Irreversible Climate Change Due to Carbon Dioxide Emissions

Chemical Sciences Division, Earth System Research Laboratory, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Boulder, CO 80305, USA.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (Impact Factor: 9.67). 02/2009; 106(6):1704-9. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0812721106
Source: PubMed


The severity of damaging human-induced climate change depends not only on the magnitude of the change but also on the potential for irreversibility. This paper shows that the climate change that takes place due to increases in carbon dioxide concentration is largely irreversible for 1,000 years after emissions stop. Following cessation of emissions, removal of atmospheric carbon dioxide decreases radiative forcing, but is largely compensated by slower loss of heat to the ocean, so that atmospheric temperatures do not drop significantly for at least 1,000 years. Among illustrative irreversible impacts that should be expected if atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations increase from current levels near 385 parts per million by volume (ppmv) to a peak of 450-600 ppmv over the coming century are irreversible dry-season rainfall reductions in several regions comparable to those of the "dust bowl" era and inexorable sea level rise. Thermal expansion of the warming ocean provides a conservative lower limit to irreversible global average sea level rise of at least 0.4-1.0 m if 21st century CO(2) concentrations exceed 600 ppmv and 0.6-1.9 m for peak CO(2) concentrations exceeding approximately 1,000 ppmv. Additional contributions from glaciers and ice sheet contributions to future sea level rise are uncertain but may equal or exceed several meters over the next millennium or longer.

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    • "However, tropical forests are being rapidly degraded and converted: 83 million hectares of forest were converted to agriculture alone in the 1980s and 1990s (Gibbs et al., 2010), and more recently, tropical rainforests contributed 32% of total forest loss around the globe, with the rate of loss increasing over by 2101 km 2 yr À1 over the decade to 2012 (Hansen et al., 2013). This deforestation is second only to the burning of fossil fuels as the key emitter of greenhouse gases (Laurance et al., 1998; Berenguer et al., 2014; P€ utz et al., 2014), driving potentially irreversible global climatic change (Solomon et al., 2009). "
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    • "Coastal ecosystems are vulnerable to climate change with increased flooding from sea-level rise and accompanying changes in storm frequency and intensity that may increase flooding and coastal erosion (IPCC 2007; Kirwan and Murray 2007; Solomon et al. 2009). Changes in ocean temperature, local freshwater delivery, and ocean acidification also have potential negative impacts on these systems (IPCC 2007; Fitzgerald et al. 2008; Nicholls and Cazenave 2010). "
    Journal of Fish and Wildlife Management 06/2015; DOI:10.3996/062014-JFWM-048 · 0.76 Impact Factor
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    • "It is projected that the current concentrations will continue to rise to as much as 500e1000 ppm by the year 2100 (Taub, 2010). The gradually rising concentrations of CO 2 in the atmosphere may have an irreversible impact on climate change and global warming (Solomon et al., 2009). The increases in atmospheric concentrations of CO 2 could lead to a rise in temperatures which in turn could cause sea levels to rise, dry-season rainfall reductions, severe droughts in some parts of the world, extreme weather conditions, more frequent extreme rainfall events with high intensity, an increase of flood frequency, the loss of ecosystems, and potentially hazardous health effects (Gunawardhana and Al-Rawas, 2014; Mishra and Siddiqui, 2014). "
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