A new study by scientists has determined that in order to stabilize our planet's climate, the level of carbon dioxide emissions has to be brought down to near zero.
Conducted by climate scientists Ken Caldeira and Damon Matthews at the Carnegie Institution in US, the study used an Earth system model to simulate the response of the Earth's climate to different levels of carbon dioxide emission over the next 500 years.
The model, a sophisticated computer program developed at the University of Victoria, Canada, takes into account the flow of heat between the atmosphere and oceans, as well as other factors such as the uptake of carbon dioxide by land vegetation, in its calculations.
According to the researchers, this study investigates what level of carbon dioxide emission would be needed to prevent further warming of our planet.
"Most scientific and policy discussions about avoiding climate change have centered on what emissions would be needed to stabilize greenhouse gases in the atmosphere," said Caldeira. "But stabilizing greenhouse gases does not equate to a stable climate. We studied what emissions would be needed to stabilize climate in the foreseeable future," he added.
The scientists investigated how much climate changes as a result of each individual emission of carbon dioxide, and found that each increment of emission leads to another increment of warming.
So, if additional warming needs to be avoided, it becomes important to avoid additional emissions.
With emissions set to zero in the simulations, the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere slowly fell as carbon "sinks" such as the oceans and land vegetation absorbed the gas.
While eliminating carbon dioxide emissions may seem like a radical idea, Caldeira sees it as a feasible goal.
"It is just not that hard to solve the technological challenges," said Caldeira. "We can develop and deploy wind turbines, electric cars, and so on, and live well without damaging the environment," he added.
According to Calderia, "The future can be better than the present, but we have to take steps to start kicking the CO2 habit now, so we won't need to go cold turkey later."