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Tim Radford – Emissions Could Make Earth Uninhabitable

LONDON—Greenhouse gases could tip the Earth—or at least a planet like Earth, orbiting a star very like the Sun—into a runaway greenhouse effect, according to new research.

The new hothouse planet would become increasingly steamy, and then start to lose its oceans to interplanetary space. Over time, it would become completely dry, stay at a temperature at least 60°C hotter than it is now, and remain completely uninhabitable, even if greenhouse gas levels could be reduced.

Max Popp, postdoctoral researcher in climate instabilities at the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, Germany, has been playing with models of clouds, sunlight, carbon dioxide and oceans for a while now.

Such research could not only help with a deeper understanding of global warming and climate change as a consequence of the human combustion of fossil fuels, but also with the possible dynamics of other planets, orbiting distant stars.

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