Government's chief scientist today set out an "apocalyptic
vision" of global warming bringing back the conditions which drove
the dinosaurs to extinction.
Professor Sir David
King told a House of Lords committee that urgent action was needed
"within the next few years" to avert the threat of sudden and
severe climate change.
He claimed that last
summer's heat wave was a man-made event and a warning sign of worse to
And he defied Downing
Street by repeating his charges that global warming is a bigger threat
than terrorism, and that Washington is failing to tackle the problem.
On a recent trip to
America to talk about the threat of global warming, Sir David was warned
by Downing Street to limit his contact with the media.
A memo from a No10
aide was leaked to a journalist in Seattle, where the scientist was
delivering a lecture.
Today, Sir David told
the peers that the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was probably
the highest it had been for 65 million years, since the Palaeocene epoch
when most dinosaurs became extinct.
He said the era saw a
"massive reduction" in life on earth and added: "The
Antarctic was the best place to be at that time. The rest of the world was
He also delivered a
thinly-veiled attack on President George Bush by praising the effort which
individual American states were making to curb their carbon dioxide
emissions, in the absence of a ruling from Washington.
And he accused
American oil giant Exxon of funding lobbyists who are trying to undermine
the consensus on global warming by suggesting that scientists are divided
on the nature of the problem.
Sir David said:
"This is the biggest issue for us to face this century.
The science is done. It's complete. It's a matter of political
understanding. I personally have little doubt that unfortunately, as time
moves on, the global warming events such as the very high temperatures in
Europe over the past summer and the flooding two years before will occur
more frequently, and the understanding of what's driving these will become
"And I think
nations across the world will understand... that action has to be
In the past few
centuries, carbon dioxide in the air has risen from 270 to 370 parts per
million and is still on the increase, Sir David said.
He predicted that if
the level reached 550 parts per million, the polar ice caps would melt and
the Gulf Stream current would be reversed, plunging Europe into a new ice
age while the rest of the globe overheated.
To avoid that threat,
he said, the level needed to be stabilized at 450 parts per million.