Even if all of the world’s countries collectively stopped emitting greenhouse gases right now, it still wouldn’t be enough to slow down the warming trend that the planet will have to endure for centuries to come, according to a new modeling study out of Norway.
The eye-opening research, published in the Nature journal Scientific Reports, contends that the natural drivers of global warming—heat-trapping clouds, thawing permafrost, and shrinking sea ice—have already been set in motion and will continue to take on their own momentum, the study’s authors said.
“According to our models, humanity is beyond the point of no return when it comes to halting the melting of permafrost using greenhouse gas cuts as the single tool,” lead author Jorgen Randers, a professor emeritus of climate strategy at the BI Norwegian Business School, told AFP.
In concluding their findings, the researchers modeled the effect of greenhouse gas emission reductions on changes in the Earth’s climate from 1850 to 2500 and then tried to forecast global temperature and sea level rises.
What the team discovered was that by the year 2500, Earth’s temperature will be 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than in 1850 and that sea levels will be about eight feet higher. The study noted that such grim forecasts could have been avoided if all human-caused greenhouse gas emissions were reduced to zero between 1960 and 1970.
However, the reactions of climate scientists to the study varied widely, with some calling for more follow-up research and others pointing out its shortcomings.
“The model used here is … not shown to be a credible representation of the real climate system,” Richard Betts, head of climate impacts research at the University of Exeter, told AFP.
“In fact, it is directly contradicted by more established and extensively evaluated climate models.”
For Mark Maslin, a professor of climatology at University College London, he believed that the study was more of a “thought experiment.”
“What the study does draw attention to is that reducing global carbon emissions to zero by 2050 is just the start of our actions to deal with climate change,” he said.
In August, a study published in the journal Nature Communications Earth and Environment tapped into nearly forty years of satellite data from more than two hundred large glaciers to conclude that Greenland’s melting ice sheet has indeed passed the point of no return.
“Glacier retreat has knocked the dynamics of the whole ice sheet into a constant state of loss,” the study’s co-author Ian Howat, an earth scientist from Ohio State University, said in a statement. “Even if the climate were to stay the same or even get a little colder, the ice sheet would still be losing mass.”
Projecting that trend forward, the ice sheet is expected to lose mass ninety-nine out of every one hundred years, the researchers noted.
Ethen Kim Lieser is a Minneapolis-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.