Global efforts are being made to cut down carbon emissions that cause our planet to warm up. While the efforts are being made in the right direction, scientists warn that we may not see the desired results as soon as we think.
A new research published in the journal Nature Communications maps the change in temperature of the Earth in response to the different levels of emission cuts. Conducted by the scientists at the Center for International Climate Research in Norway, the research points out that even in the best case scenario, the Earth might not see a visible drop in temperature for about 25 years.
In fact, this is the best case scenario hinted at by the study. The 25-year period is mentioned for an emission cut of 5 percent every year. Such a high level of emission cut is too good to be true, as most of the countries around the world still have an emission graph that is increasing per year.
The humongous time scale
Part of the reason for this is the gigantic timescale on which the Earth’s climate is nurtured. Humans have been pumping in CO2 into the atmosphere for centuries now. The resulting global warming is set to become worse in the near future.
To turn this ship around, the Earth will follow a similar timeline of decades and centuries. The study warns that getting in accordance with the Paris climate agreement (i.e. around 2 Celsius above pre-Industrial temperatures) may take a century, or longer.
“The climate system is operating on timescales of multiple decades to centuries to even thousands of years,” Matthew Lachniet, a climate scientist at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas told Mashable in an interview. Since it took us over a century to reach the level of CO2 in the atmosphere as it is today, “It will take at least as long to get out of this mess,” Lachniet said.
The constant addition
There is another reason for this slow stabilisation of the climate in the years to come despite the emission cuts. It is one of simple math – we are lessening the emissions, not eliminating them altogether.
That means, every year, we are still adding carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The emission cuts mean that less and less CO2 will be released but it will be released nonetheless. In the atmosphere, it is all still adding up.
“Much of the CO2 we emit initially piles up in the atmosphere, so even if we reduce emissions, we’re still adding to the cause of the warming,” explained Bjørn Samset, an author of the study and a climate scientist at the Center for International Climate Research. “A five percent cut per year means five percent less of an increase annually, but an increase all the same.”
Not very visible healing
The research also points out the centuries of environment degradation by humans and that it might come back to haunt us.
Earth’s natural processes capture the existing carbon dioxide in forests and water bodies. The study notes that the CO2 levels already trapped by the Earth’s oceans will keep releasing this heat into the atmosphere even if there are no new emissions made. Meaning, a constant heating up of Earth for the time to come.
Patience is key
The study recorded substantial differences in annual temperatures, thus making it difficult to pinpoint exactly when Earth will start cooling with lower emissions. Climatic phenomena such as the El Nino also caused disturbance in these readings.
Based on the data, the researchers concluded that the first cooling signal would be visible around 2033 with zero greenhouse gas emissions from now on. If we follow the Paris accord, the cooling signal would be visible around 2047.
Through the study, the researchers highlight that seeing the results of the constant endeavour will take time and hence it is important that political leaders understand this. “Given time, the reduction will of course be visible, but ‘time’ in this case means at least a couple of election cycles,” noted Samset.
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