By Bob Berwyn
Making it Stop
Some scientists punctuate their alarming warmings with hopeful messages because they know that the worst possible outcome is avoidable.
Recent research shows that stopping greenhouse gas emissions will break the vicious cycle of warming temperatures, melting ice, wildfires and rising sea levels faster than expected just a few years ago.
There is less warming in the pipeline than we thought, said Imperial College (London) climate scientist Joeri Rogelj, a lead author of the next major climate assessment from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
“It is our best understanding that, if we bring down CO2 to net zero, the warming will level off. The climate will stabilize within a decade or two,” he said. “There will be very little to no additional warming. Our best estimate is zero.”
The widespread idea that decades, or even centuries, of additional warming are already baked into the system, as suggested by previous IPCC reports, were based on an “unfortunate misunderstanding of experiments done with climate models that never assumed zero emissions.”
Those models assumed that concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere would remain constant, that it would take centuries before they decline, said Penn State climate scientist Michael Mann, who discussed the shifting consensus last October during a segment of 60 Minutes on CBS.
The idea that global warming could stop relatively quickly after emissions go to zero was described as a “game-changing new scientific understanding” by Covering Climate Now, a collaboration of news organizations covering climate.
“This really is true,” he said. “It’s a dramatic change in the paradigm that has been lost on many who cover this issue, perhaps because it hasn’t been well explained by the scientific community. It’s an important development that is still under appreciated.”“It’s definitely the scientific consensus now that warming stabilizes quickly, within 10 years, of emissions going to zero,” he said.