A new study from the University of Washington suggests that Earth’s temperature will keep increasing, even if all greenhouse gas emissions were stopped right now.
Why? Because greenhouse gases will last longer in the atmosphere than particulate matter (aerosols) that reflect the sun’s light. So, the solar radiation coming in will increase and the heat energy will be reflected by the greenhouse gases. (Explore the relationship between temperature, greenhouse gases, and albedo in our activity, “What will Earth’s climate be in the future?“)
How much would the temperature rise if we were able to cut all greenhouse gas emissions right now? In the best case scenario, global temperature will actually decline. In the worst case scenario, the global temperature would rise by 3.5°F.
Why the big disparity? Scientists don’t really know the overall effect of the aerosols, particles as disparate as soot from burning fossil fuels and sea salt. But this doesn’t mean that their predictions are worthless:
“… uncertainties do not lessen the importance of the findings, he said. The scientists are confident, from the results of equations they used, that some warming would have to occur even if all emissions stopped now. But there are more uncertainties, and thus a lower confidence level, associated with larger temperature increases.”
Ending all greenhouse gas emissions immediately is not a realistic option. So Earth’s temperature will likely increase further. How much? Scientists are still tweaking the models to determine that.