Climate experts Professor James Renwick and Drew Bingham discuss the possibility of stopping climate change by reducing our greenhouse gas emissions.
- If we stopped adding greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, why would it take a while for things to change?
- What aspects of climate change are not so reversible?
Climate change is a really complex problem because you’re taking a really complex physical system in the climate, and you’re trying to see how it interacts with other really complex systems, like our economy or our social systems, but just because it’s hard doesn’t mean it can’t be done.
So we totally know that we can stop climate change. Whether we can reverse climate change, that’s a harder problem, because we’ve already put so much heat into the climate – into the oceans particularly – and we’ve already put so much carbon dioxide into the air. And naturally, it takes thousands of years for that carbon dioxide to eventually react away and be taken out of the atmosphere. So we’ve already changed the climate for a very long time into the future. Some things are not so reversible – or they’re reversible on very, very long timescales – many, many human lifetimes. So for all intents and purposes, we’ve made kind of permanent changes to the big ice sheets already and to sea levels. But in terms of our day-to-day lives and the weather we experience, yeah, we can stop the changes quite quickly.
Professor James Renwick, Victoria University of Wellington
Drew Bingham, Ministry for the Environment
Pan across Antarctic ice sheet, Discovering Antarctica, released under CC BY-NC 3.0
This resource has been produced with the support of the Ministry for the Environment and Stats NZ. (c) Crown Copyright.