Apr 23, 2018 | Updated: 09:54 AM EDT

Earth’s Warm Streak Could Peak in a Decade, If Policymakers Don’t Change

Dec 02, 2014 09:36 PM EST

Speed up the models and cut down on your carbon footprints, because a bit of change today could spell better weather and a better Earth only a decade away. While climatologists and researchers across all of science have in recent years discussed the long-term goals of climate change and the effects of carbon emissions, a new study published today, Dec. 2, in the journal Environmental Research Letters reveals that reductions in carbon emissions today will help shape the planet's atmosphere in as little as 10 years, versus the 30 to 50 year models used by researchers and policymakers until now.

And while climate change and the ramifications of carbon emissions have been portrayed before as a problem of another generation, the study conducted by researcher Katharine Ricke from the Carnegie Institution for Science, says proves that our generation will also likely see the benefits of any changed instituted today. By combing several dozen existing climate models, and looking into various covariants that affect climate change, Ricke was able to not only predict future scenarios, but also create a much more likely model of what our atmosphere will look like in the decade to come.

"We were curious about when the time is until the maximum warming occurs from carbon dioxide emissions that you make today" Ricke says. "We weren't expecting the maximum warming to occur in 10 years. We couldn't believe no one had done this before."

"We kept looking for the reference, and it didn't exist."

The study used a single hypothetical pulse of CO2 currently expected by models to be released into the atmosphere, and by running it through various models, Ricke was able to come up with 6,000 projections of the global temperature response. And the mean value of the maximum change occurred at just over 10.1 years.

The hypothetical models, based largely on what researchers expect carbon emissions to be in the months to come, showed that emissions only take a decade to effect climate change, but what Ricke warns is that the ramification of negative change can last more than a lifetime. Climate changes, such as melting of polar ice caps and the rise of sea levels can cause global ecosystem changes, and changes in our surface temperatures, that will alter the face of our Earth for hundreds if not thousands of years to come. Thus Ricke encourages that preventative measures be taken by policymakers, because if we enact a bit of change today, we'll see the payoff only a decade away.

"From a policy-making perspective, or a psychological perspective" Ricke says, "there's a huge difference in something happening 10 years from now, to 30 or 40 years from now [in comparison]."

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