A team of researchers has derived the first theoretical equation showing how carbon emissions directly influence global warming.

Coal-fired power station in England, Ratcliffe-on-Soar

Coal-fired power station in England, Ratcliffe-on-Soar

While over 97 percent of scientists agree that emissions from fossil fuel-burning sources have a significant impact on global warming and climate change, quantitatively presenting this evidence is difficult due to the range of natural and man-made systems at work. This new theoretical equation was created by researchers from the universities of Southampton, Bristol and Liverpool and shows how one million-million tonnes of carbon will generate one degree Celsius of global warming.

The report showing how the researchers derived the equation and the data that supports it was first published online on December 1 in the journal Nature Geoscience.

Climate skeptics have pointed to the slowdown of global surface warming as evidence that climate change is overblown or even bunk, but previous theories have attributed the slowdown to greater absorption of heat and carbon by the world’s oceans. This latest equation supports that hypothesis and shows that the surface warming response is reduced by about 10-20 percent as a result of the atmosphere-ocean system.

“The ocean turns out to be crucial by taking up both heat and carbon, which lead to nearly compensating effects in how surface warming depends on carbon emissions,” said Professor Ric Williams, Chair in Ocean Sciences at the University of Liverpool’s School of Environmental Sciences, in a news release.

“These findings potentially address the most important finding from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report last year,” he said, “which is how global warming increases with how much carbon we emit.

“In terms of wider policy implications, our theory reiterates a simple message: the more cumulative carbon emissions are allowed to increase, the more global surface warming will also increase.”

In early November, the IPCC recommended that nations phase out the use of unregulated fossil fuels by 2100 in order to stop the worst impacts of climate change. Dr. Phil Goodwin of Ocean and Earth Science at the University of Southampton has said that fossil fuel emissions have already created a “nearly irreversible” warming that “will last many centuries, even after much of the carbon has been absorbed by the ocean.”

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