Reversing warming quickly could prevent worst climate change effects: Study

Catastrophic irreversible environmental tipping points — such as the melting of polar icecaps — could be avoided even if we exceed global climate emissions reduction targets, provided we are able to reverse that overshoot quickly, according to a study published in the journal Nature last week. The 2009 Planetary Boundaries framework proposed nine key Earth System processes and described tipping points brought on by human exploitation beyond which the system could shift irreversibly into a new climatic state — one in which human civilizations would find it difficult to survive. In the present study, researchers at the University of Exeter and the U.K. Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, both in the United Kingdom, developed simple mathematical models of four environmental elements in the Earth System that are fairly well understood: melting of polar ice caps, disruption of the Atlantic Meridional Ocean Circulation (AMOC), Amazon forest dieback, and disruption of India’s summer monsoon cycle. Rice harvest in Asia. The melting of polar ice caps, disruption of the Atlantic Meridional Ocean Circulation (AMOC), Amazon forest dieback, and disruption of India’s summer monsoon cycle could all have catastrophic impacts on global food security and civilization. Photo credit: Santanu Sen on VisualHunt Scientists found that crossing a climate change threshold would not immediately trigger irreversible change, provided that the duration of the overshoot was relatively short compared to that tipping element’s recovery time. For example, models of icecap melt and the AMOC showed about a 50-year lag between the world passing the theoretical climate…This article was originally published on Mongabay

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