Some impacts of Climate Change are already locked-in

Others are not – we have a choice over whether we avoid them or not

We are certain to see sea level rise, says Prof. Richard Betts. We already warmed the earth by 1oC relative to preindustrial levels but the full effect has not kicked in yet. It takes a long time for ice on land to melt, for example, and for the sea temperatures to fully warm up in response to this and, of course, for the water to expand so there is lots of locked-in sea level rise already in the pipeline.

At HELIX, we looked at the impact of Climate Change at 1.5oC, 2oC global warming and going beyond that to 4oC global warming or even higher. It is important to point out that we can still avoid this high levels of global warming if global emissions of greenhouse gases were to reduce rapidly and soon. But I think it is pretty much accepted that we will see at least 1.5oC warming sooner or later.

Difference in outcomes between 1.5oC, 2oC and even 4oC

A number of people would be affected by coastal flooding river flooding and drought. The higher level of warming, the greater the level of impacts. We are talking about how many millions of people would be affected so, if we have 0.5 metre sea level rise which might already be locked it, that could flood 2.5 million people in Bangladesh by the end of the century. That could rise up to 12 million people if we had 1.5 metres of sea level rise under the 2oC or more degree warming scenario, specially if they were unlucky enough to be hit by a tropical cyclones.

Interview with BBC Radio 4 Today Programme

Running order 0715am

Some of the impacts of climate change are inevitable and there is nothing we can do about it. Others though are not – we have a choice over whether we avoid them or not. Professor Richard Betts of Exeter University is head of climate impacts research at the Met Office. He led the EU funded HELIX research project.