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United Kingdom

Ex-government chief scientist says we should be worried about climate change

Professor Sir David King, a former chief scientific adviser to the Government, says the world, and Britain, should be 'scared' about the state of the world. 

He has revealed that the climate crisis and the ever-worsening state of the environment is a bigger problem than the public realises.  

Sir David told the BBC: 'It's appropriate to be scared. We predicted temperatures would rise, but we didn't foresee these sorts of extreme events we're getting so soon.'

He also called for the country's climate targets to be brought forward by a decade. 

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Professor Sir David King (file photo) served as the UK government's chief scientific advisor under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. He is supporting a legal case forcing ministers to shrink carbon emissions to zero by 2050 

DAVID KING CONTROVERSIES

Professor Sir David King, 77, was the architect of the policy to cut fuel duty for diesel cars as Tony Blair's personal scientist.

In April he admitted he got it wrong, having been driven by an obsession with carbon emissions.

The former Government chief scientific adviser, knighted in 2003, has presided over many controversies.

In 2004 he wrote in the journal Science: 'In my view, climate change is the most severe problem that we are facing today – more serious even than the threat of terrorism.' 

His strong belief in man-made climate change has seen him publish a book, The Hot Topic, on how to tackle global warming, and he has been accused of being a politician in scientist's clothing for his strong views.

However, some people caution against using such evocative language.  

Petteri Taalas, the secretary-general of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), a specialised UN agency, believed that the current state of the world should not be seen as Armageddon and chastised green campaigners for their doomsday predictions. 

Mr Taala, like the vast majority in the scientific community, supports the global and national efforts being done to curb climate change, but urges restraint when discussing the matter. 

He believes using words like 'scared' could make young people depressed and anxious and hinder the environmental effort. 

'We are fully behind climate science and fully behind the (upcoming) New York climate summit', he told the BBC.

'But I want to stick to the facts, which are quite convincing and dramatic enough. We should avoid interpreting them too much.

'When I was young we were afraid of nuclear war. We seriously thought it's better not to have children.

'I'm feeling the same sentiment among young people at the moment. So we have to be a bit careful with our communication style.'

However, other scientists say it is inevitable, and important, that we become emotionally invested in the issue. 

Professor Jo Haigh from Imperial College London said: 'David King is right to be scared – I'm scared too.

'We do the analysis, we think what's going to happen, then publish in a very scientific way.

'Then we have a human response to that… and it is scary.'

Specific areas of concern for Sir David are the loss of land ice and sea ice and a spike in extreme weather events. 

Previous research has found that the number of heatwaves in Europe is increasing faster than computer modelling has previously predicted, new research suggests.

Temperatures in Europe have hit record highs this summer passing 46.0°C (114.8°F) in southern France.

 Petteri Taalas, the secretary-general of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) believes using words like 'scared' could make young people depressed and anxious and hinder the environmental effort. Greta Thunberg (pictured) is leading a revolution to combat climate change 

The number of extreme heat days in Europe has tripled since 1950, with summers becoming hotter overall.

The number of extreme cold days during the winter have more than than halved in some areas, with the later part of the year also warming over the decades.

It is also believed that events such as Hurricane Dorian are a direct result of climate change.   

Sir David said by the time we know if Hurricane Dorian and other natural disasters are conclusively due to the climate crisis, it could be to late.  

'Scientists like to be certain,' he said.

'But these events are all about probabilities. What is the likelihood that (Dorian) is a climate change event? I'm going to say 'very high'.

'I can't say that with 100 per cent certainty, but what I can say is that the energy from the hurricane comes from the warm ocean and if that ocean gets warmer we must expect more energy in hurricanes.'

'If you got in a plane with a one in 100 chance of crashing you would be appropriately scared.

'But we are experimenting with the climate in a way that throws up probabilities of very severe consequences of much more than that.' 

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