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Carbon emissions

Carbon Emissions Must be Cut to Near Zero to Avert Climate Disaster, Warn Researchers

Saturday, August 16, 2008 by: David Gutierrez, staff writer
Tags: carbon emissions, health news, Natural News

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(NaturalNews) A series of recently published studies have determined that humanity must cease all emission of carbon dioxide by 2050 to avoid catastrophic climate change.

Currently, humans are responsible for roughly 10 billion tons of carbon emissions each year, a rate that continues to rise.

"The question is, what if we don't want the Earth to warm anymore?" said Ken Caldeira of the Carnegie Institute. "The answer implies a much more radical change to our energy system than people are thinking about."

The Earth's average temperature has already increased by 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit since the Industrial Revolution. Should that temperature increase reach 3.6 degrees, scientists warn, the effects would lead to global catastrophe, decimating water and food sources worldwide.

To date, efforts to prevent further global warming have mostly focused on limiting the total amount of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, in the atmosphere. The new studies instead focus on keeping the planet's temperature below the 3.6-degree threshold.

According to Oregon State University researcher Andreas Schmittner, author of another study, current greenhouse gas emission rates would lead to a 7.2 degree temperature increase by 2100. A gradual reduction of emissions to zero by 2300 would lead to a 15 degree temperature rise.

Using computer models, Caldeira and Schmittner's research teams modeled different carbon-reduction scenarios, taking into account effects like deep-sea warming, which is triggered by greenhouse gas emissions and continues to raise the temperature of the planet on its own.

"I was struck by the fact that the warming continues much longer even after emissions have declined," Schmittner said. "Our actions right now will have consequences for many, many generations. Not just for a hundred years, but thousands of years."

"Each unit of carbon dioxide emissions must be viewed as leading to quantifiable and essentially permanent climate change on centennial timescales," Caldeira and colleagues wrote.

The question of whether to cut emissions to zero is not one of technology, Caldeira said, but of political and economic will.

"In the end, this is a value judgment," he said.

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