A team of scientists from the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School found carbon dioxide doubles down in potency as the amount of the gas increases in our atmosphere because of industrial pollution, thus exacerbating global warming.
The new study, published in Science, comes as world leaders meet in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, this week for the United Nations Climate Change Conference COP28.
“It is yet further confirmation that carbon emissions must be curbed sooner rather than later to avoid the most severe impacts of climate change,” said Brian Soden, a professor of atmospheric sciences at the Rosenstiel School in a UM news release that quoted the researchers. He is the study’s senior author.
Carbon dioxide leads to global warming by trapping heat energy. Some scientists say CO2 plays the role of a control knob for the earth’s atmosphere and have tracked increases and decreases to the earth’s temperature over eons by the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere.
The UM researchers, using state-of-the-art climate models, found that as CO2 increases in the upper atmosphere it becomes more potent as a greenhouse gas because the stratosphere is cooling.
Previously, scientists thought the amount of heat trapped in the atmosphere was proportionate to the increase in CO2, a constant that doesn’t change over time.
“This new finding shows that the radiative forcing is not constant but changes as the climate responds to increases in carbon dioxide,” said Ryan Kramer, a physical scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory and an alumnus of the Rosenstiel School.
What this means, said Haozhe He, one of the researchers, is that future increases in CO2 will provide a more potent warming effect on climate than an equivalent increase in the past.
“This new understanding has significant implications for interpreting both past and future climate changes and implies that high CO2 climates may be intrinsically more sensitive than low CO2 climates,” he said.
Many scientists feel a consequence of industrial pollution and increased CO2 emissions is seen in the shrinking glaciers because of rising temperatures at the poles. Two-thirds of the world’s glaciers are on track to disappear by 2100 if current climate trends continue.