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Study: Climate change to escalate even if we cut emissions

By Chanah Rubenstein     Jan 10, 2011 in Environment
A new study predicts that climate change will cause a global disaster within the next 1,000 years, even if we cut all greenhouse gas emissions on a global scale.
The Canadian Press reports that the study, which will be published in Sunday’s online publication of the journal Nature Geoscience, was led by researchers from the University of Calgary and Environment Canada’s climate centre at the University of Victoria.
They predict that coastal areas will flood due to sea levels rising by at least four metres, thereby causing the planets land mass to shrink.
The study also predicts that parts of North Africa will dry out by up to 30 percent and all of Africa will become hotter, causing food shortages.
The oceans will heat up, likely causing a widespread collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet, which compares in size to the Canadian Prairies, the study forecasts.
Shawn Marshall, a geography professor at the University of Calgary, who holds the Canada Research Chair in Climate Change, told The Canadian Press that while it might look like something out of a movie, it won’t happen as quickly. "It's probably slower playing than some of the disaster movies," he said.
"We were kind of surprised by the result, actually. Even if we change behaviour and totally change society, we're still in store for a lot of bad scenarios. I feel a bit defeatist from it," he added.
To conduct the study, the researchers used a computer model to speculate how the world would alter by the year 3000 in a “zero emissions” scenario.
They found that the Northern Hemisphere fared better than the Southern Hemisphere. It showed patterns of climate change in places such as Canada as eventually reversing in the 1,000 year time frame.
"Canada and Russia would fare the best," Marshall said.
"I don't think you'll find many people really complaining about a five-degree warming. Canada is in a good position globally -- there's no question about that. In Africa, it just gets worse, but then other countries like Russia and Canada could get better. It's just a matter of whether we can reach some kind of model of global co-operation,” he added
The study also looked at forecasting a future where the world continues “business as usual,” The Canadian Press reported.
"If we drop dead with emissions right now, the Arctic sea ice gets worse for another 10 or 20 years but then it comes back -- so by 2100 it's back to what we're used to. If we keep business as usual, the sea ice in the Arctic is mostly gone," Marshall said.
According to Marshall, somewhere in the middle is a more realistic outlook.
Marshall doesn’t want people to think that because nothing can be done, that they shouldn’t do anything to cut emissions; he hopes that people read this study and realize that cutting emissions is imperative, so as to lessen the damage for the future generations.
"There's a lot of legacy in the choices we make this century. We're seeing a lot of the early signs of climate change. If you're looking at a risk analysis, just realize that these changes we're making to the atmosphere do have a long-term effect," Marshall said.
More about Climate change, Greenhouse Gas, Ocean warming
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