The direct warming influence of all long-lived greenhouse gases in the atmosphere today attributable to human activities. Carbon dioxide remains the undisputed king of recent climate change, but other greenhouse gases measurably contribute to the problem. Discussions with colleagues around the time of the 2009 United Nations’ climate conference in Copenhagen inspired three NOAA scientists – Stephen Montzka, Ed Dlugokencky and James Butler of NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colo. Scientists know that stabilizing the warming effect of CO2 in the atmosphere would require a decrease of about 80 percent in human-caused CO2 emissions — in part because some of the carbon dioxide emitted today will remain in the atmosphere for thousands of years. The new review paper describes the major human activities responsible for these emissions, and notes that steep cuts (such as 80 percent) would be difficult.
The climate-related benefits of reductions in non-CO2 greenhouse gases have limits, Montzka and his colleagues showed. The scientists also noted in the paper the complicated connections between climate and greenhouse gases, some of which are not yet fully understood.

NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. The combined influence of the non-CO2 greenhouse gases is equivalent to the heat from about 5 trillion bulbs. A new study, conducted by NOAA scientists and published online today in Nature, shows that cutting emissions of those other gases could slow changes in climate that are expected in the future.
In contrast, cutting all long-lived non-CO2 greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent could diminish their climate warming effect substantially within a couple of decades. Without substantial changes to human behavior, emissions of the non-CO2 greenhouse gases are expected to continue to increase. Even if all human-related, non-CO2 greenhouse gas emissions could be eliminated today, it would not be enough to stabilize the warming influence from all greenhouse gases over the next 40 years – unless CO2 emissions were also cut significantly. The non-CO2 gases studied have natural sources as well as human emissions, and climate change could amplify or dampen some of those natural processes, Dlugokencky said.

The category “other”includes a few very long-lived chemicals that can exert a climate influence for millennia.
Therefore cutting emissions would quickly reduce their direct radiative forcing — a measure of warming influence.
Increasingly warm and dry conditions in the Arctic, for example, could thaw permafrost and increase the frequency of wildfires, both of which would send more methane and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

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