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Humanity’s Enormous Climate Emissions Shrinking The Stratosphere, Research Shows

by : Cameron Frew on : 12 May 2021 18:24
Humanity's Enormous Climate Emissions Shrinking The Stratosphere, Research ShowsNASA/PA Images

Earth’s stratosphere is shrinking as a result of humanity’s enormous greenhouse gas emissions, according to new research. 

In April, the International Energy Agency estimated global carbon emissions to see the second-highest recorded uptick since the recovery of the 2008 financial crisis, likely to be a rebound from the closed factories and other halted businesses during the pandemic.

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Our reliance on fossil fuels and terrible environmental habits, despite constant pledges to change, are key issues in the climate crisis. After decades of emissions, experts say our stratosphere is shrinking.

Earth's atmospheric layers from the ISS. (PA Images)PA Images

According to a study published in the Environmental Research Letters journal, the stratosphere has thinned by around 400 metres since the 1980s and is set to contract by a full kilometre by 2080 unless countries across the world decrease their emissions. There are also concerns it could affect satellite communications and GPS systems.

The study notes: ‘It may affect satellite trajectories, orbital life-times, and retrievals… the propagation of radio waves, and eventually the overall performance of the Global Positioning System and other space-based navigational systems.’

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Juan Añel, part of the research team from the University of Vigo, Ourense in Spain, told The Guardian: ‘It is shocking. This proves we are messing with the atmosphere up to 60 kilometres.’

Earth's stratosphere. (NASA)NASA

It’s the first results to demonstrate fears of the stratosphere shrinking, coming after scientists found the troposphere (the lowest layer of Earth’s atmosphere) was increasing in height due to carbon emissions. While the troposphere is being pushed up, the stratosphere is contracting as a result of the excess CO2.

Professor Paul Williams, from the University of Reading, responded to the research: ‘This study finds the first observational evidence of stratosphere contraction and shows that the cause is in fact our greenhouse gas emissions rather than ozone.’

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Earth's stratosphere. (NASA)NASA

‘Some scientists have started calling the upper atmosphere the ‘ignorosphere’ because it is so poorly studied. This new paper will strengthen the case for better observations of this distant but critically important part of the atmosphere,’ he added.

A recent report found China to be the biggest culprit of greenhouse gases, responsible for 27% of the world’s emissions with the US emitting 11% and India producing 6%. President Joe Biden has promised carbon-neutrality by 2050, while China is aiming for a similar goal by 2060.

Williams said: ‘It is remarkable that we are still discovering new aspects of climate change after decades of research. It makes me wonder what other changes our emissions are inflicting on the atmosphere that we haven’t discovered yet.’

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Cameron Frew

After graduating from Glasgow Caledonian University with an NCTJ and BJTC-accredited Multimedia Journalism degree, Cameron ventured into the world of print journalism at The National, while also working as a freelance film journalist on the side, becoming an accredited Rotten Tomatoes critic in the process. He's now left his Scottish homelands and taken up residence at UNILAD as a journalist.

Topics: News, Climate Change, Environment, Now, Science

Credits

Environmental Research Letters and 1 other
  1. Environmental Research Letters

    Stratospheric contraction caused by increasing greenhouse gases

  2. The Guardian

    Climate emissions shrinking the stratosphere, scientists reveal