Avoiding dangerous climate change: An international perspective

The world will need to make substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions below current levels over the next few decades if the worst impacts of dangerous climate change are to be avoided.

This was a key conclusion from UK and US climate scientists at an international workshop on the UK AVOID program in Washington, DC exploring the most policy-relevant aspects of understanding dangerous climate change.

Latest results from AVOID have shown that strong mitigation action to limit temperature rise to below 2 °C avoids many of the climate impacts, but not all of them. Examples show that 50% of the impact of water scarcity, and almost 40% of the impact of decreasing crop suitability can be avoided through early action on greenhouse gas emissions. Time is short and delaying action reduces the chance of limiting temperature rise to 2 °C and increases the chance of significant impacts.

The AVOID program is a unique inter-disciplinary research collaboration across the physical sciences, climate impacts and the technical and socio-economic implications of climate change.

AVOID is targeted to provide policy-focused research and evidence needed to allow policymakers to develop mitigation and adaptation policy that is strongly grounded in scientific evidence. This workshop — the first international meeting of AVOID — was designed to discuss, engage and partner with US scientists.

Jason Lowe, Head of Mitigation Advice at the Met Office and Chief Scientist for the AVOID program, said: “This workshop has provided the opportunity to compare approaches in the UK and US to identify the results that are the most robust.  The aim now is to work together to find concrete ways of taking forward the best UK and US science for the benefit of policymakers.

“Such work is essential to inform government policies, both in the UK and the US, by providing robust and up-to-date evidence.”

Peter Backlund, Director of Research Relations at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colorado, and Director of NCAR’s Integrated Science Program, said: “Designing mitigation and adaptation strategies to avoid dangerous climate change is a major challenge for the US, the UK, and other nations.

“Scientific research is critical for informing this process, but the scientific community needs to do a better job in focusing research efforts on issues that are central to making decisions about how to respond to climate change.

“The UK AVOID program, with its integration of research from multiple institutions across the physical, social, and economic sciences, is one of the best examples of delivering advice that is directly relevant to policymakers.

“The program is producing useful information about the probabilities of achieving emissions reductions, the consequences of different levels of emissions, and options for reducing impacts.  I am hopeful that we can create a similar program here in the US.”

Participating UK and US scientists agreed to explore further options for collaboration in this area of science of relevance to policymakers.

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