Even if we somehow managed to restore our planet’s atmosphere to zero greenhouse gases, temperatures would still continue to rise by a few tenths of a degree over the next 10 years.
That is the best case scenario discovered by researchers who have written a paper to be published online in the journal Nature. Written by Kirsten Zickfield from the Simon Fraser University and Damon Matthews from the University of Concordia, the paper urges the public, governments, and industries to wake up to the fact that it’s going to be extremely difficult to avoid warming no matter what happens next.
“Let’s be honest, it’s totally unrealistic to believe that we can stop all emissions now,” says Zickfeld, an assistant professor of geography at SFU. “Even with aggressive greenhouse gas mitigation, it will be a challenge to keep the projected global rise in temperature under 2 degrees Celsius,” emphasizes Zickfeld.
The pair used an earth system climate model that was developed by the University of Victoria to study the impact of greenhouse gas and aerosol emissions on the world’s climate, based on emission levels that are consistent with data from the 2007 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
According to their findings, removing aerosols from the atmosphere would cause an immediate increase in global warming before there was any overall decline.
“The widespread presence of aerosols in the Earth’s atmosphere is effectively acting like a solar radiation blocking blanket right now,” explains Zickfeld.
“It’s preventing the Earth’s temperature from responding to the real effects of global warming. But once that aerosol-based blanket is removed the temperature will rise.”
Up to now, emissions of greenhouse gases have increased the world’s temperature by almost 1 ° C since the beginning of the industrial era. Eliminating all emissions would lead to an additional short-term warming of 0.25 to 0.5 degrees, before returning to current levels after approximately a century.
“One to 1.5 degrees of global warming may not seem like a great deal,” says Zickfeld. “But we need to realize that the warming would not be distributed equally over the globe, with mid to high latitude regions such as Canada, Alaska, northeastern Europe, Russia and northern China being most strongly affected.
“Our research shows that as a result of past emissions, a warming of at least 2° C will be unavoidable in those regions.”
Source: Simon Fraser University