Further heating by cutting emissions too fast is not a plausible scenario

Some people have theorized that cutting fossil fuel emissions too aggressively and too quickly can have an unwanted effect and even cause the same temperature to rise in the short term. Now a new study by Duke University shows that this is an implausible scenario and therefore not to be taken into consideration.

As specified in the press release Drew Shindell, professor of Earth Sciences at the Nicholas School of the Environment and one of the authors of the study, in any plausible scenario with reductions in emissions from fossil fuels among those that can be assumed, there are no significant peaks in warming or other harmful consequences for the climate.

All these scenarios show decreases in heating rates within at least two decades of the start of the phase-out. The researchers analyzed 42 plausible scenarios with a more or less gradual phase-out of fossil fuel use.

The only scenario in which there is a significant warming peak is an implausible one, i.e. one in which global emissions are stopped instantly or very quickly. This is an implausible scenario, as Shindell himself points out, as it will take decades to switch to clean energy.

The idea is that the earth’s atmosphere can in a short time free itself from the so-called “aerosol”, a compound produced by the consumption of fossil fuel that partly obscures the Sun, while greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, would persist and this could lead to a short-term increase in atmospheric warming (someone has assumed about half a degree Celsius). According to Smith, these are “unfounded fears.” The same researcher adds that “any increase in the rate or level of short-term warming will be rather small compared to what we would see if we allowed emissions to remain at current levels.”

“What this work shows is that it is wrong to think that the transition to clean energy also has great environmental risks. Instead, it provides huge public health benefits and mitigates climate change,” says Shindell.

The study was published in Nature.


Links/Sources:

https://nicholas.duke.edu/news/cutting-emissions-gradually-will-avert-sudden-jump-warming

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-019-1554-z

Phil Coleman

Phil is a former professor and mathematician with particular expertise in elliptic curves and number theory. During his spare time, he enjoys flicking through science journals and keeping up to date with developments in a number of fields. It's no surprise that he is a valuable and keen contributor to IBN News, and he hopes to build up this publication into 2020 and beyond.

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Phil Coleman