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Environment & Climate Change

Why the world would keep warming even if we stopped emitting greenhouse gases

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Rood said we've already warmed the Earth by 1 degree C. The goal is to limit warming to 2 degrees C, but Rood said he tells people to prepare for a world that's 4 degrees C warmer.

A recent article in The Conversation asks this question: “If we stopped emitting greenhouse gases right now, would we stop climate change?”

The article’s author Richard Rood, a climate change scientist with the University of Michigan, brought Stateside the answer today.

He said there’s already a lot of “thermal inertia” in Earth’s system. The oceans especially have already amassed a substantial quantity of heat. He said that means Earth would keep warming even if we stopped emitting greenhouse gases now.

“I compare it a little bit to like a big roast that you’re cooking in the oven,” Rood said. “If you take it out, the center of that roast will continue to get warm.”

He said there’d essentially be a decade-long lag between stopping emissions and stabilizing global temperatures.

To then reduce global temperature, if it’s possible at all, would require removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, he said.

Listen above to hear why Rood teaches his students to prepare for a world that’s four degrees warmer, and how exactly he suggests preparing for such a world.

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