In a dramatic acceleration of forecasts for global warming, UK scientists say the global average temperature could rise by 4C (7.2F) as early as 2060.
The Met Office study used projections of fossil fuel use that reflect the trend seen over the last 20 years.
Their computer models also factored in new findings on how carbon dioxide is absorbed by the oceans and forests.
The finding was presented at an Oxford University conference exploring the implications of a 4C rise.
The results show a “best estimate” of 4C being reached by 2070, with a possibility that it will come as early as 2060.
Richard Betts of the Met Office Hadley Centre described himself as “shocked” that so much warming could occur within the lifetimes of people alive today.
“If greenhouse gas emissions are not cut soon then we could see major climate changes within our own lifetimes,” he said.
“Four degrees of warming averaged over the globe translates into even greater warming in many regions, along with major changes in rainfall.”
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