The Earth is at risk of falling into an irreversible greenhouse state due to global warming, which would make several regions of the planet uninhabitable for humans, an worldwide study revealed on Tuesday.
In 2015, as part of the the Paris Climate Agreement, 200 countries agreed to work to limit the Earth's temperature rise to "well below" the 2 Celsius tipping point.
The tipping elements are: the thaw of permafrost; methane hydrates being lost from the floor of the ocean; less efficient carbon sinks on the land and in the ocean; increasing bacterial productivity in the ocean; rollback of the Amazon rainforest and the boreal forest; reduced snow cover in the Northern Hemisphere and Arctic summer sea ice; and reduced sea ice and polar sheets in the Antarctic.
Basically, according to the research submitted by researchers at the Australian National University and the Stockholm Resilience Center, among other institutions, they outline the potential for a "threshold" that, if crossed, would lead to runaway warming patterns and the advent of a "Hothouse Earth".
Crossing that threshold 'guarantees a climate 4-5 Celsius higher than pre-industrial times, and sea levels that are 10 to 60 meters higher than today, ' cautioned scientists in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Even more alarming, co-author Johan Rockström describes the elements as potentially like a row of dominoes with the fall of a single one spurring on the fall of the next.
Rivers would flood, storms would wreak havoc on coastal communities, and coral reefs would be eliminated - all by century's end or even earlier. "It may be very hard or impossible to stop the whole row of dominoes from tumbling over", Steffen said in a statement.
The study emphasizes that these measures must be underpinned by fundamental societal changes that are required to maintain a "Stabilized Earth" where temperatures are ~2°C warmer that the pre-industrial.
Currently, the global average temperature is slightly one degree higher than that of the pre-industrial era and increases 0.17 degrees each decade. Phil Williamson, climate researcher at the University of East Anglia, said that given recent weather events, the report was not an exaggeration.
People must immediately change their lifestyle to be better stewards of the Earth, the researchers said.
Steffen said that if the temperatures increased two degrees due to human activities, a process known as feedback would be activated in the Earth's system, which could aggravate global warming even if greenhouse gases are no longer emitted. The changes could be forest and land management, better soil management for agriculture, fertilizing the ocean waters to stimulate uptake of carbon dioxide, and carbon capture and storage in addition to reducing fossil-fuel emissions, according to their figures.
Commenting on the research, some experts said uncontrolled warming is still uncertain but not implausible.
They said that "Hothouse Earth" is likely to be unsafe to many and uncontrollable.
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