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Pace of climate change will speed up, warn researchers



Researchers have warned that changes to the climate that occur over several decades are now happening faster than historical levels and are continuing to speed up. They added that people will have to adapt to a warming world faster than previously anticipated.

The study, which has been published in the journal Nature, comes from the US’s Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. The research involved examining historical and projected changes over decades to determine the temperature trends that will be felt by humans alive today.

Lead author of the paper, Steve Smith said, “We focused on changes over 40-year periods, which is similar to the lifetime of houses and human-built infrastructure such as buildings and roads. In near term, we’re going to have to adapt to these changes.”

Overall the analysis found that the Earth is getting warmer due to increasing greenhouse gas emission, which trap heat in the atmosphere. However, the temperature increase is not smooth and natural changes also affect results.

The research suggests that by 2020 temperatures in the northern hemisphere could increase by 0.25C each decade, a level not seen for at least a millennium. The climate models used show that, at the present time, most world regions are almost completely outside the natural range of rate of change, demonstrating the impact of man-made climate change.

Looking ahead, the team found that even in scenarios with lower rates of future greenhouse gas emissions, climate change will pick up speed in the next 40 years, although at a lower rate than scenarios featuring high emissions.

The research aimed to better understand how fast the climate might change and to help decision makers better prepare for its impacts.

Smith added, “In these climate model simulations, the world is just now starting to enter into a new place, where rates of temperature change are consistently larger than historical values over 40-year time span. We need to better understand what the effects of this will be and how to prepare for them.”

A separate study has also recently warned that climate change could speed up. The research looked at the so-called global warming ‘pause’ and concluded it had been caused by natural variations in the climate cycle, not man-made climate change. As a result, the researchers warned that the pace of climate change could increase, as the natural cycles had masked the full impact of man-made climate change.

Photo: NOAA’s National Ocean Service via Flickr

Further reading:

Study: global warming ‘pause’ caused by natural climate cycles

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