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End the duopoly

Slash CO2, Then Wait—and Wait—for Temperatures to Drop

Credit: Kryssia Campos Getty Images Climate action taken by the world today wouldn’t be noticed for decades to come, according to researchers who say warming on Earth won’t start to slow down for at least 20 years.

And that’s probably an optimistic scenario.

A study published Tuesday in Nature Communications illustrates how the rewards for aggressive action would come much later. If global carbon dioxide emissions began falling tomorrow by at least 5% every year, the rate at which the Earth is warming wouldn’t begin to change —at least in a detectable way —until after the year 2040 or so. Advertisement Currently, worldwide emissions are still rising.

The situation is similar, in some ways, to a “very large ship, which is at high speed,” said Marianne Lund, a climate scientist at the Center for International Climate Research (CICERO) in Norway and one of the study’s co-authors.

“When you want to change direction, you put your engine in reverse and you turn your wheel full over, but it still takes such a long time before you start seeing your big tanker ship really change or turn,” she said in an interview. “That’s like CO 2 .”

That’s partly because the climate system itself is slow […]

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