Earth Climate System: Terrible Trajectories to Hothouse

Earth Climate System: Terrible Trajectories to Hothouse // Aug 11, 2018

Ten years ago Timothy Lenton (b. 1973) spearheaded a scientific paper examining expert assessments on the types and likelihoods of Tipping Elements in the Climate System. A number of top European climate scientists published an update a few days ago, to get a handle on the risk of cascading climate feedbacks propelling the Earth into a hothouse state.

They suggest that we are on that path now, and have a decade or two to avoid the worst. I fear that we have already gone over that cliff, and I declare a global climate change emergency to claw back up the rock face to attempt to regain system stability, or face an untenable calamity of biblical proportions.
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Ref 1:  ‘Climate change: ‘Hothouse Earth‘ risks even if CO2 emissions slashed, By Matt McGrath — Environment correspondent, 6 August 2018

Researchers believe we could soon cross a threshold leading to boiling hot temperatures and towering seas in the centuries to come.  Even if countries succeed in meeting their CO2 targets, we could still lurch on to this “irreversible pathway”.  

‘Their study shows it could happen if global temperatures rise by 2C.  An international team of climate researchers, writing in the journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, says the warming expected in the next few decades could turn some of the Earth’s natural forces – that currently protect us – into our enemies‘.

Ref 2. ‘Trajectories of the Earth System in the Anthropocene‘.  Will Steffen, Johan Rockström, Katherine Richardson, Timothy M. Lenton, Carl Folke, Diana Liverman, Colin P. Summerhayes, Anthony D. Barnosky, Sarah E. Cornell, Michel Crucifix, Jonathan F. Donges, Ingo Fetzer, Steven J. Lade, Marten Scheffer, Ricarda Winkelmann, and Hans Joachim Schellnhuber.
PNAS August 9, 2018. 201810141; published ahead of print August 6, 2018.

We explore the risk that self-reinforcing feedbacks could push the Earth System toward a planetary threshold that, if crossed, could prevent stabilization of the climate at intermediate temperature rises and cause continued warming on a “Hothouse Earth” pathway even as human emissions are reduced. Crossing the threshold would lead to a much higher global average temperature than any interglacial in the past 1.2 million years and to sea levels significantly higher than at any time in the Holocene. We examine the evidence that such a threshold might exist and where it might be.

‘If the threshold is crossed, the resulting trajectory would likely cause serious disruptions to ecosystems, society, and economies. 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‘.
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About paulbeckwith

Well known climate science educator; Part-time Geography professor (climatology, oceanography, environmental issues), University of Ottawa. Physicist. Engineer. Master's Degree in Science in Laser Optics, Bachelors of Engineering, in Engineering Physics. Won Association of Professional Engineers of Ontario gold medal. Also interested in investment and start-ups in climate solutions, renewable energy and energy efficiency. Avid chess player, and likes restoring old homes. Married with children.
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7 Responses to Earth Climate System: Terrible Trajectories to Hothouse

  1. Thank you for your work in the field.. was wondering id the lens effect then causing compound light intensity is factored a altitude effecting the ozone within the climate models … any peel effect also factoring for earth’s rotation ( inertia) and gas molecule then effected by magnetic field poles of the earth….


  2. also of the boiling point of high altitude gas and effect in buoyancy with temperature…


  3. Shawn says:

    Fig 3 “Global map of potential tipping cascades.” in the Article Trajectories of the Earth System in the Anthropocene leaves out a lot of smaller feedbacks that might cumulatively be large in impact? And it leaves out sub-sea methane. (Unless that is included in permafrost.) How is permafrost a tipping point at >5C if it is already thawing now? Based on watching your many videos Paul, and many others, this paper seriously underestimates the impact <2C, even <3C temperatures on various components of the climate system, and the human system? I suppose the scientists of this paper are being properly conservative and reticent.


  4. Dale Lanan says:

    Ownership is a terrible thing, but we basically own the fix we are in by our over-indulgence mine field of mind. We as a species of life evolved into power and created specie-coin based world to System Isolate Earth to bits and tag them for sale. The Laws of Physics concerning Heat Flows, we Own Entropy Rise and Extinction 6 from which there is no getting around. We need to cause Energy to flow toward a new beginning and devaluation of ownership (righted ~ thermodynamic) so infrastructure is diverted and aimed along w entire enterprise of man
    Aimed at preserving the good fortune of children some seven generations forward along w Earth,
    This in my humble mumble of a mind is a direction of travel that would appreciate and resonate in Time and Space in a place called Garden for the song o birds singing in a garden where play can continue and avoid a final act,
    We are not the only life that ever lived and thought that ever sang a wish for others at distance T in the confined limits of physics and brain-power [whirling in space time continuum.. We can Test
    -We can Play, but for goodness sake we should type words that mean something w poetry Echo,,
    We need to get the words typed to each other, if they go that far in a world digitally[] hell bent $~$
    We need to speak while we can in honor of time and work of others to enlighten a pathway forward for the good of common decency and the fun of trying, of flight in time for
    Forward progress re-enact to e for experiment in kindness to God at T
    in a pathway that leads to the Sea for Real 2C harmonics.:


  5. fnorkn says:

    Hi Paul
    Could you do a special on the drought in Australia?



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