‘Earth at risk of tipping into hellish hothouse conditions’

‘Earth at risk of tipping into hellish hothouse conditions’

He adds that it may be hard or even impossible to prevent the entire row of dominoes from tumbling. "Places on Earth will become uninhabitable if "Hothouse Earth" becomes the reality", adds co-author Johan Rockström, Executive Director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre and incoming co-Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.

Presently, global average temperatures are just over 1°C above pre-industrial and rising at 0.17°C per decade.

The study led by Will Steffen from the Australian National University (ANU) warned that this situation could result in temperatures rising to approximately five degrees over pre-industrial levels and sea level rising up by 10-60 metres in the long term, reports Efe news.

If polar ice continues to melt, forests are slashed and greenhouse gases rise to new highs - as they now do each year - the Earth will pass a tipping point.

This cascade 'may tip the entire Earth system into a new mode of operation, ' said co-author Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.

Some of the feedbacks are considered tipping elements that lead to abrupt change if a critical threshold is ultimately crossed, meaning the feedbacks could go from storing carbon to emitting carbon uncontrollably in warmer climates.

In a "Hothouse Earth" scenario, the planet will have a global average temperature 4 to 5 degrees Celsius (7 to 9 degrees Fahrenheit) higher than the pre-industrial temperatures.

The problem is, the researchers don't exactly know where that "tipping point" might be.

"That raised alarm bells because all of our assumptions regarding the Paris Agreement and controlling climate change are based on the idea that if we "just" stop emitting Carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, the processes causing climate change will stop and the climate will remain stable", study co-author Katharine Richardson of the University of Copenhagen told Gizmodo.

But that challenge will become exponentially more hard if the earth itself gets into the act, the researchers said. The study conducted signifies that human engendered global warming of 2°C may activate other Earth system activities often called "feedbacks", that are a thrust to further warming even if we cease discharging greenhouse gases.

Soil management, better farming practices, land and coastal conservation and carbon capture technologies are also on the list of actions.

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.

Commenting on the research, some experts said uncontrolled warming is still uncertain but not implausible.

"We show how industrial-age greenhouse gas emissions force our climate, and ultimately the Earth system, out of balance".

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