The effect of a 4deg rise in temperature on the water-dependent Asian region could be catastrophic. The UK’s Meteorological Office has put together an interactive map that shows what the effects could be. By Jeremy Torr.
Singapore. 30 January 2012. At the launch of a new, fully interactive map that catalogues to ongoing effects of climate change across Asia and the world, one of the key scientists behind the project admitted the key problem with climate change is bringing the repercussions home.
“We put this map together so people could see what the effercts of a simple 4deg Celsius rise in temperature would be,” said Dr Chris Gordon - Head of Met Office Science Partnerships and formerly Deputy Director of Climate Science at the Met Office Hadley Centre. “We wanted to put something together that would allow people to see and understand how the changes would be likely to affect them,” he asserted.
“The problem with climate change is that many people see it as something that affects other people, something that politicians and scientists talk about and know about,” he added. “It’s often seen as something distant, not something on all our doorsteps. This map can bring home the impact it will have on Singaporeans, Indonesians, Vietnamese.”
The map, offered in a printed version for schools and universities from the http://www.ukinsingapore.fco.gov.uk, is also available for use on Google Earth at http://www.fco.gov.uk/google-earth-4degrees.kml. Just click on the radio button in the 'Temporary Places' hierarchy in order to view the contents of the SEA layers – this is not the default display.
Dr. Gordon went on to say the map is the result of extensive international collaboration; he noted that climate change was a sufficiently large problem that no one isolated body or research institute could hope to work out either the impact, or much less, what to do to mitigate it.
“I’ve been in climate science for 30 years, and we now realise that international collaboration is essential. The signs are there, but we have to be extremely careful to sort out the results that may just be from normal causes compared to those caused by climate change,” he said. “There is no point us spending hige amounts of money on something that is not attributable to climate change.”
Dr. Gordon said one significant sign that has not had too much coverage is the increase in atmospheric moisture due to climate change. This, he said, will cause much more precipitation, increases in water levels and flows, and will have a massive knock-on effect on one of the region’s biggest industries – fisheries. The map has been adapted to show the likely physical impacts and includes case studies on countries and cities in the region which look at specific areas like agriculture, forestry, freshwater and health.
“Our aim with this map is to communicate the science, to make all our facts and figures and statistics understandable. We wanted to make something that would let all of us see what is likely to happen in all the different ways,” he added.
Dr. Gordon says the beauty of this map is the multitude of different ways a user can play with it to see how the different factors affect them. “But we understand not everybody across the region, especially in some of the more remote and less developed schools and universities, has access to fast computers that can run Google Earth,” he added. “So that’s why we have produced the companion recycled paper map that can be used as a reference wall chart.”
“The signs are there that we are experiencing climate change,” says Dr. Gordon. “It’s controversial, but we hope this map allows us all to see what might happen. I don’t like to use the word catastrophe, but we will definitely see big changes.”