We talk to our studio guest about the possible consequences of climate change for humans, and what measures can be taken to combat it. An interview with Hans von Storch, head of the Institute of Coastal Research at the Helmholz-Zentrum Geesthacht, and co-author of the 2013/2014 World Climate Report.
The second chapter of the IPCC report is being published soon. It will deal with the consequences of climate change. How much further do you expect sea levels to rise?
Hans von Storch:
The sea level rise is a component of man-made climate change, and it is at the same time one of the big contested issues, how strongly this effect will develop. This is mainly due to the fact that the largest amounts of water which could lead to sea level rise, sit in Antarctica and Greenland, and we do not really know how they will develop. So there's a potential for a very high sea level rise, but it could also be a slower one.
That sounds like all the results of the research about climate change are not really certain. How sure are you about the findings?
There are very many findings. Lots of them are highly speculative, and we would all agree on that. But there are a number of issues which are no longer speculative, and people would agree on that. That is: we have a warming. And this warming is beyond the range of natural changes, so we need an explanation for that, and we cannot explain it without a massive reference, to the elevated greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere. So this is not really contested. The sea level issue is contested in terms of the quantities. The storm issue is contested, and other issues are contested. But some, such as temperature, are not.
What are the most dramatic consequences of climate change that you expect in 20 years?
I would not expect that there will be very dramatic effects in twenty years' time. Things will gradually become a bit warmer, it may be that strong rainfall events will become a bit stronger and things of that sort. But in the next twenty years we do not expect very strong changes.
The people on these island nations would probably see that differently, right? They might just disappear.
Not necessarily so, because on these islands there are several issues at the same time. There are much more issues there, which is the over-use of resources, pumping too much water, and too many people living on it, and other issues. So the situation on the islands is much more complicated than we usually naively think.
But still, we're trying to fight greenhouse gas emissions, and politicians are hoping to limit the global average temperature rise to two degrees. Do you believe that is still possible?
This is not a natural science question, this is a question on what we think the political system is able to achieve. And I have, of course, my opinion, but I have no special competence in this issue.
Still, we're interested in your opinion.
But it should be clear that I have no more to say than you have. I personally don't expect that this is possible in the social reality of the world, because we have still an ongoing increase of greenhouse gas emissions - not only ongoing emissions, but an ongoing increase. And if we would limit the increase, that would be fine.