25 Mar 2013

Climate change warning as freezing conditions continue

Ongoing severe weather conditions are linked to climate change by a top scientist who warns there is more to come over the next two decades.

As a week of freezing weather continues to cause disruption across the UK, a leading scientist has warned that urgent action is needed to tackle global warming.

Thousands of homes remain without power and roads are impassable as the UK suffers the worst March snowfall in 30 years. Despite the snow turning to light flurries today, forecasters have predicted severe conditions could return on Good Friday, leaving us with a white Easter.

We have massive problems in the world – in 12 years’ time there will be another billion people on the planet
Professor Sir John Beddington

Reacting to the freezing conditions the government’s outgoing chief scientific adviser Professor Sir John Beddington linked the severe weather to climate change and warned that past emissions will lead to significant change over the next 20 years.

Speaking on BBC Breakfast he explained: “In a sense we have moved from the idea of global warming to the idea of climate change, and that is rather important – yes, indeed, temperatures are increasing but the thing that is going to happen is that we are going to see much more variability in our weather.

“I think you only have to look at the last few years to see how that is actually starting to manifest itself even in the UK.

“We have massive problems in the world – in 12 years’ time there will be another billion people on the planet and we have big issues of food security, water security and energy security and many, many people will start to be living in cities.”

Mr Beddington went on to acknowledge there are some uncertainties in the analysis of climate change but noted there is an “enormous body of evidence that shows it is happening”.

He added: “For example the Arctic is heating up vastly faster than other parts of the world – this is exactly what the climate scientists are predicting.”

Today Moscow is coping with a huge snowfall that saw roughly one third of the monthly precipitation for the city fall in one day. In China, Beijing was blanketed with a rare snowfall last week and Japan recorded more than five metres of snow at the start of the month, the country has had a record winter for snow.

The Met Office has weather warnings in place across Wales, parts of England and southern Scotland, noting the danger of ice.

“Lying snow in many areas will melt on roads and pavements by day, refreezing by night to give icy patches. The public should be aware of the potential for disruption to travel due to icy patches and snow blowing back onto roads.”

The south west of Scotland and the isle of Arran was badly hit by power cuts on Friday. A combination of snow and high winds has hampered efforts of hundreds of engineers to reconnect thousands of properties without power.

The cold weather lashed Northern Ireland, where emergency oxygen supplies had to be airlifted to an elderly man trapped by heavy snow.

In Cumbria hundreds remain without power. Drivers there who abandoned their cars over the weekend are being urged not to return for them and must contact police to arrange for recovery. Cumbria police advised motorists that the A595 was still closed and weather conditions are challenging.

In North Wales road access into residential areas is considered “a cause for concern”, according to police.

A man found dead in deep snow has been named as Gary Windle. Lancashire police said his death was not being treated as suspicious and there are indications it was a “very tragic incident” after he started walking home from a night out last Friday.

The severe conditions are also thought to have led to the death of a woman, named locally as Susan Norman, in Cornwall on Friday. She died when her house in Looe collapsed during a landslip following torrential rain.