There’s No Turning Back

9 02 2009

CLIMATE CHANGE IS IRREVERSIBLE! According to a report released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, effects caused by the current amount of CO2 in the atmosphere will be present for the next 1,000 years. Even if CO2 emissions were completely halted, immediately, the greenhouse warming effects would still be apparent until the year 3000.

Susan Solomon of the University of Colorado presented this report on Jan. 27, 2008. She said the heat caused by excessive CO2 is absorbed by the oceans, but over the next 1,000 years that captured heat will be released into the air, prolonging the warming process.

Carbon dioxide, carbon cycle, emissions

Carbon Cycle

So this case study could be used as fodder for oil and car companies; urging consumers to go ahead and pollute because “what’s done is done.” But Solomon does not see it that way.

“I guess if it’s irreversible, to me it seems all the more reason you might want to do something about it,” she says. “Because committing to something that you can’t back out of seems to me like a step that you’d want to take even more carefully than something you thought you could reverse.”

While we cannot change these “irreversible” effects for the better, we do have the power to accelerate and worsen them.

In her report, Solomon projected dust-bowl-like conditions if the amount of CO2 reached 450-600 parts per million. Today the CO2 concentration is about 385 parts per million. A recent global climate treaty cited 450 parts per million to appear in the year 2100.

Also, other greenhouse gases do not linger in the atmosphere as long as CO2 does, so it is possible to reverse the effects caused by excessive methane, nitrous oxide and human-made gases.

Greenhouse Gases

Greenhouse Gases