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Climate 'tipping points' near

23 November 2009

The world is dangerously close to reaching temperature thresholds – or ‘tipping points’ – that can unleash devastating environmental, social and economic changes, according to a new report released by WWF and Allianz. It highlights the urgent need for world leaders to agree ambitious targets to cut the greenhouse gas emissions that fuel global warming.

WWF’s head of climate change, Keith Allott, says: “Our new Tipping Points report shows how quickly the world is approaching dangerous and irreversible levels of global warming.

“Reaching a tipping point means losing something forever. Global leaders need to recognise how close we are to tipping the scales toward climate disaster, and take immediate steps to ensure we get a strong and binding climate deal in Copenhagen in December.”

Economic risks of climate change
Hurricanes like Andrew (1992), Ivan (2004) and Katrina (2005) have shown the potential cost of natural disasters, which are likely to increase due to climate change.

“The economic consequences of passing the climate tipping points are absolutely overwhelming,” says Keith Allott.

The new research, carried out for us by the Tyndall Centre, reveals the consequences may affect hundreds of millions of people and cost hundreds of billions of dollars. These include:

     • a more arid climate in California – wildfire damage could be ten times today’s costs, up to $2.5 billion per year by 2050

     • changes to summer monsoon in India and Nepal – 70% of the working population in India may be at risk from droughts, the costs of which are likely to rise to $40 billion per decade

     • drying and dieback of the Amazon rainforest – up to 70% by 2100, with drastic loss of biodiversity and massive carbon release. Costs could reach $9,000 billion.

Global emissions still rising

Another new and authoritative report released this week, from the European Climate Foundation (ECF) and ClimateWorks (with analysis by McKinsey and Co), concludes that current global policies don’t show any prospect of controlling emissions.

In fact, according to their calculations, global emissions will still be rising in 2020 – which means the world is heading for a temperature rise of at least 3°C, and potentially far more.

Keith Allot says: "The EU urgently needs to rediscover its leadership on climate change. Ed Miliband and other environment ministers need to accept that the current EU target to reduce emissions by 20% by 2020 is embarrassingly weak.

“The EU needs to step up to a 40% reduction – this is necessary and achievable, and would be the key to unlocking international gridlock.”

You can…

read the full report – ‘Major Tipping Points in the Earth’s Climate System and Consequences for the Insurance Sector’

read the executive summary of the report

see a map of the world's tipping point hotspots

Vote Earth – join our call for a strong, fair global climate deal

come to The Wave – the UK’s biggest climate awareness event on 5 December



Close-up of leaves in Amazon rainforest