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Melting Ice Caps

August 15, 2006

Will global warming ever advance beyond repair?


Is the polar ice as good as gone? I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

From the remote village of Gambell, Alaska, listener Bob Woolf can see the polar ice melting, and emailed us to ask if global warming would ever become irreversible. According to senior scientist Warren Washington of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, it probably already is, at least for the short term. That’s because the greenhouse gases that are in the atmosphere now can last for decades or even centuries.

WARREN WASHINGTON (National Center for Atmospheric Research):
So even if you kept constant the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, the climate system would keep warming up for another thirty or forty or fifty years.

He says reducing the concentration of greenhouse gases is the only way to reverse the trend. If you’ve got a science question, call us at 1-800-WHY-ISIT, or email it from I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.