The possibility Earth could enter an irreversible ‘hothouse climate’ with rising sea levels of between 10 and 60 metres has been brought to light in a new paper from the journal PNAS.
In the paper, Trajectories of the Earth System in the Anthropocene, a team of international researchers warn that if Earth breaks a temperature threshold it will bring much higher global average temperatures than have occurred at any time in the Holocene.
TVNZ reported: “The impacts of a hothouse earth pathway on human societies would likely be massive, sometimes abrupt, and undoubtedly disruptive,” lead researcher, Australian National University professor Will Steffen, said.
Speaking to Breakfast, AUT Head of Environment Sciences Len Gillman said the temperature targets set in the Paris Agreement needed to be adjusted to see more action taken with greater urgency.
“We’re looking at 30-60 years at the point when we might be hitting the first of those tipping points – things like the loss of sea ice.”
But on independent climate news site, Grist, meteorologist Eric Holthaus wrote it was important to understand this concept is no foregone conclusion, but the “breathlessness” of many media headlines dangerously fostered hopelessness.
“Liverman and the other authors anticipated a defeatist response and published a multi-page document of possible solutions which, when combined with other research on the most important actions people can take, gives a blueprint for hope, not despair,” he wrote.
That said, the paper still paints a “very worrying picture,” which reinforced the need for immediate action, Victoria University climate scientist Professor James Renwick told the NZ Herald.
“It makes yet another great case for taking serious action now – we’ve got to start reducing emissions immediately, because this could be down the pipeline… and it would be terrifically bad news if it was.”
The SMC rounded up coverage of the report.