Using computer modeling, researchers at the University of Calgary and the University of Victoria in Canada evaluated the effects on the environment if carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions were reduced to zero by 2010 and by 2100, and predicted the results going out to the year 3000.
To the researchers' surprise, the modeling indicated that climate change will continue warming the atmosphere for a long time even without any further emissions. As a result, disasters are inevitable, including a 30% drying out of parts of North Africa.
In addition, the heat's spread could raise deep ocean temperatures by as much as 5 degrees, causing the eventual collapse of the massive Western Antarctic ice sheet and a consequent several-meter sea level rise.
University of Calgary geography Professor Shawn Marshall stated, “Even if we change behavior and totally change society, we're still in store for a lot of bad scenarios.” However, he pointed out that despite the long-term effect of present-day CO2 emissions, it is still necessary to mitigate them, and that by doing so some of the damaging effects, such as Arctic sea ice loss, could be slowed or even reversed.
The study reinforces other research, such as that done by Dr. David Archer at the University of Chicago, USA, which finds that because CO2 has such a long atmospheric lifetime, those reductions alone will not succeed in reversing climate change.
As a result, a small but growing number of climate experts and organizations such as the Climate Institute and the Arctic Council are calling for policies to focus on reducing methane, ground level ozone and black carbon, all of which dissipate from the atmosphere much more quickly.
Professor Marshall, Dr. Archer and colleagues, we appreciate your work in further revealing the complexities of climate change and the threats we face even with a complete elimination of CO2 today. We look forward to humanity's adoption of fast-acting solutions to save lives and our Earth.
During a March 2009 videoconference in California, USA, Supreme Master Ching Hai explained another factor besides carbon dioxide in global warming that could help to cool the planet.