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The Verdict: Climate Change is Real, Dangerous and Significant in Our Own Lifetimes

6 July 2006

From the BBC 

An expert panel convened by BBC News has concluded that climate change is "real and dangerous". Temperatures are likely to rise by 3C to 5C by the end of the century, with impacts likely to be "severe" but not "catastrophic", the panel said.  It also concluded that politicians are unlikely to cut emissions sufficiently to prevent dangerous global heating.

A major report, published by the UK government in January this year, said there is only a small chance of greenhouse gas emissions being kept below "dangerous" levels. Read more

The BBC panel gave its verdict on 20 key questions. All were based on issues raised by Professor Lovelock in his book 'The Revenge of Gaia', in which he warns of impending catastrophic changes on earth. 



1. It is likely that temperatures will rise by 3C to 5C by the year 2100 unless we act swiftly to cut greenhouse gas emissions and protect natural forests. VERDICT: YES 7, NO 0

2. Temperatures might rise by as much as 8C by 2100, but this is less likely. VERDICT: YES 7, NO 0

3. A temperature rise of 3C to 5C would probably bring severe changes for humans. VERDICT: YES 7, NO 0

4. A temperature rise of 3C to 5C would probably bring catastrophic changes for humans. VERDICT: YES 0, NO 3, ABSTAIN 4

5. A global recession would result in rapid, dangerous climate change as a result of the diminution of aerosols in the atmosphere. VERDICT: YES 0, NO 7

6. Continuing to increase CO2 will have a major effect on oceans through temperature stratification and acidification. VERDICT: YES 1, NO 0, ABSTAIN 6

7. We are being reckless with the planet through greenhouse gas emissions combined with broader human-driven environmental change. VERDICT: YES 7, NO 0

8. James Lovelock's metaphor that the Earth will react against us like an irritant if we continue treating it this way is helpful in public understanding. VERDICT: YES 5, NO 2

9. The climate system is so complex that individual climate experts struggle to see the whole picture. VERDICT: YES 7, NO 0

10. Politicians need to draw on intuition in formulating climate policy. VERDICT: YES 5, NO 1, ABSTAIN 1

11. Professor Lovelock insufficiently acknowledges in the book the uncertainty over how hot the climate will become. VERDICT: YES 5, NO 1, ABSTAIN 1

12. Population growth is a major issue. VERDICT: YES 7, NO 0

13. Professor Lovelock is wrong to give the impression that nuclear fission is our only realistic short-term solution. VERDICT: YES 7, NO 0

14. In the UK context, nuclear fission is one of several options that merits full public and political discussion. VERDICT: YES 7, NO 0

15. In the UK context, Professor Lovelock is wrong in the book to reject wind power. VERDICT: YES 7, NO 0

16. His apocalyptic comments made around the time of the launch of the book, such as: "There will be a few breeding pairs of humans in the Arctic", are likely to lead to despair and disengagement rather than determination to act. VERDICT: YES 4, NO 3

17. Politicians are unlikely to cut greenhouse gas emissions sufficiently until it is too late to prevent dangerous warming. VERDICT: YES 6, NO 1

18. James Lovelock is a towering figure in environment science and has been a major influence on understanding the way in which the Earth system works. VERDICT: YES 6, NO 1

19. The book is helpful in the climate debate. VERDICT: YES 7, NO 0

20. Climate change is real, dangerous and significant in our own lifetimes. VERDICT: YES 7, NO 0


The BBC panel comprised:

Brian Hoskins (Chair)
Royal Society Research Professor, Reading University

Susan Owens
Professor of Environment and Policy, Cambridge University

Ron Oxburgh
University scientist; former chairman of Shell

Vicky Pope
Head, Climate Prediction Programme, Hadley Centre

Chris Rapley
Director, British Antarctic Survey

Hans von Storch
Director, Institute for Coastal Research, Geesthacht, Germany

Andrew Watson
Professor of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia


Read the full story on the BBC website

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