Want to Slow Sea Level Rise? Curb 4 Pollutants

Sharp reductions in short-lived airborne pollutants could significantly slow sea level rise before 2100, a new study finds.

The four pollutants — black carbon, methane, ozone and hydrofluorocarbons — all cycle through the atmosphere more quickly than carbon dioxide, which lasts for centuries in the troposphere, the part of the atmosphere we live in and breathe. Carbon dioxide is the main culprit in Earth's warming temperatures, which impacts sea level rise both by the expansion of water as it warms and by the melting of glacial ice.

Cutting the air pollutants, which all also act to trap heat in the atmosphere and last anywhere from a week to decade, worldwideby 30 to 60 percent over the next several decades would lower predicted sea level rise by 22 to 42 percent by 2100, according to the study, published yesterday (April 14) in the journal Nature Climate Change.

Sea levels are expected to rise between 7 inches to 6.6 feet (18 centimeters to 2 meters) this century, according to a 2007 assessment by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The higher tides will bring more coastal flooding and bigger storm surges, the IPCC report warned.

Though the four pollutants are known contributors to climate change, policymakers tend to focus on carbon dioxide, the 800-pound-gorilla of global warming, when it comes to reducing emissions. Frustrated at the slow pace of negotiations on cutting carbon dioxide, the research team decided to investigate other ways to slow the planet's warming, according to a statement from the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, which participated in the research.

"To avoid potentially dangerous sea level rise, we could cut emissions of short-lived pollutants even if we cannot immediately cut carbon dioxide emissions," NCAR's Aixue Hu, lead study author, said in the statement. "This new research shows that society can significantly reduce the threat to coastal cities if it moves quickly on a handful of pollutants."

The study models relied on emissions cuts beginning in 2015. Hu and his colleagues tested the effects of lowering atmospheric levels of the four gases and particles by 30 to 60 percent over the next several decades, the steepest cuts believed possible by economists, the study said.

Even if these cuts are made, though, carbon dioxide is still the main threat, the authors said.

"It must be remembered that carbon dioxide is still the most important factor in sea level rise over the long term," Warren Washington, a study co-author at NCAR, said in the statement. "But we can make a real difference in the next several decades by reducing other emissions."

Email Becky Oskin or follow her @beckyoskin. Follow us @livescience, Facebook & Google+. Original article on LiveScience.com.

Copyright 2013 LiveScience, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Loading...
Loading...
  • Today in History

    Today is Good Friday, April 18, the 108th day of 2014. There are 257 days left in the year.

  • Chelsea Clinton expecting first child this fall
    Chelsea Clinton expecting first child this fall

    WASHINGTON (AP) — For the Clintons, 2014 is the year of the baby.

  • Iran: Rouhani talks peace, outreach at army parade
    Iran: Rouhani talks peace, outreach at army parade

    TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran's president underscored his moderate policies and outreach to the West in a speech Friday during a military parade on the country's National Army Day.

  • Centipede Bursts from Snake's Stomach
    Centipede Bursts from Snake's Stomach

    A group of researchers stumbled upon a grisly scene during a field study in Macedonia last year: a dead nose-horned viper with a centipede's head sticking out of its ruptured abdomen. "All of us were astonished, as nobody has ever seen something like this," Ljiljana Tomovi?, a herpetologist at the University of Belgrade, told Live Science in an email. The remnants of the death match were discovered when one researcher, Dragan Arsovski, turned over a stone, Tomovi? The unfortunate nose-horned viper (Vipera ammodytes) was a young female that stretched about 2 inches longer than the centipede (7.9 vs. 6 inches, or 20.3 vs. 15.4 centimeters), the researchers wrote last month in a brief report published in the journal Ecologica Montenegrina.

  • Brutish and short? DNA 'switch' sheds light on Neanderthals

    Hundreds of Neanderthals' genes were turned off while the identical genes in today's humans are turned on, the international team announced in a paper published online in Science. They also found that hundreds of other genes were turned on in Neanderthals, but are off in people living today. Among the hundreds: genes that control the shape of limbs and the function of the brain, traits where modern humans and Neanderthals differ most. "People are fundamentally interested in what makes us human, in what makes us different from Neanderthals," said Sarah Tishkoff, an expert in human evolution at the University of Pennsylvania, who was not involved in the new study.

  • For the Thrill of the Affair: Why Married Women Cheat
    For the Thrill of the Affair: Why Married Women Cheat

    A Look at the Different Reasons Men and Women Stray From Their Spouses

  • Man’s soda refill costs him $525 and gets him slapped with a federal charge [UPDATED]
    Man’s soda refill costs him $525 and gets him slapped with a federal charge [UPDATED]

    A Charleston, South Carolina man is speaking out after receiving a $525 ticket following his soda refill at a Veterans Affairs (VA) hospital.

  • Wall Street Week Ahead: Spring fever brings hope for U.S. earnings

    By Chuck Mikolajczak NEW YORK (Reuters) - Earnings season shifts into high gear next week, and with nearly one-third of S&P 500 names set to post results, investors hope the news provides a catalyst to buy stocks and leave the market's recent weakness in the dust. Several behemoths, including Apple, the largest U.S. company by market value, as well as Microsoft, McDonald's and AT&T , are due to report earnings. They'll be accompanied by highfliers like Netflix and Facebook, giving the first real cross-section of the state of corporate America as temperatures rise across the country and investors hope to put the cold weather behind them. Strategists will also be looking for clues on how badly China's slowdown hits U.S. corporate results.

Follow Yahoo! News

Loading...