Five environmental tipping points
A study published today by climate scientists (including Cool Earth trustee Johan Röckstrom), has found that the current global warming rise of 1.1’C is already within the temperature range of triggering five climate tipping points* and multiple more are predicted to be reached as temperatures rise further.
*A climate tipping point is when a temperature threshold is passed, leading to unstoppable change in a climate system. “These changes may lead to abrupt, irreversible, and dangerous impacts with serious implications for humanity”.(Science)
The five tipping points that are within range of the current 1.1’C global temp rise:
The alarming findings highlight the urgency of the need for action to decarbonise economies to halt further temperature rise. Not only are each tipping point’s impacts devastating, but reaching one tipping point is likely to then trigger further tipping points . A cascade effect.
Prof Johan Rockström, the director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, and Cool Earth trustee said:
“The world is heading towards 2-3C of global warming. This sets Earth on course to cross multiple dangerous tipping points that will be disastrous for people across the world. To maintain liveable conditions on Earth and enable stable societies, we must do everything possible to prevent crossing tipping points.”
Despite the devastating potential of the tipping points, the study authors emphasise that the Paris climate agreement of limiting temperature rise to 1.5’C is more urgent than ever. There is still some hope to prevent the extra tipping points being reached or reverse those that may already be underway.
Dr David Armstrong McKay at the University of Exeter, a lead author of the study, told The Guardian:
“It’s really worrying. There are grounds for grief, but there are also still grounds for hope.” “Every fraction of a degree that we stop beyond 1.5C reduces the likelihood of hitting more tipping points.”
Cool Earth’s work protecting rainforest is contributing to avoiding all the tipping points by keeping carbon in trees, helping reduce global temperature rise.
Most specifically, rainforest protection directly reduces the rate of which the ‘Amazon Die back’ tipping point will be reached. By keeping the rainforest that is still standing healthy, trees are more resilient to the changes in climate that trigger dieback.
Armstrong McKay, David I., Arie Staal, Jesse F. Abrams, Ricarda Winkelmann, Boris Sakschewski, Sina Loriani, Ingo Fetzer, Sarah E. Cornell, Johan Rockström, and Timothy M. Lenton. ‘Exceeding 1.5°C Global Warming Could Trigger Multiple Climate Tipping Points’. Science 377, no. 6611 (2022): https://doi.org/10.1126/science.abn7950.
Boulton, C.A., Lenton, T.M. & Boers, N. Pronounced loss of Amazon rainforest resilience since the early 2000s. Nat. Clim. Chang. 12, 271–278 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41558-022-01287-8