From time to time, scientific articles with headlines spelling disaster manage to surface in research journals, and news outlets often misunderstand the contents and spread some panic. Many of these research publications tend to have simplistic climate models that don’t accurately represent reality, and in the future, more articles like this are sure to appear.
Here we gather all the facts regarding the “point of no return” in global warming to dispel every doubt you may have. Share this review with your colleagues and family members to warn them about the global warming impacts on our planet’s ecosystem, weather patterns, and rising temperatures, among other things.
Global Warming Overview
Global warming is the continuous heating of the Earth’s climate occurring since the pre-industrial period. During these last hundred years, the warming pace has considerably increased due to human activities, mainly fossil fuel burning. The burning of these fossil fuels and some other factors cause the greenhouse effect in the Earth’s atmosphere.
The greenhouse effect is caused by the accumulation of gases in the atmosphere, such as carbon dioxide, methane, water vapor, chlorofluorocarbons, and nitrous oxide. When the Sun rays enter the atmosphere and reflect on the Earth’s surface, the gases trap the heat inside it. This excess trapped heat is what is causing the rise of the Earth’s global temperature over time.
Global warming and climate changes are terms that people use interchangeably, but they are different. Climate change not only includes global warming stemming from human greenhouse gas emissions, but it also consists of the resulting large-scale changes in weather patterns around the world. It’s these changes that give rise to extreme weather events, wildlife population and habitat relocations, rising sea levels, and more.
Ice Sheets Collapse
Some researchers think that the tipping point of cryospheres is close. If nations implement more substantial greenhouse gas emission reductions during the following years, their impact on the ocean and cryosphere ecosystems can slow down.
Over the last few decades, the data shows that the cryosphere has been continuously shrinking, with glaciers and ice sheets losing mass due to surface melting. Both Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets are melting and accelerating the rise of the global sea level.
If global temperatures continue to rise to 1.5 – 2°C, the melting of these ice sheets may accelerate and become irreversible. The current warming level sits at 1.1°C, but further regulations have to be implemented to prevent it from increasing. Scientists stress that the maximum permissible limit is 1.5°C by the year 2100, as it would avoid the chances of crossing a tipping point.
If global temperature continues to rise, it can bring about the point of no return for some biospheres. During the last decade, we’ve already felt some effects of it. Coral mass bleaching and the loss of half of the shallow-water corals on the Great Barrier Reef are some of the consequences of the current ocean heatwaves.
Should the global average temperature reach up to 2°C, 99% of tropical corals are expected to disappear due to further ocean warming, acidification, and pollution. Corals represent a great deal of biodiversity and human livelihoods, so losing them is a huge impact.
Regarding the deforestation and climate change of the Amazon rainforest, its tipping point can range from 40% to 20% deforestation. The best course of action is to build a safety margin that limits deforestation to under 20% of the area, the main reason being that there’s no point in risking going over it to discover the precise point of no return.
Global tipping is a speculative topic, but the possible risk that it possesses must be taken into account to be on the safe side, as if a cascade occurs in the future, the threat to people can be extreme.
There is evidence suggesting that crossing the point of no return in one ecosystem increases the risk of exceeding them in others. Such was the case for over 45% of ecosystem interactions.
Have We Already Reached the Point of no Return in Climate Change?
We haven’t, but we’re currently off track on the optimistic 1.5°C global warming target. Under the Paris Agreement, nations agreed to mitigate their greenhouse emissions to reach a target of under 2.0°C, preferably 1.5°C. The problem is that global warming would rise to 2.8°C by the year 2100 under the current pledges. Still, reaching 1.5°C doesn’t mean the world is ending, but the consequences of it are vast. Further national commitments are crucial to diminish the rate of warming.
Reaching the desired target requires halving the greenhouse emissions by 2030 and nearly eliminating them by 2050. The UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow on November 2021 looks forward to tackling the issue and accelerating the participating parties’ objective of reaching the Paris Agreement goals.
What Are the Worst Consequences?
If the situation continues as it is, without any nation making further amendments to their emissions, the consequences can be significant. Between 2.0°C and 1.5°C, there is already a substantial gap in the effects.
Water availability issues would affect up to 50% more people at 2.0°C warming than 1.5°C. There would be a rise in heavy rainfall events and higher flooding risks for northern hemisphere zones, and more areas can be subject to flooding and runoffs.
It would harshly impact biodiversity and ecosystems, resulting in the extinction of many insects, plants, and vertebrates. Risks of extreme weather events, forest fires, and invasive species would be higher, and a large percentage of biomes are expected to shift from one biome type to another.
Currently, it’s valid to say that the most significant emergency the world is facing is global warming and climate change. The world is already feeling some global warming effects, and it can be worse in the future if nothing is done. On an individual level, a person’s contribution to stop global warming isn’t too meaningful, but we aren’t alone.
Reducing your carbon footprint by going car-less or with a fuel-efficient vehicle, using renewable energy and energy-efficient appliances, purchasing carbon offsets, and contacting your local government representative are some of the ways you can help.
Take care of nature. Share this list with your friends to increase awareness in society!