Earth At Risk Of 'Hothouse' Climate

A study by scientists says global average temperatures will be 4-5C higher

This would result in another 2C or 3C of warming, it is claimed, by releasing vast amounts of greenhouse gases that would cause ice caps to melt and sea levels to rise by up to 60m.

"If such a threshold is crossed, the study warns, global average temperatures could climb as much as 8 degrees Fahrenheit above current temperatures and sea levels could rise 30 to 200 feet".

And that "could be only decades ahead", they said.

These tipping points can lead to abrupt change, falling like a "row of dominoes" according to the report's co-author and incoming co-director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Johan Rockström, and are "impossible to stop".

In such a climate catastrophe rivers would flood, storms would cause serious issues in coastal areas and coral reefs would die out, this could all happen by the century's end or earlier warn the scientists.

The threshold will be reached when average global temperatures are only around two degrees higher than they were in pre-industrial times, research suggests.

"The real concern is these tipping elements can act like a row of dominoes". According to the researchers, keeping global warming to within 1.5-2 degrees Celsius may be more hard than previously assessed.

The planet has already warmed 1 C over pre-industrial times, and is heating up at a rate of 0.17 C per decade.

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.

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Victoria University climate scientist Professor James Renwick described the new research as "very worrying" and a plausible interpretation of evidence around the way Earth's climate had changed tens of millions of years in the past.

Experts also worry about phenomena like wildfires, which will spread as the planet gets hotter and drier and have the potential to accelerate carbon dioxide buildup and global warming.

The new study was based on previously published studies on tipping points for the Earth.

During the Cretaceous period, the era of the dinosaurs some 100 million years ago, Carbon dioxide levels were even higher at 1,000 ppm, largely due to volcanic activity.

"It's rather selective, but not outlandish". Stopping this alleged tipping point requires people to immediately change their lifestyle according to the scientists.

Fossil fuels should be replaced with alternative energy sources with low or zero emission. We need to make a concerted effort, including improved forest, agricultural, and soil management, biodiversity conservation, and carbon storage. "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", lead author Will Steffen of the Australian National University said.

The feedbacks include methane release from thawing permafrost, loss of snow cover in the Northern Hemisphere, loss of Arctic summer sea ice, and dramatic reduction of Antarctic sea ice and polar ice sheets.

Commenting on the findings, climate researcher Dr Phil Williamson, from the University of East Anglia, said: "In the context of the summer of 2018, this is definitely not a case of crying wolf, raising a false alarm".

In 2015, nearly 200 countries agreed to only allow the temperature to rise "well below" 2 degrees above levels from the pre-industrial period - a limit that was estimated to be the tipping point.

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