihood of large climate changes of 4 degrees and the potential impacts of these changes. The research addresses the challenges involved in avoiding high levels of warming, as well as the challenges of adaptation should society fail to do so. It stems from the first academic conference to analyse 4 degrees and beyond, last year by the Tyndall Centre.

The contents of the 4 degree themed edition include:

On emissions scenarios - With high emissions and strong climate-carbon cycle feedbacks, 4 degrees global warming could be reached in the early 2060s. Dr Richard Betts, Met Office

Water – With a 4 degrees warming, climate change is more important than population growth for determining whether a river basin suffers from water stress. If warming is limited to 2 degrees, the reverse is true.
Dr Fai Fung, University of Oxford and the Tyndall Centre

Industrialising economies - This paper uses cumulative emissions, split into richer and poorer nations, to understand the implications of rapid emission growth in nations such as China and India, for global reduction rates. Dr Alice Larkin Bows, University of Manchester and the Tyndall Centre

People – A greater temperature change might not only affect the magnitude of the associated population movements, but also – and above all – the characteristics of these movements, and therefore the policy responses that can address them. The paper outlines the policy evolutions that climate-induced displacements in a 4°C+ world would require. Dr Francois Gemenne, Sciences Po, Belguim

Ecosystem interactions - Agriculture, plants, and animals would need to move large distances to stay cool or wet. Humans might be increasingly concentrated in places remaining sufficiently wet for economic prosperity. In a 2°C world, impacts would be roughly halved, many ecosystems like forests preserved, with much less need for movement. Dr Rachel Warren, University of East Anglia and the Tyndall Centre

Adaptation - Adapting to global warming of 4°C cannot be seen as a mere extrapolation of adaptation to 2°C; it will be a more substantial, continuous and transformative process. Decision-makers are likely to be paralysed by the complexity of this problem, but we show how it can be tackled systematically. Dr Mark Stafford-Smith, CSIRO, Australia

Climate projections - The patterns of change in temperature and precipitation are similar for high-end and non high-end models but are amplified in the high-end models. The greatest warming occurs in the Arctic, where December, January and February temperatures increased by 12-16 °C. Warming during June, July, August (6-8 °C) occurred over many land areas, including the USA, Mediterranean Europe, much of Africa and northern Australia. Dr Michael Sanderson, Met Office

Emissions targets -
Here we suggest that if we met a cumulative emissions target, or a single budget between now and 2200, we would be more likely to limit global warming to two degrees than if we had used a 2020 or 2050 target. Niel Bowerman, University of Oxford

Food -
In a four-plus degree world, food security will be more difficult to achieve because of commodity price increases and local production shortfalls. Dr Philip Thornton, ILRI, Kenya

Forests -
Our results confirm some risk of forest retreat, (eastern Amazonia, Central America, parts of Africa), but also indicate a potential for expansion in other regions (Congo Basin). This potential increases if the positive impact of CO2 is considered. Other, more uncertain, factors, notably higher temperature, may have a negative effect. Przemyslaw Zelazowski, University of Oxford

Sea-level rise - A pragmatic estimate of sea-level rise by 2100 for a temperature rise of 4°C or more over the same time frame is between 0.5m to 2m. Without adaptation, this may result in the forced displacement of up to 187 million people over the century (up to 2.4% of global population). Protection is costly with up to 0.02% of global domestic product needed. Dr Sally Brown, University of Southampton and the Tyndall Centre

The Tyndall Centre will be present at the UN Summit in Cancun and showcasing its research to UN delegates. Its targeted activities include:

A Tyndall Briefing Note on Climate Variability and Dengue Fever in Mexico by Felipe Colon of the University of East Anglia

A Tyndall Briefing Note on Co-benefits of Mitigation Policy for Air Quality by Terry Barker of the University of Cambridge

An event in Cancun presenting the latest research on REDD+, a much discussed policy to limit deforestation

“Let’s just hope action to reduce radically our emissions of greenhouse gases more than compensates for those released by the many thousands who will be attending Cancun” said Professor Kevin Anderson, Director of the Tyndall Centre.

“This is a time for radical thinking and courageous action, not only by our policy makers in Cancun, but also by academics, industry, the business community, NGOs, social institutions and all of us with a stake in the future.”

Notes for Editors

For further information contact Mr Asher Minns +44 (0) 7880 547843. Asher Minns will be attending the COP16 Summit

The Phil Trans A papers are downloadable for free from Monday 29 November