Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Best Evidence Yet that Climate Tipping Points Threaten to Push Us Past the Point of No Return

A slew of studies confirm that we are nearing tipping points from which we may not be able to recover. Common sense calls for urgent action and if we act soon there may still be time. However, the hotter it gets the more likely it is that we will surpass tipping points that will accelerate warming past a point of no return. The most recent IPCC report reaffirms that we are teetering perilously on the cusp of imminent turning points.  A recently published study in the Journal of Earth System Dynamics also concludes that we are rapidly approaching a point of no return. The study is titled, "The point of no return for climate action: effects of climate uncertainty and risk tolerance".

"In our study we show that there are strict deadlines for taking climate action," Henk Dijkstra, a professor at Utrecht University in the Netherlands and one of the study authors, said in a statement. "We conclude that very little time is left before the Paris targets [to limit global warming] become infeasible."

Another paper published in PNAS explores the risks of crossing thresholds that augur "hothouse earth" even if we reduce emissions. Like all the other studies, this paper warns to the need for immediate broad spectrum international action. The paper is titled, "Trajectories of the Earth System in the Anthropocene".

"Collective human action is required to steer the Earth System away from a potential threshold and stabilize it in a habitable interglacial-like state. Such action entails stewardship of the entire Earth System—biosphere, climate, and societies—and could include decarbonization of the global economy, enhancement of biosphere carbon sinks, behavioral changes, technological innovations, new governance arrangements, and transformed social values."

If we fail to deal with the problem the earth's average temperature could rise 4 or 5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, leading to sea levels up to 200 feet higher than they are now.

Even though there is concern that it may already be too late to avoid catastrophic feedback loops scientists are trying to soften their language to make their conclusions more palatable. The terrifying reality of the climate crisis causes people to avoid the nature of the problem. As explained in Washington Post article the language in the IPCC report was toned down to garner more interest.

However, the truth about climate change is terrifying. This is not hyperbole, this is born out by a number of studies. We know that global warming is driving sea level rise and this on its own will cause devastating civilization changing flooding if we fail to act. There are also a number of other potentially far more serious threats.

One of the tipping points that has garnered some attention is melting permafrost. If the permafrost in the far north keeps melting, it will unleash tremendous amounts of greenhouse gases (methane and carbon) that will cancel out all mitigation effort. For years scientists have been studying methane emanating from melting ice in the Arctic. Scientists have called melting Arctic ice a  ticking time bomb and they have declared a state of emergency. We know that the Arctic is warming faster than anywhere on earth and this is a concern for us all. This warming is creating feedback loops that are further accelerating warming.

We have been warned over and over again. If we fail to reduce emissions and decrease warming we will trigger tipping points that will augur an irreversible collapse of the earth's natural systems.  

We Are Already Teetering on the Brink of Tipping Points
We Are on the Verge of Tipping Points
What are Environmental Tipping Points
Building Support for Action on Climate Change Before We Reach Tipping Points
Melting Ice Releasing Methane (Tipping Point)
Feedback Loops Between Wildfires Peat and Carbon
Arctic Warming Feedback Loops: Algae Blooms and Thawing Permafrost
Arctic Climate Feedback Loops: Heat, Melting Ice and Fires
The Dangerous Feedback Loop Between Wildfires and Climate Change
Heat Connects Wildfires to Climate Change

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