Tuesday, February 21, 2006

BBC invites viewers to predict the UK's future climate

This week BBC4 runs the BBC's major season on global warming: Climate Chaos, a series of programmes on the science behind and issues surrounding the hottest topic of the day - climate change.

To launch the season the BBC - in conjunction with Open University - is inviting its audience to participate in the biggest online experiment ever undertaken to predict the future climate of the UK. By logging on to bbc.co.uk/climatechange viewers will help scientists project possible climate scenarios for the UK up to the year 2080.

On Monday 20 February was shown Meltdown, a film in which explorer and presenter Paul Rose showed the effects of global warming in Greenland and told the story of climate changes in the UK. Paul met Oxford scientist Myles Allen and learnt about his work predicting how the UK's climate will change.

At the end of the film Paul invited viewers to participate in the experiment by logging on to bbc.co.uk. Those logging on will be taken through steps to download a piece of software which connects to a server at Oxford University that downloads an individualised version of the UK government's Meteorological Office's state-of-the art global climate model. The climate model will use the computer's spare processing time – when the user is not actively working on it but still has it switched on - to make calculations and produce a possible future climate scenario for the UK.

Once the programme is downloaded the user does not have to do anything - the computer does all the work, and uploads data back to Oxford automatically. Those participating can keep track of what is going on by bringing up graphics that show them what year their individual model has reached, and what the temperature is. They can also set the graphics as a screensaver. Back in Oxford, scientists will collate the results which will be revealed in a follow-up programme in the summer. Participants can join the experiment at any point - but the earlier the better.

A standard off-the-shelf computer would take around three months to run the complete simulation to 2080, but project scientists can make use of runs as short as ten model years, taking only a week or so. The more people that participate the more accurate a prediction the scientists will be able to make.

Other BBC4 programmes in the series are:
(All times are GMT) Monday to Thursday this week at 7pm and 7.55pm - Global Warming Shorts - A series of 8 short films reporting the experiences of people on the front line of global warming - from the ski instructor who has watched a glacier melt away to the fish expert watching a stream of exotic species colonising the water around Britain.

Tuesday 21 February at 10pm Climate Conspiracy or Global Catastrophe? BBC reporter Iain Stewart looks behind some of the most controversial global warming stories to find out what the science says is really going on with our climate.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Poor Nations Need Billions to Fight Climate Change

From the World Environment News team at Planet Ark comes this item about the costs of reducing emissions of green house gases in relation to current energy spending in the developing world.

Sir Nicholas Stern, Head of the UK Government's Economic Service and leader of the UK Review of the Economics of Climate Change said last Friday that the developing world needed to spend at least $40 billion more every year to fight climate change.

Stern, speaking on the sidelines of a conference in New Delhi of world environmentalists, scientists and policymakers discussing sustainable development, said the $40 billion was less than developing governments are already spending on energy.

Major developing nations such as India, China, Mexico and Indonesia, rely heavily on fossil fuels to power their rapidly growing economies. "...it would be far cheaper if they invest[ed] in cleaner technologies," he said.

More information on the Stern Review of the Economics of Climate Change can be found here.

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All views expressed here, unless otherwise stated, are my own.

John Cockaday