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Earth’s energy imbalance removes almost all doubt from human-made climate change

Earth's energy imbalance removes almost all doubt from human-made climate change

Researchers studying Earth's absorption of the sun's energy found a less than 1 percent probability that the recent changes occurred naturally.

For decades, Earth’s energy system has been out of whack.

Stability in Earth's climate hinges on a delicate balance between the amount of energy the planet absorbs from the sun and the amount of energy Earth emits back into space. But that equilibrium has been thrown off in recent years — and the imbalance is growing, according to a paper published Wednesday in the journal Nature Communications.

The changes to Earth's energy system have major ramifications for the planet's future climate and humanity's understanding of climate change. The Princeton University researchers behind the paper found that there's a less than 1 percent probability that the changes occurred naturally.

The findings undercut a key argument used by people who do not believe human activity is responsible for the bulk of climate change to explain trends in global warming, demonstrating that the planet's energy imbalance cannot be explained just by Earth's own natural variations.

The research also offers important insights into how greenhouse gas emissions and other consequences of human-caused climate change are upsetting the planet's equilibrium and driving global warming, sea-level rise and extreme weather events.

"With more and more changes to the planet, we've created this imbalance where we have surplus energy in the system," said Shiv Priyam Raghuraman, a graduate student in atmospheric and oceanic sciences at Princeton and lead author of the study. "That surplus manifests as different symptoms."

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