Climate change could soon drive the world to a point of no return, according to a new study published in the journal Science. The study reviewed 16 tipping points and found that the climate system was closer to collapsing than originally thought. The researchers found that warming temperatures could soon force the collapse of the Greenland Ice Sheet, leading to severe sea level rise. Further, they also found that coral reefs could soon be destroyed to a point of no return.
According to the Paris Agreement signed in 2015, the world must keep global warming temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius above the preindustrial era temperatures. However, recent studies indicate otherwise. Over 200 research papers indicate that some key thresholds could reach the tipping point at just 1.1 degrees Celsius, which is what we are experiencing now.
“We can see some potential early warning signals,” said climate scientist David Armstrong McKay, a coauthor of the study. “…the Greenland Ice Sheet is showing signs of destabilization with lots of melt and there are potentially early warnings that the Atlantic circulation might be slowing down.”
The researchers behind the study tested all 16 tipping points against different climate warming scenarios. They found that the disintegration of the West Antarctica and Greenland ice sheets, the dying of coral reefs and the collapse of the Labrador-Irminger Seas convection could happen now.
If that were to happen, the Arctic permafrost would release huge amounts of water into the sea and huge volumes of CO2 into the atmosphere. Coral reef die-offs, on the other hand would literally bring the marine food web to its knees.
They further established that five key tipping points would be attained at 1.5 degrees Celsius temperature rise. The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says that the risk of triggering a tipping point increases as the temperature moves toward the 2 degrees Celsius mark. However, the researchers hold a different view.
“While the IPCC has formulated more cautiously … we are all aware that 1.5 warming does not take us to a safe haven,” said marine biologist Hans-Otto Portner at the Alfred Wegener Institute in Germany.
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