Earth is on the verge of passing climate ‘tipping points’ if global warming continues at current rates

From heat waves and wildfires to droughts and floods, this summer has seen major weather disasters around the world, all exacerbated by climate change.

A new study concluded that human emissions have already pushed the Earth above tipping points into danger zones. Exceeding these thresholds can lead to significant and irreversible changes.

What are climate “tipping points”?

The research, led by scientists at the University of Exeter in the UK, shows that at least five dangerous “tipping points” for the planet are fast approaching.

These include the collapse of the Greenland and the West Antarctic Ice Sheets, a sudden melting of permafrost in northern regions, Coral reefs the extinction and collapse of a major ocean current in the North Atlantic.

“What we mean by a climate tipping point is when part of a climate system, for example, a ice capan ocean current…when the change in that part of the system becomes self-sustaining, so it will continue even if the warming starts to subside afterwards,” says study lead author and climate scientist Dr. David Armstrong McKay. biosphere scientist at the University of Exeter.

The first study on the subject, published in 2008, identified nine potential climatic tipping points. Since then, climate science research has advanced significantly.

“We have reassessed more than 200 articles published since [2008]and we have come to the conclusion that at least five climate tipping points are already possible now, and four of them are likely to become beyond 1.5 degrees of warming,” adds Dr Armstrong McKay.

Paris Agreement

According to the research, multiple climate tipping points could be triggered if global temperatures rise more than 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. So far, human emissions have already pushed the planet into a dangerous area.

“We believe this provides very strong scientific support for the most ambitious Paris Agreement target of 1.5°C, because although we cannot rule out climate tipping points occurring at this level, it would reduce the likelihood of reaching others,” says Dr Armstrong McKay.

But the new analysis indicates that we may have already exceeded “safe” climate limits when temperature increases exceeded around 1°C. global warming below 1.5°C would greatly reduce the risk of reaching these dangerous tipping points in the near future.

To have a 50% chance of achieving this, global greenhouse gas emissions must be halved by 2030 and net zero achieved by 2050.

Watch the video above to see Dr. Armstrong McKay explain Earth’s tipping points.

Teresa H. Sadler