Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Is it too late to reduce greenhouse gas emissions?

The most obvious solution to tackle climate change is to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, most notably carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. But would this solution actually stop warming of our planet?

According to the researchers from the University of Washington even if greenhouse gas emissions were to be stopped right now, earth would still very likely continue the warming trend because of the excessive greenhouse gas emissions that have occurred up to now.

Greenhouse gases such as CO2 which are already emitted are likely to persist in the Earth's atmosphere for thousands of years so it is very possible that warming would still continue even if all greenhouse gas sources would be suddenly eliminated.

Kyle Armour, a UW doctoral student in physics explains this by connecting greenhouse gases with aerosols. According to Armour aerosols which tend to counteract the effect of greenhouse warming by reflecting sunlight back into space, would last only a matter of weeks once emissions stopped, while the greenhouse gases would continue on. However, Armour also notes that the overall effect of aerosols is still the largest uncertainty in climate research so this is really only a very likely possibility.

This research does not send the message that we should be indifferent to reducing the greenhouse gases because if we continue current trend of emissions things will likely become much worse in years to come.

Today's temperature is already about 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit higher than it was 200 years ago. Many scientists agree that a threshold at which the climate change related damage begins to occur is if the average temperature on our planet would rise to 3.5 degrees F higher than before the Industrial Revolution.

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