Source: Stockholm University
NASA satellite image showing the devastation after the Thomas Fire, one of California’s most destructive wildfires, which ignited in December 2017
A new study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences says there is a risk of our planet entering “Hothouse Earth” conditions even if the reduction in carbon emissions called for in the Paris Agreement are met. The “Hothouse Earth” scenario suggests a sea level rise of as much as 200 feet as global temperatures rise by 4–5°C.
The research suggests that human-induced global warming may trigger natural feedback processes that drive further warming. The feedbacks considered in the study are permafrost thaw, loss of methane hydrates from the ocean floor, weakening land and ocean carbon sinks, increasing bacterial respiration in the oceans, Amazon rainforest dieback, boreal forest dieback, reduction of northern hemisphere snow cover, loss of Arctic summer sea ice, and reduction of Antarctic sea ice and polar ice sheets.
“These tipping elements can potentially act like a row of dominoes,” warns study co-author Johan Rockström, incoming co-director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. “Once one is pushed over, it pushes Earth towards another. It may be very difficult or impossible to stop the whole row of dominoes from tumbling over. Places on Earth will become uninhabitable if ‘Hothouse Earth’ becomes the reality.”
Reducing CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions isn’t enough to prevent a “Hothouse Earth,” according to the researchers. New biological carbon stores need to be created, forests must be better managed, biodiversity has to be conserved, and technologies need to be developed that sequester atmospheric carbon dioxide underground.
Read more here.
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