Today, there are some scientists and people that are working on projects that will reduce the production of CO2 levels and effects of climate change. I'm very confused on whether it is possible for there to be enough change such that climate change can reduce and soon come to a stable level?

  • $\begingroup$ Yes it is possible. No it is not likely to happen. $\endgroup$
    – bon
    Commented Mar 7, 2017 at 21:51
  • $\begingroup$ Hi Math4life... are you asking if is possible that new technology may be able to curb climate change? Or whether current trends/actions are likely to help? Or whether it's even possible with drastic changes? $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 8, 2017 at 5:00
  • $\begingroup$ If you look at the history of climate you will see that it changed massively in the past (pre industrialization) so asking for a stable climate looks a bit silly ! What I think you want is the normally unstable and variable climate which nature provided (and could theoretically provide now) but without the extra bit of human induced variability which you don't like. So you want a more acceptable degree of variability I think. Let's wave a magic wand and reduce CO2 to 270ppm right now. Are you absolutely sure that the really hot, really cold, really wet, really windy, really variable ice sheets $\endgroup$
    – user7733
    Commented Mar 18, 2017 at 1:30

2 Answers 2


Our current actions are most definitely not enough to reduce the rate of climate change. Yes, it is possible that someday we could do enough to start reversing the damage, but we aren't anywhere close to that reality given our social customs that constantly rely on combustion. Definitely not anything "soon".

The reality is that emissions still go up nearly every year. This is largely because most of the world (especially China) is actively converting to "western" lifestyle, which uses a lot of resources per capita. Also, it takes hundreds of years for CO2 to decrease in the atmosphere naturally. So, while there are many efforts to reduce CO2 emissions, the amount of carbon in the atmosphere still goes up every year. If we could somehow advance carbon sequestration methods to the point where we can reduce both oceanic and atmospheric carbon, then we could theoretically get back to "normal". To truly make a change in the right direction, though, the industrialized world needs to stop relying on combustion as the dominant energy source. See the http://www.globalcarbonproject.org/carbonbudget/index.htm slides (excerpt below) for more information.

Emissions from fossil fuel use and industry: Emissions from fossil fuel use and industry

And here is the atmospheric concentration as measured at Mauna Loa: enter image description here


Is it possible for there to be enough change such that climate change can reduce and soon come to a stable level?

Yes, sort of. For some value of "soon".

Of all the emissions released to date, it will take another thirty years for the first stage of impacts to make itself felt. So even if we went to net zero emissions tomorrow, we've got decades of seeing the first stage of impacts, and then centuries of seeing further consequences. (of course, the global climate will continue to change at the scale of tens of thousands of years, but I've understood your question to refer to human impacts, and human lifetimes)

But we're not close to getting to net zero emissions. We may be close to the time when emissions stop rising. Then they've got to level off, and then fall to zero. And then probably we'll want them to be deeply negative for a while, to prevent further damage.

So we have decades of future climate change already built into the system. And the longer we take to get to net zero emissions, the longer it will be before things stabilise at human timescales. And the higher the cumulative emissions before we reach peak atmospheric CO2 concentrations, the worse the consequences for humankind.

If the political will was there, we could probably get to net negative emissions within 20 years. So, we could get to some kind of stability in, say 40-50 years.

  • $\begingroup$ By negative emissions I assume you mean sequestration methods? There's a lot of carbon in the ocean, which can act as a source, so that may change your estimate of 40-50 years. $\endgroup$
    – f.thorpe
    Commented Mar 18, 2017 at 6:42

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