U.S. Department of Energy Office of Biological and Environmental Research

BER Research Highlights

Reducing Current Carbon Emissions Has Big Benefits for Climate
Published: April 20, 2009
Posted: April 30, 2009

In a paper being published this week in Geophysical Research Letters, Dr. Warren Washington and colleagues at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) report that current patterns of global warming can still be greatly diminished if nations cut emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases by 70% this century. Their analysis is based on assumptions about carbon emissions from the U.S. Climate Change Science Program Synthesis and Assessment Report #2.1.  This report cites 450 ppm carbon dioxide as an attainable target if the world quickly adapts conservation practices and new green technologies to cut emissions dramatically. Left unchecked, emissions are currently on track to reach about 750 ppm by 2100.  The team's results showed that if atmospheric CO2 were held to 450 ppm, global temperatures would only increase by 0.6oC by the end of the century. In contrast, the study showed that temperatures would rise by almost four times that amount, or 2.2oC, if emissions are allowed to continue on their present course.  The more modest increase would partially avoid some of the most dangerous impacts of climate change, massive losses of Arctic sea ice and permafrost and significant sea level rise, in addition to lesser impacts on Arctic fisheries and mammals, and less global and regional changes of surface temperature and precipitation. Such reductions in emissions would stabilize atmospheric CO2 (and the climate system) by 2100 whereas the non-mitigation scenario would not result in stabilization in the present century.

Reference:  Washington, W. M., R. Knutti, G. A. Meehl, H. Teng, C. Tebaldi, D. Lawrence, L. Buja, and W. G. Strand. 2009. "How Much Climate Change Can Be Avoided by Mitigation?" Geophysical Research Letters 36, L08703. DOI: 10.1029/2008GL037074. (Reference link)

Contact: Anjuli Bamzai, SC-23.1, (301) 903-0294
Topic Areas:

  • Research Area: Earth and Environmental Systems Modeling
  • Research Area: Multisector Dynamics (formerly Integrated Assessment)
  • Research Area: Atmospheric System Research

Division: SC-23.1 Climate and Environmental Sciences Division, BER


BER supports basic research and scientific user facilities to advance DOE missions in energy and environment. More about BER

Recent Highlights

May 10, 2019
Quantifying Decision Uncertainty in Water Management via a Coupled Agent-Based Model
Considering risk perception can improve the representation of human decision-making processes in age [more...]

May 09, 2019
Projecting Global Urban Area Growth Through 2100 Based on Historical Time Series Data and Future Scenarios
Study provides country-specific urban area growth models and the first dataset on country-level urba [more...]

May 05, 2019
Calibrating Building Energy Demand Models to Refine Long-Term Energy Planning
A new, flexible calibration approach improved model accuracy in capturing year-to-year changes in bu [more...]

May 03, 2019
Calibration and Uncertainty Analysis of Demeter for Better Downscaling of Global Land Use and Land Cover Projections
Researchers improved the Demeter model’s performance by calibrating key parameters and establi [more...]

Apr 22, 2019
Representation of U.S. Warm Temperature Extremes in Global Climate Model Ensembles
Representation of warm temperature events varies considerably among global climate models, which has [more...]

List all highlights (possible long download time)