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Report calls climate change 'irreversible'

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NEWSCOM/FILE

(Read caption) A coal-fired power plant in Neurath, Germany.

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Even if all the world's smokestacks and tailpipes were to suddenly stop spewing CO2, if all the trees everywhere were to be left standing, and if all the remaining coal, oil, and gas were to stay in the ground, the planet would still feel the effects of global warming a millennium from now.

That's the conclusion of a sobering new report published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The study found that, even as atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide decline, the oceans, which are slowing down global warming by absorbing heat, will seek equilibrium with the atmosphere by re-releasing it.

On the Horizons blog, the Monitor's Pete Spotts quotes Susan Solomon, a senior researcher with the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration and the lead author of the study: “The same thing that is holding back climate change today will keep it going in the very long term, and that is the oceans.”

Combine this with the tendency for carbon dioxide to persist in the atmosphere for centuries, and global warming becomes a juggernaut that will take many, many generations to turn around.

"People have imagined that if we stopped emitting carbon dioxide the climate would go back to normal in 100 years, 200 years; that's not true," said Ms. Solomon, according to the Associated Press.

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