Climate Change Effects May Continue For Next 1000 Years, Even Under Zero Emissions Scenarios

sahara desert photo

photo: Wonker/Creative Commons

Take this as an indication of the long-term magnitude of climate change: New research shows that even if we had a zero-carbon economy today, the impact of rising CO2 levels would continue to have serious ecological impact for the next 1000 years. The research published in Nature Geoscience examines zero-emissions scenarios beginning both in 2010 and in 2100, asking how long would it take to reverse current climate change trends and how much worse will things get?The study's scenarios show that the Northern Hemisphere fares better than the Southern. Some places in Canada see the effects of climate change reversing within the next 1000 years, but North Africa sees more desertification as land dries out by 30%. Continued ocean warming of up to 5°C means the West Antarctic ice sheet collapses, causing sea level rise just from this source of several meters.

As for why the variability between northern and southern impacts, the researchers say that ocean currents and the slow movement of ocean water between the North and South Atlantic play a part.

Dr Shawn Marshall of the University of Calgary says,

The inertia in intermediate and deep ocean currents driving in the Southern Atlantic means those oceans are only now beginning to warm as a result of CO2 emissions from the last century. The simulation showed that warming will continue rather than stop or reverse on the 1000-year time scale. (Science Codex)

Read the original paper: Ongoing climate change following a complete cessation of carbon dioxide emissions
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