Image courtesy of melancholic optimist via flickr
That 70% carbon emissions cut by 2050 being proposed in the Senate's Lieberman-Warner climate bill? Please. What about that heftier 80% carbon emissions cut scientists and policymakers elsewhere have been bandying around as a strategy to seriously address climate change over the next 40 years? Still not good enough. Yes, as ES&T;'s Erika Engelhaupt reports, that is the grim verdict put forth in a study published this week in Geophysical Research Letters.
The only solution to our warming woes, lead author Ken Caldeira (he of geo-engineering fame) explains, is to bring emissions down to zero. Working alongside Damon Matthews of Concordia University, Caldeira created a model incorporating heat flow data between the atmosphere and oceans to simulate the climate's response to differing levels of carbon dioxide emissions over the next half-millenium. They discovered that carbon dioxide's warming effect may be more enduring than previously thought; because some of the heat trapped by the gas is passed on to the oceans, it gets stored there and released intermittently in infinitesimal amounts.
Indeed, when Matthews and Caldeira eliminated all emissions from their model, they found that it took at least another 500 years before global temperatures started to stabilize again. Though they assert there is no technological barrier to reducing our emissions to near zero - a valid point - there is still (and will always be) the more contentious political barrier. While we'd certainly like to see the world moving towards a zero-emissions policy, we are under no illusions that this will likely happen any time soon - a 70-80% emissions cut over the next half-century would already be a huge step forward and one well worth fighting for.
Via ::Environmental Science & Technology: Proposed CO2 cuts not deep enough (news website)