The End is Nigh? New Evidence for Global Warming Armageddon
In recent months, politicians have tried to deny the views of environmental wellness experts, and claim that climate change isn’t quite as scary as they’d have us believe. However, new research, published the journal Nature Geoscience, has found that a runaway greenhouse Armageddon is all too possible, and, the oceans could theoretically boil dry. However, it’s not all doom and gloom as we humans – planet harming as we might be – cannot do enough on our own to trigger such an end-of-the-world scenario in the near future.
Until now, experts thought that, for the Earth’s well-being to be truly in jeopardy from global warming, we would need more energy from the sun. However, researchers from Canada and the US have made new calculations which show that it’s far more easy for catastrophic warming to occur than the experts had previously supposed. Unfortunately, a runaway greenhouse effect is a realistic possibility, even for a planet receiving the same amount of solar radiation as the Earth.
According to the research team, which was led by Colin Goldblatt from the University of Victoria in Canada, ‘The runaway greenhouse may be much easier to initiate than previously thought. A renewed modelling effort is needed, addressing both Earth and planetary science applications.’ If you are struggling to imagine what it might look like if the Earth was ever caught in the grip of runaway global warming, you only need to take a look at your planetary neighbour. Many experts believe that Venus has experienced a runaway greenhouse effect in the past, and now – due to its average surface temperature of 460C – the planet’s dense carbon dioxide atmosphere is hot enough to melt lead.
Though the study’s simplified model didn’t take into account the effect of clouds, it is still a viable account of how a stable Earth could switch to a runaway greenhouse state under certain atmospheric conditions. However, during the Eocene period 55 million years ago (in which the Earth underwent more warming than at any previous time in its history) the atmospheric carbon dioxide levels and temperature were both higher than what we can be expected to see as a result of our man-made emissions, but there was still no runaway effect. The researchers concluded, ‘This implies that an anthropogenic (human-caused) runaway greenhouse is unlikely.’