Study shows global temperatures on unexpected rise

By Fred Koschmann

Global warming will raise temperatures far more than previous studies have suggested, according to the largest climate-prediction study ever run. Temperatures could rise as much as 11 degrees Celsius – more than twice the level that leading experiments have predicted in the past – and it could happen as soon as the middle of the century.

Backed by U.K. institutions, including the University of Oxford, Rutherford Appleton Laboratory and the Open University, the study is gathering evidence for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a branch of the United Nations Environmental Program. The study is called climateprediction.net.

According to the EPA, global warming threatens the world’s most life-sustaining elements and is predicted to create problems for everything from crop yields and water supplies to most ecosystems and even human health – especially if temperatures get as high as the latest findings have predicted.

The results from climateprediction.net, published Jan. 27 in the journal “Nature,” found that global temperatures could rise anywhere from 2 to 11 degrees Celsius (3.6 to 19.8 degrees Fahrenheit). Past predictions, based on less data, only predicted a 2 to 5 degree increase.

Led by David Stainford of the University of Oxford, the project has been running a climate-modeling study that used more than 90,000 computers around the globe. While it is funded jointly by the Natural Environment Research Council and the U.K.’s Department of Trade and Industry, the project relies on volunteers to allow the simulations to run on their desktops.

So far, the project has been able to simulate more than 2,000 potential scenarios, which far surpasses the mere dozen or so run in any previous study, that result in a far more accurate reading of what global temperatures may do.

Climateprediction.net has not yet been able to create a reliable time-scale of when temperatures will rise to predicted levels. It depends on how long it will take for carbon dioxide levels to double from the pre-industrial level of 280 parts per million. The new findings suggest it could take anywhere from a few decades to several centuries, but every one of the study’s simulations has suggested that temperatures will in fact increase.

“Global warming is going to change everything, and it’s going to happen quickly,” said Michael Irwin, professor of natural resources and environmental sciences. “The number one thing that students need to know is that it exists.”

While climateprediction.net has shown temperatures are rising more than once thought, they have not shown why they are rising. Some are still skeptical about how global warming came to be.

“It may just be a natural geological occurrence,” said Corey Mitchell, research assistant in ACES. “I think we should cut down on fossil fuels, but I don’t think we can be sure that man is the cause.”

The extent to which mankind is at fault is not known. Yet, evidence is building up that global warming’s current effects are only accelerating, just as population and pollution do the same.

The Arctic Council and the International Arctic Science Committee released the results of extensive research about the Arctic last November. Their findings showed that a recent temperature increase has been melting polar ice at an alarming rate, which in turn raises the sea level. This will ultimately threaten coastal states, among other places, according to the Arctic Council’s Web site.

“I think people should be paying more attention to it than they are,” said Jenny Stamos, sophomore in ACES. Her friend, Alison Hantak, also a sophomore in ACES, felt the same and was willing to take the blame.

“It’s all our fault,” she said.

Many of those who believe that humans are the sole cause of global warming also believe that people should be doing more to reverse it.

“Our total lifestyle has to change,” Irwin said. “This is major.”