Climate Change Tipping Points Keeping Scientists Wake at Night

Climate change is not a straight line, certain inflection points, if reached, could make our lives much harder.


Imagine you have a threshold, that, if passed, causes a large disaster. This is similar to climate change tipping points that many scientists fear. In this case these are realignments in Earth’s natural equilibrium that are caused by man-made climate change and could have significant costs for our civilization. Problems with them are multiple. first one is that one cannot observe them coming, meaning they could actually catch scientists, and the rest of the planet, in our sleeps. Next issue is the fact that once they are crossed, there is no return.

we can expect change in ocean currents that are so strong to create superwaves, long lasting winters, monsoons stronger than ever, rise in the sea level, generally causing a huge disruption in many areas of the Earth. Tipping points are moments when rising temperatures cause so much ice melting that will not be able to go into reverse even if the temperatures returned to previous normal. The freed water masses would take hundreds of years to cool back and build an ice cap on Greenland or Antarctica. Global watermark would rise by some 6 meters.

As an example, imagine an ice block the size of 100 Manhattans, breaking off from Antarctica and starting a journey in the south pacific before it melts. This is actually happening at the moment with Larsen C ice shelf.

One thing experts cannot agree on is how much the temperature should rise in each region in order to reach the tipping point – and cross it. Some believe within this century a huge part of Antarctica could disappear, lifting the sea level. However, most of scientists do think that humans still have time. However, as much as we want to, it is hard to halt the billions of tons of greenhouse gasses being released into the atmosphere. Worst thing yet is the fact that many of these gases have been accumulated in the ice permafrost of Canada, northern Europe and Russia. This could create even more disruption and a vicious circle of global warming much faster than at current rates. The “reserve” in permafrost equal roughly 15 years of emissions from Europe.

While efforts have been made to stem the global warming, many of the important tipping point triggers have been changed irreversibly. The red line drawn at 2C in Paris will not be enough to stop these elements. Even the 2C or significantly lower temperature increase will not guarantee we are safe from damages.