Stabilizing Climate Requires Near-Zero Emissions

More good atmospheric news: According to young researchers Ken Caldeira and Damon Matthews, reducing carbon emissions by 80% by the year 2050 may not be enough to stabilize the climate.

In a study just published in the Geophysical Research Letters, with the actually kinda catchy title Stabilizing Climate Requires Near-Zero Emissions, they argue that because substantial proportions of CO2 in the atmosphere linger for thousands of years, "any future anthropogenic emissions will commit the climate system to
warming that is essentially irreversible on centennial timescales."

Oh joy. They write:

Recent research has highlighted the very long lifetime of anthropogenic
carbon in the atmosphere; while approximately half of the carbon
emitted is removed by the natural carbon cycle within a century, a
substantial fraction of anthropogenic CO2 will persist in the atmosphere for several millennia [Archer, 2005]. A recent analysis by Montenegro et al. [2007] found that 25% of emitted CO2 will have an atmospheric lifetime of more than 5000 years. Studies of the climate response to declining CO22 [Friedlingstein and Solomon, 2005].
However, as we demonstrate here, because of the high heat capacity of
the ocean, global temperatures may not parallel decreases in
atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases, but rather will
increase and remain elevated for at least several centuries.

For the newspaper version, take a look at a story in Sunday’s Wa-Po by Juliet Eilperin.

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