As this article from the Independent reported earlier this week, scientists have identified nine way in which the Earth could be tipped into potentially dangerous conditions which are likely to be irreversible on a human timescale.
A tipping point is the critical threshold reached as a result of human induced climate change of which the smallest of changes could take us to the point-of-no-return so to speak.
Professor Timothy Lenton who led the study said . . . “But we should be prepared to adapt … and to design an early-warning system that alerts us to them in time.”
I wonder if Richard Branson will offer a substantial financial incentive for the designer who comes up with the best early-warning system that could detect the imminence of any of the given scenarios.
Anyway, here are the nine irreversible changes:
* Arctic sea ice: some scientists believe that the tipping point for the total loss of summer sea ice is imminent.
* 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.
* West Antarctic ice sheet: scientists believe it could unexpectedly collapse if it slips into the sea at its warming edges.
* Gulf Stream: few scientists believe it could be switched off completely this century but its collapse is a possibility.
* El Niño: the southern Pacific current may be affected by warmer seas, resulting in far-reaching climate change.
* Indian monsoon: relies on temperature difference between land and sea, which could be tipped off-balance by pollutants that cause localised cooling.
* West African monsoon: in the past it has changed, causing the greening of the Sahara, but in the future it could cause droughts.
* Amazon rainforest: a warmer world and further deforestation may cause a collapse of the rain supporting this ecosystem.
* Boreal forests: cold-adapted trees of Siberia and Canada are dying as temperatures rise.