Currently, our climate is near the edge of stability according to a new study conducted by 16 of the leading climate scientists. The study warns that we are pushing Earth towards a “Hothouse Earth.” This catastrophic and irreversible warming of 9°F (5°C) or more could see the sea levels increase up to 200 feet. We as a collective could be closer to the point of no return than many realize.
Meeting the near-term greenhouse gas emissions targets which over 190 nations agreed to in the Paris Climate Accord in 2015 is not enough to be confident in our ability to avoid this encroaching fate according to the study.
The world has to keep emissions down to zero for the second half of this century to prevent global warming from rising above the agreed limit in Paris of 3.6°F, or 2°C
Trump’s Climate Policies Are a Threat to the Earth We Live on
However, last year, U.S. President Trump announced his plans to pull out of the Accord in 2020. Even worse, his administration is actively working to increase the carbon pollution.
Trump’s administration shocked scientists earlier this week in their announcement to gut vehicle fuel economy standards. This plan would help bring atmospheric concentrations of CO2 to 789.76 parts per million. That’s almost double the current levels.
It is possible billions of individuals will suffer should CO2 levels reach anywhere near that level.
The study warns that our path to this looming catastrophic collapse isn’t exactly a steady descent caused by burning more fossil fuels. Instead, it’s a cliff that once crossed, triggers an avalanche of ruin.
Emissions of greenhouse gas by humans are not the only determinant of the temperatures on Earth. The study suggested that the increase in warming by 2°C could trigger other systems on Earth. This feedback would then drive global warming even further. That’s even if emissions should start to decline slowly.
Critical feedback possible with this increase in greenhouse emissions is the release of methane and carbon dioxide melting Arctic permafrost.
Dangerous Climate Feedback Loop Could Lead to Hothouse Earth
A study in 2017 warned for every 1°C of extra warming would thaw 1/4 of earth’s tundra. The problem here comes from the northern permafrost holding two times as much carbon as the current atmosphere.
However, there are other dangerous forms of feedback besides permafrost thaw. Other examples are the loss of methane hydrates from the ocean floor and the weakening carbon sinks in the ocean and on land. Bacterial respiration in the oceans could occur, the death of the Amazon rainforest, a reduction of snow cover in the north, or loss of Arctic sea ice and ice sheets.
Should the temperature increase 2°C, even a few of the feedbacks mentioned above are possibly all but unstoppable. These factors could usher in an irreversible Hothouse Earth.
If we want to have a stabilized earth, aggressive action is required now for the foreseeable future.
The danger of the Hothouse Earth is old news. However, thanks to the new study, we are aware of how close we are to its reality. We also have a president with harsh climate-destroying policies. Should he continue into a second term, avoiding this decline to a physically altered earth could be all but impossible.