Climate catastrophes might be foreseen
13 February 2009
The University of Copenhagen hosts The International
Scientific Congress on Climate Change on 10-12 March in
Copenhagen. This is the first in a row of climate research
stories that will be released up to and presented at the
There may indeed be a quiet before the storm, when it
comes to drastic changes in the climate system shows new
research from the Aquatic Ecology and Water Quality
Management Group at Wageningen University, Holland.
”We have found, that abrupt climate change in the past
have been preceded by a period, where the natural
fluctuations of the climate slow down,” says Marten Scheffer,
leader of the research group.
When the group first presented their results in September
in the journal “Proceedings of The National Academy of
Sciences” (PNAS), they were cautious about linking their
newfound understanding of ancient climate change to the
climate changes we are experiencing today. The changes today
are happening so fast, that predictions about the response
of relatively slow components of the climate system are hard
to make. On the other hand, new prospects have arisen since,
explains Marten Scheffer.
“This is ongoing work, and I believe we now see potential
for assessing the risk of triggering abrupt changes –
crossing the so called tipping points – at least in smaller
parts of the global climate system. One area where our
analysis shows promise is droughts and desertification”, he
Abrupt and irreversible changes – called tipping points –
in the climate system is one of the most highly debated
issues at the congress and in climate science generally. The
fear of the Earth's climate or smaller parts of it abruptly
changing dramatically has been nourished in the last couple
of years. A number of research papers has documented, that
abrupt changes has happened many times before and seems to
be a part of the nature of the climate and Earth systems.
When greenhouse gas emissions are forcing the climate so
rapidly, as we see now, the risk of crossing the thresholds
of the tipping points is considered substantial. And once we
have crossed the line, there is no turning back.
About the congress
The research will be presented in more detail at the IARU
International Scientific Congress on Climate Change, taking
place in Copenhagen 10 – 12 March. The congress will gather
thousands of the worlds climate researchers to deliver an
update on our knowledge on climate change and how to handle
the risks and opportunities that comes from it. The results
will be presented to the world leaders as they gather later
this year in Copenhagen to discuss a new global deal on how
to fight climate change at the U.N. Climate Change
Conference - COP15.
The International Scientific Congress on Climate Change
is organized by International Alliance of Research
Universities (IARU): Australian National University; ETH
Zürich; National University of Singapore; Peking University;
University of California, Berkeley; University of Cambridge;
University of Copenhagen; University of Oxford; University
of Tokyo; Yale University.