UCL News


UCL conference: HOLIVAR 2006 - Natural Climate Variability and Global Warming

8 June 2006

International experts will gather at UCL (University College London) from 12 to 15 June to discuss whether the main culprit driving global warming is human activity or just natural variations in climate systems.

The conference, 'HOLIVAR 2006 - Natural Climate Variability and Global Warming' marks the climax of a five-year European Science Foundation funded project that has examined climate change during the most recent period of geological history - the Holocene - which covers the last 11,500 years.

The opening address will be delivered by the Government's Chief Scientific Adviser Professor Sir David King and the conference will include 12 keynote speakers who will examine four themes, outlined below. The conference will close with a 'Question Time' style debate between invited guests representing academia, NGOs, media and Government.

The four themes that will be tackled are:

* Millennial time scales: In the last 11,000 years there have been at least seven short sharp cold climate events, one of which led to the collapse of classical civilization from the Middle East to China. Topics that will be examined include whether the circulation of the deep ocean is responsible for the current climate crisis.

* Decadal to centennial time scales: To understand the future we need to know how our climate system changes on the decadal to centennial scale. It is already know that regional climate changes of at least five degrees Celsius in a decade have occurred in the past. Researchers will consider how quickly climate change can happen and what can we expect in the future.

* Climate variability in the last 2,000 years: To clearly understand whether the current global warming is unprecedented we need to be able to compare recent climate change to the past. Instrumental records only extend back 150 years; hence reconstruction of global temperatures for the last 2,000 years is essential. Researchers will discuss the recent focus on the 'hockey stick' model of temperature change and the scientific rationale underlying the work.

* Rapid hydrological change: Despite the current focus on global warming and past temperatures, in reality the most important climatic variable for life on earth is water: too much or to little is fatal.  As the south of England faces another year with a hosepipe ban, the conference will consider how quickly the hydrological cycle may change.

Professor Rick Battarbee FRS, Director of the UCL Environmental Change Research Centre and Chair of the HOLIVAR Science Steering Committee, says: "Major changes to our climate are beginning to unfold as a result of the increase in greenhouse gases but sceptics - whether scientifically or politically motivated - still argue, with some justification, that despite the thinning of arctic ice and the recession of mountain glaciers, there is yet no convincing empirical evidence for unprecedented changes in the climate system.

"The HOLIVAR programme has set out to stimulate research into this question by improving the skill with which we reconstruct past climate change from instrumental, documentary and, most especially, from palaeo-records."

Further details and a copy of the programme can be accessed at: http://www.holivar2006.org/

Conference: HOLIVAR 2006 - Natural Climate Variability and Global Warming

Date: Monday 12 to Thursday 15 June 2006

Venue: University College London, Gower Street, London WC1E 6BT

Notes to editors

For further information or to reserve a press pass please contact:

Judith H Moore, UCL Media Relations, Tel: +44 (0) 20 7679 7678, Mobile: +44 (0)77333 075 96, Out-of-hours: +44 (0)7917 271 364, Email: judith.moore@ucl.ac.uk