A new study has warned that the current rate of global warming due to greenhouse gas emissions could cause the planet to cross multiple “irreversible” climate tipping points by 2030.
The research was published on Friday in a newspaper magazine Sciencescalls for limiting further warming “as much as possible” as the risk of irreparable damage to the planet increases with every tenth degree of warming.
“Our new work provides compelling evidence that the world must radically accelerate decarbonization of the economy to reduce the risk of crossing climate tipping points,” Tim Linton, Director of the University of Exeter’s Global Systems Institute, said in a statement.
The researchers say that climate tipping points are threshold conditions, which, if they occur, will cause irreversible climate change damage.
The scientists warned in the study that “these changes may lead to sudden, dangerous and irreversible effects with serious repercussions for humanity.”
Scientists have conducted a comprehensive review of more than 200 research papers published since 2008, and developed an up-to-date assessment of the most important climate tipping points, including temperature thresholds, timescales and impacts.
These include the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets, sudden widespread permafrost melt, and the massive death of tropical coral reefs.
The research found that 16 major systems involved in regulating the planet’s climate – the so-called “transformation elements” – “have the potential” to cross tipping points where their changes can become self-sustaining and potentially irreversible.
He suggested that even if the global temperature stopped rising, once the ice sheet, ocean or rainforest passed a tipping point, it would continue to change to a new state.
The scientists said that five of the 16 known tipping points may be triggered even at today’s temperatures.
They say four of these go from “probable” to “potential” events in a global warming scenario at 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and another five become possible around this level of heating.
“We can already see signs of instability in parts of the West Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets, in permafrost regions, in the Amazon rainforest, and potentially upending the Atlantic circulation,” says study lead author David Armstrong McKay of the University of Exeter. . “The world is already at risk of some tipping points. As global temperatures continue to rise, more tipping points become possible.”
Scientists have warned that limiting warming to below 2 degrees Celsius and preferably 1.5 degrees Celsius is not enough to completely avoid dangerous climate change.
However, they say the chance of crossing tipping points could be greatly reduced by rapidly reducing greenhouse gas emissions, starting immediately.
The study estimates that global greenhouse gas emissions must be halved by 2030, to net zero by 2050, in order to have a 50 percent chance of achieving 1.5°C and thus reducing tipping point risks.
“The world is heading towards 2-3°C of global warming. This sets the Earth on its way to crossing multiple dangerous tipping points that will be disastrous for people around the world,” said Johan Rockström, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.
“To maintain livable conditions on Earth, protect people from rising extremes, and enable stable societies, we must do everything we can to prevent tipping points being crossed. Every tenth of a degree counts,” Dr. Rockstrom added.
Scientists warn that exceeding these limits could lead to cascading effects that increase the likelihood of crossing other tipping points.
“The world is currently heading towards two to three degrees Celsius of global warming; at best, if all zero net pledges and NDCs are implemented, it could reach less than two degrees Celsius. They concluded that this would reduce tipping point risks to Somewhat but it will still be dangerous because it could lead to multiple climate tipping points.