Even if greenhouse gas emissions were stabilized at today's rates, global warming would not stop. According to scientists at NASA, CO2 levels are rising because there is more CO2 being emitted into the atmosphere than natural processes such as photosynthesis and absorption into the
Positive radiative forcings warm the climate; negative forcings cool the climate. One of the largest positive forcings today is the human-caused component leading to global warming.
oceans can presently remove. There is no longer a carbon balance; there is a net gain that continues to increase each year. As the CO2 levels increase, the temperatures continue to rise.
Because the Earth's carbon system is already so out of balance, in order to stop global warming, emissions must actually be reduced over the coming years, not just stabilized. Even with the best of intentions, the Earth's temperature would not react immediately—there is a delayed reaction. This occurs because there is already an abundance of excess energy stored in the world's oceans. This "lag time" responding to the reaction is referred to as "thermal inertia." Because of thermal inertia, scientists at NASA have determined that the 1-1.5°F (0.6-0.9°C) of global warming that has already occurred this past century is not the full amount of warming the environment will eventually reach from the greenhouse gases that have already been emitted into the atmosphere. Even in the extreme case that all greenhouse emissions stopped immediately, the Earth's average surface temperature would continue to climb 1°F (0.6°C) or more over the next several decades before temperatures leveled off.
The half-life of CO2 is about 100 years. Therefore, most of the CO2 being released today will still be in the atmosphere in 2109. Although there are natural factors that control the CO2 levels and climate, NASA supports the notion that human influence is changing the climate on Earth—many agree today's documented global warming trend is at least partly anthropogenic in origin. The IPCC states: "The balance of evidence suggests that there is a discernible human influence on global climate."
According to James E. Hansen at NASA/GISS, this lag time is a key reason why it is risky to hold off any longer trying to control greenhouse gas emissions. The longer society waits to take positive action to stop global warming, the more severe and long-lasting the consequences will become. He stresses that the time to act is now, not some time in the future.
If global warming is allowed to continue, there will be many negative effects, such as the disappearance of ecosystems, leading to the extinction of many species; there will be a greater number of heat-related deaths; there will be a greater spread of infectious diseases, such as encephalitis, malaria, and dengue fever through the proliferation of disease-carrying mosquitoes; malnutrition and starvation as a result of droughts; loss of coastal areas due to sea level rise from melting ice caps and thermal expansion of the oceans; unpredictable agricultural production; threatened food supply and contaminated water. Impacts will be health-related, social, political, ecological, environmental, and economic.
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