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Last Updated: Monday, 4 September 2006, 10:53 GMT 11:53 UK
Focus on climate adaptation urged
Frances Cairncross.  Image: BA
Frances Cairncross: Climate change is 'undoubtedly going to happen'

Climate change is inevitable, and policies to help societies adapt to a warmer future are badly needed.

That is the message from the President of the British Association for the Advancement of Science (BA), Frances Cairncross, at the BA annual festival.

She will tell delegates that even maximal deployment of the best technology cannot stop climate change.

She will also say that improving scientific literacy would raise public understanding of environmental issues.

"An innumerate population is less likely to devise good solutions to climate change and a host of other environmental problems than one at home with mathematical and scientific concepts," she will say in her address to the festival, held this year at the University of East Anglia in Norwich.

'Ineffectual' Kyoto

Ms Cairncross, who is also chair of Britain's Economic and Social Research Council, believes that attempts to reduce emissions through the UN's Kyoto Protocol will not work.

We've got to realise we're going to live in a warmer world
Frances Cairncross
"[Climate change] is undoubtedly going to happen on the basis of all we know at the moment," she told BBC News.

"One of the most thorough reports was done by the International Energy Agency in the summer, and that suggested that even if we threw at climate change all we had at the moment, even if we put it all in place, we would still see a rise in the concentration of emissions.

"[So] although we've got to continue taking steps to slow it down, we've also got to realise we're going to live in a warmer world."

The British government, she will say, should develop and implement policies for adaptation now, although the main issues lie in the developing world.

She will urge countries to consider measures such as developing new crops, constructing flood defences, and banning building close to sea level.

In Britain, she will say, academic boards should consider more creative ways of stimulating excellence in maths and science, which would encourage a society with better understanding of climate issues.

"Perhaps we need to experiment with a bounty for every grade A maths A-level taken in a maintained school - divided equally between the student and the class teachers - or a couple of extra UCAS points [towards university admission] for each A grade."

The BA festival will also showcase recent analysis of Antarctic ice cores dating back 800,000 years, and will hear warnings that climate change could bring exotic diseases to the UK.


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