Scientists Say Urgent Action Needed To Prevent Climate Change
A new study finds global warming is happening faster than expected. The report, which includes research from a UC San Diego climate scientist, says action is needed sooner rather than later to prevent damage from climate change.
The report, called "The Copenhagen Diagnosis," is designed to inform delegates at next month's global climate conference in Denmark.
Greenhouse gases -- carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and methane -- are believed to be the primary drivers of global warming. Carbon dioxide, or CO2, is the main greenhouse gas.
Penn State Professor Michael Mann says if humans continue to produce atmospheric CO2 at the current rate, several vulnerable elements like continental ice sheets could be pushed toward irreversible change.
"Just 20 more years of emissions would put us at CO2 levels where there is a danger of warming in excess of about two degrees Celsius, or 3.5 degrees or so Fahrenheit,” says Mann. “And that's often considered a threshold for what we might begin to think of as a potentially dangerous level of interference with the climate."
Mann says the study shows carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels in 2008 were about 40 percent higher than those in 1990.
UCSD climate researcher Richard Somerville says energy conservation, using more renewable energy, and reducing fossil fuel consumption is needed now.
"The longer you wait, the more difficult the problem gets if you continue to dither and procrastinate, if the world doesn't take concerted action to reduce emissions,” says Somerville. “Because many climate indicators have been tracking along the upper edge, near the worst case scenario, of the range of scenarios."
Somerville says sea ice is disappearing much faster than recently projected, and future sea-level rise is expected to be much higher than previously forecast.