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Cutting Emissions Not Enough To Halt Climate Change Effects

January 10, 2011

Global climate change could eliminate three-fourths of the alpine glaciers in Europe within the next century and add four meters to sea levels by the year 3000, according to a new study published Sunday in the online journal Nature Geoscience.

The study, which was written by scientists at the Canadian Centre for Climate Modeling and Analysis at the University of Victoria and the University of Calgary’s Department of Geography, involved the creation and analysis of a full climate model simulation over a period of 1,000 years. The scientists used “best case, ‘zero emissions’ scenarios” in their calculations.

Using those simulations, lead author Nathan P. Gillette and his colleagues “show that ongoing regional changes in temperature and precipitation are significant, following a complete cessation of carbon dioxide emissions in 2100, despite almost constant global mean temperatures.”

“Moreover, our projections show warming at intermediate depths in the Southern Ocean that is many times larger by the year 3000 than that realized in 2100,” they wrote in their report. “We suggest that a warming of the intermediate-depth ocean around Antarctica at the scale simulated for the year 3000 could lead to the collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, which would be associated with a rise in sea level of several meters.”

According to AFP reports, the study found that mountain glaciers and icecaps will shrink in volume by as much as 27% by 2100, and that water from the melting glaciers would result in an average sea level increase of five inches by the end of the century. Furthermore, Richard A. Lovett of Nature News points out that, according to the study, “most of the world’s smaller glaciers will be gone by 2100.”

“We created ‘what if’ scenarios,” Dr. Shawn Marshall, Canada Research Chair in Climate Change and University of Calgary geography professor, said in a statement Sunday. “What if we completely stopped using fossil fuels and put no more CO2 in the atmosphere? How long would it then take to reverse current climate change trends and will things first become worse?”

“The simulation showed that warming will continue, rather than stop or reverse, on the thousand-year timescale,” Marshall added in a separate interview with AFP.

Image Caption: Mouth of the glacier Schlatenkees, Austria. Credit: Wikipedia  

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