With coastal areas bracing for rising sea levels, new research indicates that cutting emissions of certain pollutants can greatly slow down sea level rise this century.
A research team found that reductions in just FOUR pollutants that cycle comparatively quickly through the atmosphere could temporarily forestall the rate of sea level rise by 25 to 50%.
As glaciers and ice sheets melt and warming oceans expand, sea levels have been rising by an average of about 3 millimeters annually in recent years (just more than one-tenth of an inch). If temperatures continue to warm, sea levels are projected to rise between 7 and 23 inches this century. Some scientists, however, feel those estimates are too conservative.
And what are those four heat-trapping pollutants? They are methane, tropospheric ozone, hydrofluorocarbons, and black carbon. These gases and particles last anywhere from a week to a decade in the atmosphere, and they can influence climate more quickly than carbon dioxide, which persists in the atmosphere for centuries.
A sharp reduction in emissions of these shorter-lived pollutants beginning in 2015 could offset warming temperatures by up to 50 percent by 2050.
Climatologist Aixue Hu says, "To avoid potentially dangerous sea level rise, we could cut emissions of short-lived pollutants even if we cannot immediately cut carbon dioxide emissions. This new research shows that society can significantly reduce the threat to coastal cities if it moves quickly on a handful of pollutants."
Climatologist Veerabhadran Ramanathan says, "It is still not too late, by stabilizing carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere and reducing emissions of shorter-lived pollutants, to lower the rate of warming and reduce sea level rise. The large role of the shorter-lived pollutants is encouraging since technologies are available to drastically cut their emissions."
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