Why things might become unstoppable

Article by Hazell Ransome.

If a climate tipping point for part of the Earth system is crossed, it will lead to a huge, unavoidable and irreversible change in that region [1].

Many scientists have argued that 2°C global warming is a safe limit to prevent tipping points being crossed [2].

However, more recently, leading scientists in the field [3] have said we should aim to keep well below 2°C global warming to avoid crossing any tipping points [4,5]. In fact, when testing 37 potential tipping points, climate models predicted 18 to happen below 2°C [6]! (Remember, we have already warmed our planet by 1.1°C [7]).

This risk is amplified because many experts believe that in the majority of cases, once one tipping point is crossed it is more likely that another will be crossed [8,9], meaning multiple tipping points could occur at the same time [9]. Like setting off a chain reaction!

Therefore, scientists are urging for immediate international action on unsustainable practices (like burning fossil fuels [6] and deforestation [10]) to take place to avoid the risks of tipping points [11].

References

[1] https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/chapter/glossary/ (Tipping Points and Irreversibility)

[2] https://www.pnas.org/content/106/13/5041 (Abstract)

[3] https://www.turing.ac.uk/people/researchers/tim-lenton(Timothy Lenton is well known for his work around tipping points. See: Achievements and Awards)
&
https://www.stockholmresilience.org/contact-us/staff/2008-01-16-rockstrom.html (Johan Rockström is a leader in the planetary boundaries idea which give an idea on the safe level of human activity before crossing a tipping point. See: Paragraph 1)

[4] https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-03595-0 (Ice Collapse Paragraph 4)

[5] https://www.pnas.org/content/106/11/4133 (Figure 1)

[6] https://www.pnas.org/content/pnas/112/43/E5777.full.pdf (Abstract)

[7] https://library.wmo.int/doc_num.php?explnum_id=9936 (Temperature Paragraph 1)

[8] https://www.pnas.org/content/106/13/5041 (Interactions between tipping points Paragraph 1)

[9] https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-03595-0 (Global Cascade Paragraph 2)

[10] https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-03595-0 (Biosphere Boundaries Paragraph 4)

[11] https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-03595-0 (Final Paragraph)

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