Better Understanding Climate Tipping Points and Their Threat

Climate change tipping points threaten forestsA major new study warns that continued rise of global average temperatures from emissions of man-made greenhouse gases is likely to result in sudden, dramatic, out of control changes to major geophysical elements of the Earth. The journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences identifies nine manners in which climate change could cross “tipping point” thresholds [ark | search] and lead to abrupt, non-linear ecosystem change.

Global warming crossing tipping points [ark] could trigger a runaway thaw of Greenland's ice sheet [search], dieback of Amazon rainforests [search], and failures of the Indian and West African Monsoons [search]. The report rejects complacency based upon smooth projections of global change, calling upon governments to note potential for small change to be amplified into massive, abrupt and potentially irreversible ecosystem failure. Though surrounded with uncertainty inherent in complex systems, the authors indicate some of these tipping points may be closer than thought.

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9 Responses

  1. Sarah says:

    In the reuters article linked to this blog, sources are sayng that the “Arctic Ice sheet might be gone in 300 years . . .” GONE. I think that too many people think 300 years is a long way away, and simply dismiss climate change as a problem above and beyond their time and energy. 300 years as far as the history of this planet is concerned is nothing but a blip on the screen, and Earth should not experience massive sudden global shifts unless we are asking for extinction. We are the culprit and, like an antibody, we must use ourselves to create a solution to our own poisons. It's starting to happen, discussion about how to make large-scale changes. Take, for instance, the Art Center Global Dialogues in Barcelona. An international event to suggest sweeping “disruptive thinking” to shake us out of our compacent lives. Some good could come from serious discussion about what the WHOLE world, not just America or China can do. But people must start reacting and resolving to make change. Btw, the Global Dialogues blog has some really interesting info. Worth checking out: Global Dialogues Blog

  2. John Seebeth says:

    I beleive this is a misquote: “Arctic Ice sheet might be gone in 300 years . . .”
    If not mistaken, its 30 years!
    “Just last year, two top scientists surprised their colleagues by projecting that the Arctic sea ice was melting so rapidly that it could disappear entirely by the summer of 2040.”

  3. Perhaps there is a need for transforming change to occur with all deliberate speed.
    At least to me, global warming is not a “them versus us” problem, a China, India and the East versus USA, Europe and the West problem, for example. The overdeveloped nations, the developing nations and the underdeveloped nations are stakeholders with regard to global warming and climate change. For every stakeholder to point a finger at another stakeholder, as a way of placing blame for the potentially catastrophic consequences of runaway climate change, gets us nowhere, I suppose.
    Is it reasonable and sensible for the human community to consider that those corporations and industries found to be responsible for polluting the environment during the 20th would be held accountable for that pollution AND those businesses responsible for polluting the Earth and its atmosphere in the 21st century would pay the costs of their present and future actions?
    In order to secure a good enough future for our children, we could begin by examining the necessity of redirecting the great wealth that is being fecklessly hoarded and conspicuously squandered by a remarkably small group of people within the family of humanity toward conservation programs that protect and preserve the Earth.
    Afterall, does anyone seriously believe or possess good scientific evidence to suggest that the artificially designed, dissipative national economies can much longer thrive without adequate resources and irreplaceable ecosystem services provided by Earth?
    Steven Earl Salmony
    AWAREness Campaign on The Human Population, established 2001

  4. al says:

    I am not sure if this is going to come up as a duplicate comment but if it doesn't.I really enjoy reading your blog, it always has great insight. But I am very frustrated with the fact that so few people are talking about presidential candidates and their thoughts on global warming. Now that it is down to just a few candidates I would think that this would be a bigger issue.
    Live Earth just picked up this topic and put out an article ( ) live earth is also asking why the presidential candidates are not being solicited for their stance on the issue of the climate change. I just saw a poll on that says people care a lot about what their next leader thinks of global warming. Does anyone know of another poll or other results about this subject?
    Here is the page where I saw the EarthLab poll: This is a pretty legit website; they are endorsed by Al Gore and the alliance for climate protection and they have a carbon footprint calculator. Does anyone have a strong opinion about this like I do? No matter what your political affiliation is or who you vote for this is an important issue for our environment, our economy and for homeland security.

  5. alberta says:

    Sarah said “I beleive this is a misquote: “Arctic Ice sheet might be gone in 300 years . . .”
    If not mistaken, its 30 years!”
    But the Independent article says ” Greenland ice sheet: total melting could take 300 years or more but the tipping point that could see irreversible change might occur within 50 years.”
    Greenland is not the arctic ocean. Greenland is not an ocean or a sea at all, its ice lays on firm ground, it's a glacier.

  6. phill Parsons says:

    Try the loss of the polar ice cap could cause the Greenland ice sheet to melt in 300 years causing sea levels to rise 6m or 2m a century.
    By the by for those talking in these terms such a changes in the earth's heat distribution would have flow on effects in the other hemisphere causing sealevel to rise more in the last 2 centuries.
    Further such a tipping point will affect rainfall patterns and the associated temperature increases act to feed itself further by trapping heat additional water vapor in the atmosphere.
    Yes arctic summer sea ice may be gone much sooner than the IPCC's 4AR suggested. I tdid not have the 06 and 07 behavior factored into its data.
    Whilst no one wants to see an ecological disater associated with climate change it is most likely the only thing that will get sufficient decision makers attention.
    Such an event will most likely represent a tipping pointand such points may be a self feeding cascade frre of human intervention once the major changes start.
    Such irrevocability is a danger that most of the economists determinig policy appear to fail to understand.

  7. paul says:

    Please don't spread nonsense such as global warming will cause die back of the amazon rainforests. They are being felled for land, for soya beans (your article) and for biofuels. These are far more accessible facts than speculation about climate change. We can stop the degradation of the rainforests which have existed on Earth for millions of years. But, if they go it will not be climate change but humans cutting them down.

  8. Something is happening that many too many people appear not to be seeing, I suppose.
    Scientific evidence is springing up everywhere that indicates the massive and pernicious impact of the human species on the limited resources of Earth, its frangible ecosystems and life as we know it.
    Guided by mountains of carefully and skillfully developed research regarding climate change, top rank scientists like Dr. Rajendra K. Pachauri, Dr. James Hansen, Dr. Hans J. Schellnhuber and Dr. Christopher Rapley issued a Climate Code Red emergency declaration this month to leaders of governments and to the family of humanity proclaiming the necessity for open discussion and action by politicians and economic powerbrokers.
    From my humble perspective, many leaders of the global political economy are turning a blind eye to human over-consumption, overproduction and overpopulation activities that can be seen recklessly dissipating the natural resources and dangerously degrading the environs of our planetary home. The Earth is being ravaged; but it appears many leaders are willfully refusing to acknowledge what is happening.
    Because the emerging global challenges that could soon be presented to humanity appear to so many fine scientists as human-induced, leaders have responsibilities to assume and duties to perform, ready or not, like them or not.
    Perhaps leadership in our time has too often chosen to ignore whatsoever is somehow real in order to believe whatever is politically convenient, economically expedient, socially agreeable, religiously tolerated and culturally prescribed. When something real directly conflicts with what leaders wish to believe, that reality is denied. It appears that too many leaders are content to hold tightly to widely shared and consensually validated specious thinking when it serves their personal interests.
    Is humanity once again finding life as we know it dominated by a modern Tower of Babel called economic globalization? That is, has human thinking, judging and willing become so egregiously impaired by our idolatry of the artificially designed, manmade, global political economy that we cannot speak intelligibly about anything else except economic growth and profits without sounding like blithering idiots?

  9. David says:

    OH..The Hysteria! Isn't it amazing how one Politician who claims to have invented the internat can create? If the “ice sheet” is melting it is not because of increase of CO2. The simple fact remains.. CO2 increases because of global warming, it does not cause it. The green house effect does not cause global warming the desalination of the Oceans do that. It is a strong feed back loop in fact. The Glaciers are actually tha major egnine in the cause of global warming themselves. The more they melt the wamer the planet. When Glacers stop melting…look out below. The temperatures with drop fast! Check out the real science not this politically charge garbage. As the Ocean levels rise the more energy they maintain. Circulation / currents draw warm water from the equater to the poles causing the poles to warm and the equater to cool. Almost all CO2 and Methane is being released from the Ocean not from SUV's or industial complexes. Looking at the last 2 Million years there have been many ice ages even when CO2 lev. We are about to begin another ice age as we are at the very end of the lain the next 10,000 years as we are nearing the end of the current warming cycle. Nothing we can do about it yet we humans are arrogant enough to believe we can. I think it would be easier to end drought and famine than to stop the power of the Sun and Earth. When will the world wake up to the real science and stop believeing the latest BIG LIE! AHHHHHHHG!

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