It may sound like the title of a low budget sci-fi movie, but for planetary scientists, “Hothouse Earth” is a deadly serious concept. Researchers believe we could soon cross a threshold leading to boiling hot temperatures and towering seas in the centuries to come. Even if countries succeed in meeting their CO2 targets, we could still lurch on to this “irreversible pathway”. Their study shows it could happen if global temperatures rise by 2C. An international team of climate researchers, writing in the journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, says the warming expected in the next few decades could turn some of the Earth’s natural forces – that currently protect us – into our enemies. Each year the Earth’s forests, oceans and land soak up about 4.5 billion tonnes of carbon that would otherwise end up in o ur atmosphere adding to temperatures. But as the world experiences warming, these carbon sinks could become sources of carbon and make the problems of climate change significantly worse. According to the research paper, crossing into a Hothouse Earth period would see a higher global temperature than at any time in the past 1.2 million years. The climate might stabilise with 4-5 degrees C of warming above the pre-industrial age. Thanks to the melting of ice sheets, the seas could be 10-60 metres higher than now. Essentially, this would mean that some parts of the Earth would become uninhabitable.
BBC 6th Aug 2018 read more »
The Earth could be locked into unavoidable global warming even if all countries met their targets to cut emissions, a study has found. The 2015 Paris agreement on climate change aims to keep the increase in global average temperatures below 2C but this may not be enough to stop “feedback” mechanisms, such as permafrost melting and rainforests dying back, releasing more carbon into the atmosphere. This would result in another 2C or 3C of warming, it is claimed, by releasing vast amounts of greenhouse gases that would cause ice caps to melt and sea levels to rise by up to 60m. The authors of the study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, described this scenario as “hothouse Earth” and said an unstoppable slide towards it may begin within decades.
Times 7th Aug 2018 read more »
Herald 7th Aug 2018 read more »
Independent 7th Aug 2018 read more »
Guardian 6th Aug 2018 read more »
Telegraph 6th Aug 2018 read more »