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Reducing four specific pollutants could cut sea level rise by up to 50 percent

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Ocean 1020
Ocean 1020

We've known for years that the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide is a main contributor to climate change that threatens to raise the earth's sea level to a potentially dangerous point, but a new study shows that focusing on eliminating other pollutants could help slow sea level rise as well. Researchers from the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) have discovered that cutting emissions of four pollutants that can cycle quickly through the atmosphere could slow the yearly rate of sea level increase between 25 and 50 percent.

Carbon dioxide isn't the contributor to rising sea levels

While scientists have focused on cutting carbon dioxide emissions for years, the team behind this study feels that stablizing CO2 and cutting back on these other pollutants could be a big help. "It is still not too late, by stabilizing carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere and reducing emissions of shorter-lived pollutants, to lower the rate of warming and reduce sea level rise by 30 percent," says Veerabhadran Ramanathan of Scripps, a leader of the new study. "The large role of the shorter-lived pollutants is encouraging since technologies are available to drastically cut their emissions."

Estimates range dramatically as to how much the sea level will rise in the 21st century — assuming average temperatures continue to rise, sea levels are expected to increase between seven inches and six feet this century — but a solution for decreasing carbon dioxide levels has been hard for policy-makers to agree on. The team behind this new research is hoping that fast cuts of the gases in its study could offset temperature increases by 50 percent by 2050. While it may not be entirely clear how much of a threat rising sea levels are yet, any way to slow the rise is worth paying attention to.