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article image'Hothouse Earth' is now a real possibility as climate runs amok

By Karen Graham     Aug 7, 2018 in Environment
A new study out Monday warns of the possibility of out-of-control global warming, creating a "Hothouse Earth" if humans fail to band together to fight the worst effects of climate change.
The planet is at risk of entering a "hothouse" scenario even if we do meet the emission targets set under the 2016 Paris Climate Accord.
Under such a scenario, global average temperatures will be 4-5℃ (7-9℉) higher than pre-industrial levels, and sea levels will be 10 to 60 meters (33 to 200 feet) higher than today. But perhaps even more worrying is that this scenario will be self-enforcing, meaning that the warmer climate will feed upon itself, driving further environmental changes that heat up the globe.
Basically, according to the research submitted by researchers at the Australian National University and the Stockholm Resilience Center, among other institutions, they outline the potential for a "threshold" that, if crossed, would lead to runaway warming patterns and the advent of a "Hothouse Earth."
Waiting for the rain: Scientific scenarios predict that as a rule of thumb  dry regions will become ...
Waiting for the rain: Scientific scenarios predict that as a rule of thumb, dry regions will become drier and wet regions become wetter when climate change goes into higher gear
Marvin RECINOS, AFP
"Crossing the threshold would lead to a much higher global average temperature than any interglacial in the past 1.2 million years and to sea levels significantly higher than at any time in the Holocene," the study says.
This latest research paper is based on a study and review of existing literature dealing with various feedback processes and write that many of them can serve as ‘tipping elements’. Johan Rockström, executive director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre and paper co-author, explains how these "tipping points" work.
“These tipping elements can potentially act like a row of dominoes. 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.”
A crisis is looming in Vietnam's Mekong Delta as mangrove forests have been oblierated to make ...
A crisis is looming in Vietnam's Mekong Delta as mangrove forests have been oblierated to make way for shrimp farms, exposing the area to lashings from storms and further rises in sea-level linked to climate change
Roberto SCHMIDT, AFP
The problem is, the researchers don't exactly know where that "tipping point" might be. Right now, we are just a little over 1°C above pre-industrial levels. The temperature rising by roughly 0.17°C per decade. The "tipping point" could be very far off, or it could be 1.5 degrees Centigrade.
But arguing where that point is that starts the domino effect is not the point. If the floods, fires, heat waves, and droughts we have experienced in the past few years have anything to do with it, we are already experiencing the early changes in our climate system, and they will get worse.
The research team studied past climate events from the last 1.2 million years and found that the climate has never remained stable at just two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial temperatures.
Climate change has made deadly heatwaves and hurricanes more frequent and more intense in recent yea...
Climate change has made deadly heatwaves and hurricanes more frequent and more intense in recent years, the UN says
Jewel Samad, AFP/File
“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 CO2 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.
The [url=http://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/400647-study-warns-of-looming-potential-for-runaway-global-warming t=_blank]bottom line may be hard to swallow.
To do anything constructive would require a collective global response, including a drastic transformation of "social values" and the pursuit of new technology.
"Such action entails stewardship of the entire Earth System – biosphere, climate, and societies – and could include decarbonization of the global economy, enhancement of biosphere carbon sinks, behavioral changes, technological innovations, new governance arrangements, and transformed social values," the study says.
More about hothouse earth, paris agreement, 2 degrees Centigrade, runaway global warming, Environment