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07th Aug 2018

Earth is just one degree away from “hothouse Earth” which threatens future of humanity

Alan Loughnane

Well… s**t.

Scientists have warned that Earth’s global temperature is just one degree away from a climatic tipping point that threatens the future of humanity.

International scientists wrote in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that we could soon cross a threshold leading to boiling hot temperatures and towering seas in the centuries to come.

A “Hothouse Earth” climate will in the long term stabilize at a global average of 4-5 degrees Celsius higher than pre-industrial temperatures with sea level 10-60 m higher than today, the paper says.

Experts have said that the planet is just decades away from the event that would trigger runaway global warming.

The threshold will be reached when average global temperatures are only around two degrees higher than they were in pre-industrial times, research suggests. At this point, the global temperatures are already one degree higher than pre-industrial times.

If the tipping point is reached, it would create a “Hothouse Earth” state of uncontrollable climate change.

“Human emissions of greenhouse gas are not the sole determinant of temperature on Earth. Our study suggests that human-induced global warming of 2°C may trigger other Earth system processes, often called “feedbacks”, that can drive further warming – even if we stop emitting greenhouse gases,” said lead author Will Steffen from the Australian National University and Stockholm Resilience Centre.

“Avoiding this scenario requires a redirection of human actions from exploitation to stewardship of the Earth system.

Essentially, parts of the earth would become uninhabitable, sea levels would rise dramatically and a whole host of other problems would emerge in a domino effect.

Some of the other side effects would be a 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.

World leaders committed to keeping temperature rises well below two degrees back in 2015, and to strive to keep them under 1.5. But according to the authors of the paper, the current plans to cut carbon may not be enough if their analysis is correct.