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Climate report: Five natural systems at risk of overturning

Climate report: Five natural systems at risk of overturning

In climate research, tipping points occur when changes lead to a domino effect, the consequences of which may not be reversible. The concept of tipping points and the uncertainties associated with them are sometimes discussed intensely in the scientific community.

Overshooting transition regimes could “lead to fundamental and sometimes surprising changes,” said Sina Lauriani, one of the report’s lead authors, from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK). These could “irreversibly determine the fate of large parts of our Earth system for hundreds or thousands of years to come.”

Graphics: APA/ORF.at; Source: Nature

The report was prepared by an international team of more than 200 researchers. It was coordinated by the British University of Exeter and the Bezos Land Fund. This is “the most comprehensive overview of turning points in the Earth system to date,” says Lauriani, the PIK researcher. The report on critical points is scheduled to be presented on Wednesday morning (local time) at the World Climate Conference (COP28) in Dubai.

Researchers alerted

“Five major transition systems are already at risk of exceeding their tipping points given current global warming,” the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research said. This includes the Greenland and West Antarctica ice sheets, the subpolar gyre in the North Atlantic, warm-water coral reefs and some areas of permafrost. “If global warming rises to 1.5°C, three more systems, including boreal forests, mangroves and seagrass meadows, could be at risk of capsizing in the 2030s,” PIK says.

Experts warn that if several tipping points are crossed, there is also a risk of a catastrophic loss in the ability to grow crops for staple foods. A statement from the University of Exeter said: “Without urgent action to stop the climate and environmental catastrophe, societies will collapse as nature spirals out of control.”

Six recommendations for positive turning points

Since the previous response from governments around the world is not enough, the researchers offer six recommendations to avoid negative turning points and even initiate positive turning points. The six recommendations include stopping fossil fuel emissions and land use well before mid-century. In addition, negative consequences for the most affected groups and countries in particular should be mitigated.

Concerted efforts are also needed to stimulate positive turning points and raise awareness of turning points. The expansion of the use of renewable energies and the shift to electric mobility are examples of positive turning points. “A series of positive turning points would save millions of lives, save billions of people from suffering, prevent trillions of dollars in damage, and begin to restore the nature on which we all depend,” the University of Exeter said in a statement.

Copernicus: 2023 will be the hottest year on record

Meanwhile, the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service reported that 2023 will be the hottest year on record. “The exceptional global temperatures in November (…) mean that 2023 is the warmest year in recorded history,” said Samantha Burgess, Vice President of Copernicus.

On two days, the global average temperature exceeded the pre-industrial average seasonal temperature by more than two degrees. The data is likely to increase pressure on negotiations at COP28. A number of high values ​​have already been recorded this year. According to Copernicus, the months from June to November were the hottest in the world since records began.

Last week, the United Nations reached the same conclusion as Copernicus: a preliminary climate report from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) showed that 2023 will likely be the hottest year since records began – more on this at Science.ORF.at .

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