Dangerous thresholds are closer than once thought – warming of 2°c could push the melting of ice sheets past a point of no return. According to a new draft report from the United Nations, climate science advisors say this is a “tipping point” which will trigger cascading impacts over which we would have no control. With 1.2°c global warming already reached, our climate is changing dramatically. The UN now predicts 2°c by mid-century and based on CO2 levels, other scientists think we could see 2°c by mid-decade.
Large-scale changes to our atmosphere and environment that normally happen over thousands of years are now happening over decades. Every day we are seeing news reports of extreme weather conditions causing chaos and loss of life.
There are nine climate tipping points, where rising global temperatures could push planetary systems into irreversible change:
- Greenland Ice Sheet disintegrating: Irreversible retreat of the ice sheet due to rising temperatures will cause sea level rise up to seven metres.
- Permafrost loss: Abrupt increase in emissions of CO2 and Methane through the thawing of frozen carbon rich soils causing greenhouse gas release and amplified warming.
- Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) breakdown: Shutdown of the AMOC due to an influx of fresh water into the North Atlantic will result in regional cooling and sea level rise.
- Boreal Forest shift: A shift in the Boreal Forest seeing expansion into tundra to the north, and die back to the south, resulting in ecological shift and regional warming.
- Amazon Rainforest dieback: Deforestation and hotter, drier conditions causing dieback of the rainforest and a shift towards savannah, resulting in biodiversity loss and decreased rainfall.
- West Atlantic Ice Sheet disintegration: Collapse of the ice sheet triggered by persistent grounding line retreat in one sector cascading to other sectors causing up to three metres rise in sea levels.
- West African Monsoon shift: An abrupt change in Sahel Region rainfall caused by a shift northwards (wetter) or southward (drier) in the West African Monsoon will cause ecosystem change.
- Indian Monsoon shift: The monsoon system could be weakened by higher aerosol emissions or strengthened by rising CO2 emissions causing decreased carrying capacity and droughts.
- Coral reef die-off: Rising temperatures push corals beyond tolerable levels of thermal stress into an alternate state dominated by microalgae causing ecological change.
- As our global atmosphere heats up and becomes warmer and more turbulent from fossil fuel burning and its greenhouse gas effect, our personal, business, and national lives will become more turbulent, too.
- Once we cross 2°c, any realistic or practical human control of our global warming future to prevent mass extinction could be over for centuries to thousands of years. If we pass these tipping points, not only will we experience mass human, animal, and biological extinction, we will also experience widespread economic, social, and political chaos within our lifetimes.
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Sherwood Forest Friends of the Earth