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Global warming: lower than expected?

We could curb global warming over the next five decades says Concordia professor Damon Matthews
September 13, 2010

Damon Matthews
Damon Matthews

Global warming might be curbed over the next five decades, but only if current vehicles and power plants are replaced by cleaner options after they expire, according a new study coauthored by Damon Matthews, a Professor at the Department of Geography, Planning and Environment.

Using a global database on the lifespan and emission rates of current operating CO2-emitting technology, Matthews and colleagues from the Carnegie Institution in the U.S. calculated how much carbon dioxide would be released worldwide from that infrastructure if no additional CO2-emitting devices were built.

They then used a global climate model to project the impact of these CO2 emissions on the atmosphere and climate. Their findings are published in the latest edition of the journal Science.

“Results were surprising,” says Matthews. “We found that a total of 500 billion tons of carbon dioxide would be released into the atmosphere from 2010 and 2060.”

“When input into a climate model,” he continues, “this resulted in CO2 concentrations of less than 430 ppm and a global temperature increase of only 1.3 degrees compared to pre-industrial temperatures.”

Global warming calculated in this study was considerably less than the current international target of 2 degrees Celsius. Yet the research team cautions that depending on how rapidly cleaner technology is designed and adopted around the world, CO2 emissions could end up being much higher than those projected in their study.

“Because most of the threat from climate change will come from energy infrastructure we have yet to build, it is critically important that we build the right stuff – that is, low carbon emission energy technologies,” says lead author Steven Davis, a researcher at the Carnegie Institution Department of Global Ecology.

This joint Concordia study was covered by several media, such as The Gazette, CBC News and TIME.

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