Global warming: catastrophe inevitable?


The consequences of global warming are becoming more and more pronounced. Processes such as melting ice sheets, drying up rivers and the warming of water in the ocean is certainly changing our world. However, according to scientists, there are points of no return, or turning points, after which the processes become irreversible. Once the points of no return are passed, key components of the climate begin to break down, and this destruction is self-sustaining, making the situation worse. But how far is the world from these points of no return? There is no exact answer to this question. Moreover, according to some scientists, it is better for society not to know about them at all, as this may cause general apathy instead of intensifying efforts to curb climate change. But not everyone supports this point of view, in particular, the other day a group of scientists from the University of Exeter published an extensive study on points of no return. His conclusions were disappointing.

What is the climatic “point of no return”

In climatology, a tipping point is determined by an increase in temperature, the field of which begins to break down the tipping element. The tipping point could be the Greenland ice sheet, the Amazon forest, and so on. After overcoming a certain temperature threshold, an uncontrolled process of destruction of the critical element begins, and will continue even if the temperature drops.

Tipping points were first talked about in 2008, when scientists in the journal PNAS identified 9 key tipping points that can reach the point of no return. After almost 15 years, a group of scientists decided to revise them, and came to even sadder conclusions.

The glaciers at the poles are one of the tipping points that will be destroyed as a result of global warming.

When the world reaches the point of no return

In the latest study, published in the journal Science , scientists have identified 16 tipping elements, which include melting permafrost, disruption of rainy seasons, and the death of forests and coral reefs.

To assess the turning points, the authors of the work collected data from ancient climate records and modern observations, as well as the most optimistic forecasts. At the same time, they paid much attention to ecological, atmospheric and other systems. This enabled those most at risk of irreversible or self-sustaining changes as a result of the planet’s warming.

The authors then determined the minimum temperature that could cause a tipping point in each system, as well as the maximum warming that the system could withstand before a catastrophic shift became inevitable. As it turns out, many of these systems are already stressed by rising temperatures.

The earth has already crossed some points of no return

According to the authors, the world is in the range where the risk of overcoming the points of no return is extremely high. Moreover, even a very slight increase in temperature can lead to irreversible changes. Even if we take as a basis the most optimistic forecast, in which global warming can be stopped in time, and the average temperature will rise by no more than 1.5 degrees compared to pre-industrial levels (which is almost unrealistic), irreparable changes will still occur on the planet.

Despite the fact that in the Paris Agreement 1.5 degrees Celsius was called the “number of convenience”, with such warming, the Earth will face the disappearance of glaciers and the disruption of the main ocean currents. By the way, earlier we said that the glaciers of Africa could completely disappear in 20 years. In general, the results are consistent with the 2008 study, but this time the data is more detailed.

Greenland will not avoid the loss of glaciers

Consequences of global warming

If the temperature on Earth were to rise by just 0.8°C, it would accelerate the melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet. A warming of 1°C would put the West Antarctic ice sheet on the path to collapse. But the temperature on Earth has already risen to 1.1°C. Moreover, according to experts, it is unlikely that it will be possible to stop heating at a level of 1.5 ° C. According to researchers, a temperature increase of 1.5 degrees will certainly lead to the destruction of glaciers at both poles.

As the ice sheet begins to break down, the ice becomes even less stable, meaning the breaking process accelerates progressively. Therefore, the level of water in the world’s oceans may rise faster than previously thought. From the foregoing, it follows that a catastrophe is inevitable. However, many scientists believe that it is not necessary to focus on certain threshold temperatures. In any case, we must try to stop global warming. The lower the average temperature, the smaller the scale of the disaster.

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