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.
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. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1810141115
‘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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