Halting emissions would still make earth warmer

February 16th, 2011 - 3:50 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Feb 16 (IANS) If greenhouse gas emissions stopped now, the earth would still likely get warmer.

While governments debate about potential policies that might curb the emission of greenhouse gases, new research shows that the world is already committed to a warmer climate because of emissions that have occurred till now.

Temperatures would continue to escalate even if all cars, heating and cooling systems were suddenly eliminated, said Kyle Armour, a physics doctoral student from University of Washington, the journal Geophysical Research Letters reports.

That’s because tiny atmospheric particles called aerosols, which tend to counteract the 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.

“The aerosols would wash out quickly and then we would see an abrupt rise in temperatures over several decades,” Armour said, according to a Washington University statement.

The global temperature is already about 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit higher than it was before the Industrial Revolution, which began around the start of the 19th century.

There also is a possibility that temperature would rise to 3.5 degrees Fahrenheit higher than before the Industrial Revolution, a threshold at which climate scientists say significant climate-related damage begins to occur.

Of course, it is not realistic to expect all emissions to cease suddenly, and Armour notes that the overall effect of aerosols - particles of sea salt or soot from burning fossil fuels, for example - is perhaps the largest uncertainty in climate research.

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