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Buckle Up: Scientists Warn of Dozens of Global Warming Tipping Points That Could Trigger Natural Disasters

October 27, 2015 in Blogs

By Reynard Loki, AlterNet

Rising surface temperatures due to climate change could ultimately rearrange the planet's ecosystems.

Rising surface temperatures due to climate change could have grave consequences for human life. An international group of scientists has pinpointed 41 specific places around the globe where abrupt temperature changes could trigger natural disasters affecting ocean currents, sea ice, snow cover, tundra permafrost and terrestrial biosphere. The scientists cite environmental neglect and over-exploitation of the Earth's resources as the main contributing factors.

These “global warming tipping points” include regions that host critical elements of Earth's planetary system, such as the Amazon forest and the Tibetan plateau. While none of the areas implicated in the study are located near any major cities, the potential impact to the planet could still be grave, as they could cause a domino effect that would intensify the risk of climate change and have dramatic impacts on ecosystems and biodiversity, which in turn could affect human civilization.

Published online earlier this month in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), the study is the “first systematic screening of the massive climate model ensemble” that was presented in reports for the 5th Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change (IPCC), the United Nations body that supports the ongoing efforts to establish an international treaty on climate change. The research team included meteorologists, oceanographers, climatologists, ecologists, and environmental scientists from the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Germany and France.

The researchers report evidence of “forced regional abrupt changes in the ocean, sea ice, snow cover, permafrost and terrestrial biosphere that arise after a certain global temperature increase.” Even more worrisome is the fact that their research casts some doubt on the generally accepted goal of keeping the increase of global surface temperature to a maximum of 2° Celsius, as they found that 18 of the potential disaster events occur at global warming levels below the 2° “safe limit” threshold.

These abrupt ecosystemic shifts, which are caused by an increasing global mean temperature change, suggest the “potential for a gradual trend of destabilization of the climate.”

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