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Thursday 8 December 2016

Global warming now linked with onset of industrial revolution

Published 25/08/2016 | 02:30

Carbon dioxide released in the 1800s caused the planet to warm
Carbon dioxide released in the 1800s caused the planet to warm

Global warming may have begun almost 200 years ago as the industrial revolution took hold and resulted in carbon dioxide being spewed into the atmosphere.

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Research published in the journal 'Nature' suggests that warming of the Earth's oceans and land may have started in 1830, much earlier than has previously been suggested.

The paper, 'Early Onset of Industrial-Era Warming Across the Oceans and Continents', says that just decades after factories fuelled by coal power began to spread across much of the UK, carbon dioxide was added to the air in small but increasing amounts, resulting in the planet beginning to warm.

Researchers suggest that, while any reduction in greenhouse gas emissions will not stop the planet from heating, it could result in "quick paybacks".

The study comes as pension funds with assets totalling more than US$13tn (€11.5tr) have urged G20 nations meeting in China early next month to ratify the Paris Climate Agreement. The world's 20 biggest economies have been asked to phase out fossil fuel subsidies and accelerate investment in clean energy to help keep global temperature rises below 2C.

The Paris Agreement will only come into force if 55 countries, representing 55pc of global emissions, ratify. So far, 23 countries representing just over 1pc of emissions have signed up. Some 197 countries are party to the agreement.

The 'Nature' article drew on a 500-year history of temperatures in the oceans and land and showed that even small amounts of carbon may be able to shift how fast the planet is warming - with both positive and negative results.

"It tells us that our climate system is able to respond relatively quickly to greenhouse gases, at least in some areas," lead author Nerilie Abram, from the Australian National University in Canberra, said. "Maybe we can also flip that around to ask, if we can reduce greenhouse gas emissions, are there some areas where we could see quick paybacks?"

Oceans are considered critical to the planet's climate, and have absorbed nearly 90pc of the warming caused by climate change.

Researchers used data about microscopic organisms that swam at the oceans' surface, then died and became buried on the sea floor. They also examined corals, which have a growth ring much like trees, which can help gauge the temperature of the oceans. Computer modelling was used to rule out natural warming.

The paper says that, while small reductions in greenhouse gas emissions won't stop the planet from heating up, they could slow down the speed of that change. It suggested the climate system could respond "really quickly" to relatively small changes in greenhouse gases.

Irish Independent

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