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Mitigation of short-lived climate pollutants slows sea-level rise

Abstract

Under present growth rates of greenhouse gas and black carbon aerosol emissions, global mean temperatures can warm by as much as 2 °C from pre-industrial temperatures by about 20501,2. Mitigation of the four short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs), methane, tropospheric ozone, hydrofluorocarbons and black carbon, has been shown to reduce the warming trend by about 50% (refs 1, 2) by 2050. Here we focus on the potential impact of this SLCP mitigation on global sea-level rise (SLR). The temperature projections under various SLCP scenarios simulated by an energy-balance climate model1 are integrated with a semi-empirical SLR model3, derived from past trends in temperatures and SLR, to simulate future trends in SLR. A coupled ocean–atmosphere climate model4 is also used to estimate SLR trends due to just the ocean thermal expansion. Our results show that SLCP mitigation can have significant effects on SLR. It can decrease the SLR rate by 24–50% and reduce the cumulative SLR by 22–42% by 2100. If the SLCP mitigation is delayed by 25 years, the warming from pre-industrial temperature exceeds 2 °C by 2050 and the impact of mitigation actions on SLR is reduced by about a third.

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Figure 1: Observed and simulated global mean surface temperature.
Figure 2: SLR changes in different scenarios.

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Acknowledgements

This study was financially supported by the National Science Foundation (ATM07-21142). A portion of this study was also supported by the Office of Science (BER), US Department of Energy, Cooperative Agreement No. DE-FC02-97ER62402. The National Center for Atmospheric Research is funded by the National Science Foundation.

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V.R. designed and led the study, A.H., Y.X., C.T. and W.M.W. contributed to the model simulations and data analysis, and all authors actively contributed to writing the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Veerabhadran Ramanathan.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Hu, A., Xu, Y., Tebaldi, C. et al. Mitigation of short-lived climate pollutants slows sea-level rise. Nature Clim Change 3, 730–734 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1038/nclimate1869

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