Disastrous climate tipping points become ‘probable’ above 1.5°C.

By Tim Radford, The Energy Mix

The risk of serious climate “tipping points” will rise dramatically if countries fail to hold global warming to the Paris agreement target of 1.5°C, according to a new study in the journal Science.

Even at the today’s average global temperature increase—a rise of 1.1°C driven by profligate use of fossil fuels and the destruction of vital natural ecosystems—there could be devastating, irreversible consequences that would permanently change the planetary climate regime, concludes the team led by georesilience analyst David Armstrong McKay of the Stockholm Resilience Centre, the UK’s University of Exeter, and the Earth Commission.

Endicott Arm Glacier Calving an Iceberg

And yet “the world is heading towards 2° to 3°C of global warming,” said Johann Rockström, co-chair of the Earth Commission and director of the Potsdam Institute, and another of the authors.

“This sets Earth on course to cross multiple dangerous tipping points that will be disastrous for people across the world. To maintain livable conditions on Earth, protect people from rising extremes, and enable stable societies, we must do everything possible to prevent crossing tipping points. Every tenth of a degree counts.”

Already, “we can see signs of destabilization already in parts of the West Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets, in permafrost regions, the Amazon rainforest, and potentially the Atlantic overturning circulation, as well,” McKay said in a release. “As global temperatures rise further, more tipping points become possible.”

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