The World is running out of time to reverse the worst possible effects of man-made climate breakdown. Ocean and atmospheric circulation and the feedback between these interconnected climate shifts accelerate the warming process, triggering a cascade of tipping points or even a global tipping point.
Large ecosystems worldwide, such as the Amazon rainforest, will collapse and disappear alarmingly quickly, once point of no return is reached. Once the point of no return is reached, the iconic Amazon rainforest could shift to a savannah-type ecosystem with a mix of trees and grass within 50 years.
The point of no return is no longer over the horizon, it is in sight and hurtling toward us.
A model combines climate simulations with methods from statistical physics. The model accounts for climate uncertainties, different climate mitigation strategies, and policymakers’ willingness to risk missing the climate targets. The model also examines whether removing carbon from the atmosphere might buy the World more time.
Assuming a moderate mitigation strategy, a 2 degree warming threshold, and accepting a 67% likelihood of remaining below the threshold, the point of no return will arrive in the year 2035.
If removal of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere is strong, the point of no return gets delayed to 2042. With the same assumptions but a 1.5 degree warming threshold, the point of no return has already passed.
Exceeding this climate tipping point could lead to the highest temperatures experienced in more than 1.2 million years, creating a ‘Hothouse Earth’ that humanity has never experienced before, hitting societies, economies and ecosystems around the World with devastating impacts.
You think of climate change as a slow and steady process, following a fairly predictable, even manageable path. That is a mistake. Instead there may be disruptive, sudden changes as key ecological thresholds, or tipping points, are breached.
Such transitions may be irreversible. In some cases, passing the tipping point is barely perceptible, but it still makes a large impact on the future.
Our war against nature must stop.