In the midst of global record heat, devastating forest fires, droughts, refugee crises and torrential rains and floods, a few disturbing headlines have appeared on the news. "The CBC has announced that" the planet is at risk of irreversible greenhouse gas emissions ".
Similar headlines appeared in other media.
As CBC explained: "Scientists from the Stockholm Resilience Center, the University of Copenhagen, the Australian National University and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research said that it is likely that if a critical threshold is exceeded, different tipping points would lead to abrupt changes. "
The study "Trajectories of the Earth System in the Anthropocene," confirms that global warming has accelerated during the current era, when man became a driving force in geophysical changes to the earth: "The anthropocene represents the beginning of a very fast-paced Earth system path away from the limiting cycle from glacial to interglacial to new, hotter climatic conditions and a deeply different biosphere. "
The most disturbing part of the research, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is the prediction that, after an increase of 2 ° C at the world temperature above the pre-industrial level, "intrinsic biogeophysical feedback in the Earth system" will emerge, so that the warming and its consequences will accelerate to an even greater extent than we currently experience.
After an increase of 2 C, tilting elements could be activated, "raising the temperature further to activate other tilting elements in a domino-like waterfall that could bring the grounding system to even higher temperatures."
This would result in "serious risks to health, economies, political stability (especially for the most climate-sensitive ones) and ultimately the habitability of the planet for humans".
A known feedback loop occurs when ice melts in ice and ice, exposing dark land and water, which absorb more heat than ice and snow, accelerate heating and melt more ice. According to the researchers, these are not the only consequences. "If Greenland and the West Antarctic ice layer are melting in the future, refreshing and cooling of nearby surface water will have a significant impact on ocean circulation."
The size, direction and consequences of feedback processes depend on the degree of warming and the types of feedback that go with this.
"The so-called" greening "of the planet, caused by the increased plant growth as a result of the increasing CO2 concentration in the atmosphere, has increased the carbon discharge in the country over the past decades, but increasing atmospheric CO2 increases the temperature and leave the photosynthesis less strong, "researchers say.
The research is deeply disturbing. But reporting in the media often missed or trivialized a crucial element: the solutions that the report describes in the direction of a stabilized earth path & # 39 ;.
This "would require a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, protection and reinforcement of carbon sinks in the biosphere, efforts to remove CO2 from the atmosphere, possible management of solar radiation and adaptation to the inevitable consequences of the already occurring global warming."
Because our current socio-economic system is based on high CO2 economic growth and exploitative use of resources & # 39 ;, the authors of the study suggest that changes in demographics, consumption, behavior, attitudes, education, institutions and socially embedded technologies are all important & # 39 ;.
They also warn: "If a planetary threshold is crossed in the direction of the Hothouse Earth, access to the path of the stabilized earth would become very difficult, regardless of what actions human society could take."
In other words, we have to act now. The choices we make over the next decade will determine our future and the future of our children and their children. We have already gone through a lot of warming and see the consequences, but it is not too late to change course.
As Professor in Change Science at University College London and University of Leeds, Simon Lewis notes, diagnosing global warming and its consequences is a scientific problem, but "Solving climate change is about power, money and political want."
We must insist that politicians represent the interests of citizens rather than businesses. We must stand up against the industry of fossil fuels and deniers of climate science. We have already postponed the necessary action for too long. There are big steps needed. We have no time left.
David Suzuki is a scientist, broadcaster, author and co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation. Written with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation Senior Editor Ian Hanington.