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FP7 will help us deal with the effects of climate change, says Commission [Print to PDF] [Print to RTF]

Participants at the international Symposium on Climate Change Research Challenges on 2 February heard plenty of bad news about the reality of climate change, but also heard plans for future research that should help to address some of the issues raised.

The symposium opened...
FP7 will help us deal with the effects of climate change, says Commission
Participants at the international Symposium on Climate Change Research Challenges on 2 February heard plenty of bad news about the reality of climate change, but also heard plans for future research that should help to address some of the issues raised.

The symposium opened with an introduction from EU Science and Research Commissioner Janez Potocnik, who was quick to point out that 'The latest figures suggest that 2005 was the warmest on record, and there were increased instances of extreme events. The public are alarmed and want answers. Central and southern Europe experienced a great deal of flooding. How are we to prevent and mitigate this? In 2003, the EU underwent a heat wave, causing thousands of casualties. Should we expect this to be the normal summer for us?'

He went on to point out that global warming is no longer a possibility, but a certainty, and that research will now not only focus on minimising human impact on the environment, but also examine ways to deal with the effects of global warming when it arrives. 'A rise of 3 degrees will have an impact on global society. How are we able to take responsible decisions? We will be exploring unanswered scientific questions and tackling adaptation strategies. Earth observation will continue under FP7 for early detection of climate change. We need to find the points of no return which humanity needs to know.'

The picture was not all gloom, however, as the Commissioner pointed out that 'The Montreal protocol is functioning - chlorides are in decline in the atmosphere and the ozone hole should recover in the coming decades. Kyoto is the first step, but more is needed to achieve these ambitious goals - but warming is unavoidable and we all need to prepare for change. FP7 includes climate change, and we need further research excellence at the EU and international levels.'

He ended by stating that 'Policy must be based on sound science,' a remark picked up later by the chair, Professor Hartmut Grassl of the Max Planck Institute for Climate Change, who added: 'Sometimes we have to act on precautionary principles.'

Pierre Valette, from the European Commission's Research DG, said that: 'The Commissioner has always pushed for climate change research, central to economic planning to minimise uncertainty. Climate change research also generates other advanced technology developments.

'There is no scientific theory for adaptation, but we need one for scientific and economic planning. Climate change will drive this research,' he said.

Prof Grassl said: 'Climate change is now visible to most people. Climate is the key resource. Paleoclimatology is not enough - we need tested models. Has the tolerable window been reached?

'Temperature is rising by 0.13 degrees per decade. Some researchers believe this is already over the threshold. There are no accurate ocean/land/atmosphere models tested for the future. There is a lack of methodology to talk about the next 50 or 100 years. Will there be a way or preparing for future climate change in the absence of such a model?'

The following speaker, Jose Achach from the WMO, referred to the GEOSS (Global Earth Observing System of Systems) project, which aims to do just as Prof Grassl suggests, and build a holistic model taking into account measurements from the land, sea and air to produce more meaningful models and accurate predictions of climate change.

The project is highly ambitious, and is not yet possible, as supercomputers are simply not powerful enough to deal with the necessary computations.

Prof Grassl pointed to a current climate model, known as A1B, which looks forward to 2100. The model predicts dry places becoming drier and wet areas becoming wetter. This would lead to significant migrations of people, although how many is yet to be determined.

'An Arctic polar summer without sea ice is possible. Research shows that in the past, Greenland's ice sheet has melted at temperatures that are 1.5 degrees over the pre-industrial revolution level, so we could already be in trouble,' explained Prof Grassl.

The European Commission's Elisabeth Lipiatou outlined areas of likely targets for FP7 research, including monitoring of the carbon cycle, adaptation and migration measures, Earth modelling on global, regional and local levels, assessing impacts and critical thresholds, changes in atmospheric composition and natural disasters. She pointed out that issues should be tabled now, in preparation for the FP7 work programme.

The symposium was dedicated to the memory of Anver Ghazi, head of unit for Global Change at the European Commission, who died last year.
Source: CORDIS News attendance at a symposium on climate change research challenges

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Record Number: 25158 / Last updated on: 2006-02-03
Category: General Policy
Provider: EC