Posted Sun Feb 15, 2009 6:02pm AEDT
Professor Field says that a warming planet will dry out forests in tropical areas, making them much more likely to suffer from bushfires. (AAP: Simon Mossman, file photo)
One of the world's leading experts on climate change says a Nobel Prize-winning panel of scientists seriously underestimated the reality of global warming when it published its report just over a year ago.
Professor Chris Field, a leading member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which released the report, says he and his fellow researchers did not have access to vital data.
Professor Field says that a warming planet will dry out forests in tropical areas, making them much more likely to suffer from bushfires.
He says recent climate studies suggest global warming could also melt permafrost in the Artic tundra.
These events would release billions of tons of greenhouse gasses that could raise global temperatures even more.
The report did not have data on emissions of carbon dioxide between 2000 and 2007 which show far more rapid rises than had been predicted.
These increases in carbon have been caused principally by the burning of coal for electric power in India and China.
He has told an American science conference in Chicago that global warming is likely to accelerate at a much faster pace and cause more environmental damage than previously predicted.
"Fossil emissions have proceeded much more rapidly than anticipated in any of the scenerios that were characterised in detail," he said.
"The consequence of that is that we are basically entering a domain of climate change that has not been explored by the models.
"We're on a different trajectory of emissions and therefore an unknown trajectory of warming."