Halting greenhouse gas emissions would still make Earth warmer

February 16th, 2011 - 4:50 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, Feb 16 (ANI): A new University of Washington research has suggested that even if all green house gas emissions were stopped now, temperatures would remain higher than pre-Industrial Revolution levels because the greenhouse gases already emitted are likely to persist in the atmosphere for thousands of years.

In fact, it is possible temperatures would continue to escalate even if all cars, heating and cooling systems and other sources of greenhouse gases were suddenly eliminated, said Kyle Armour, a UW doctoral student in physics.

That’s because tiny atmospheric particles called 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.

“The aerosols would wash out quickly and then we would see an abrupt rise in temperatures over several decades,” he said.

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.

The scientists’ calculations took into account the observed warming, as well as the known levels of greenhouse gases and aerosols already emitted to see what might happen if all emissions associated with industrialization suddenly stopped.

In the best-case scenario, the global temperature would actually decline, but it would remain about a half-degree F higher than pre-Industrial Revolution levels and probably would not drop to those levels again, said Armour.

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

Climate models used in Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change assessments take into consideration a much narrower range of the possible aerosol effects, or ‘forcings,’ than are supported by actual climate observations, Armour said.

Armour believes it is helpful for policy makers to understand that level of commitment. It also will be helpful for them to understand that, while some warming is assured, uncertainties in current climate observations - such as the full effect of aerosols - mean the warming could be greater than models suggest.

The findings were published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. (ANI)

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