The Earth Institute at Columbia University, NYC--Researchers suggest that reductions of trace gases may allow stabilization of climate so that additional global warming would be less than 1° C, a level needed to maintain global coastlines. Although carbon dioxide emissions, an inherent product of fossil fuel use, must also be slowed, the required carbon dioxide reduction is much more feasible if trace gases decrease.
In the current edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Drs. James Hansen and Makiko Sato of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) at the Earth Institute at Columbia University suggest that avoidance of large climate change requires the global community to consider aggressive reductions in the emissions of both carbon dioxide and non-carbon dioxide gases called trace gases. Humans have already increased the amount of carbon dioxide in the air from 280 parts per million (ppm) to 380 ppm. If the world continues on its current trajectory of increasing carbon dioxide, methane and ozone, the likely result will be large climate change, with sea level rise of a few meters or more.
Hansen and Sato point out that if methane and other trace gases are reduced, climate could be stabilized, with warming less than 1°C, at carbon dioxide levels of 520 ppm. However, if the trace gases continue to increase, carbon dioxide would have to be kept beneath 440 ppm. A cap of 440 ppm seems practically impossible to stay under due to existing energy infrastructure. However, Hansen and Sato suggest that, with the possibility of new technologies by mid-century, it is feasible to keep carbon dioxide levels from exceeding approximately 520 ppm.
Katie Mastriani | EurekAlert!
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