Hothouse Earth: The Planet Will Get Warmer Even If We Cut CO2 Emissions

HAn international team of scientists has discovered in their study that warming in the next decades could make Earth less friendly than it is now. Waters will rise, and so will temperatures. The problem is that this will happen even if every country tries to meet the CO2 target.

But is there nothing we can do to prevent the “Hothouse” scenario?

The climate researchers explain their findings and have some recommendations on how to avoid reaching the tipping point of global warming.

A Rise By 2 C in Global Temperatures

The researchers found that the limit of a 2 C rise compared to the pre-industrial period is not going to help us avoid warming in the next decades.

Every year, the ocean, land, and forests get soaked with almost 4.5 billion tons of carbon – preventing it to get into the atmosphere and rising the temperature. But these carbon sinks can become sources of carbon as the planet gets warmer.

Other factors like permafrost thawing – which hold millions of tons of gases that would further warm the planet, and a strong ally like the Amazon rainforest – they can all become our strong enemies if they’re threatened with those extra 2 degrees.

One of the authors of the study, Prof Johan Rockström (Stockholm Resilience Centre) explains:

“What we are saying is that when we reach 2 degrees of warming, we may be at a point where we hand over the control mechanism to Planet Earth herself. We are the ones in control right now, but once we go past 2 degrees, we see that the Earth system tips over from being a friend to a foe. We totally hand over our fate to an Earth system that starts rolling out of equilibrium.”

The team of researchers estimated that each decade would experience an increase of almost 0.17C.

They explain that once the natural systems tip over, they will start releasing massive amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere, starting a domino effect.

The Earth will reach 4-5 C above the pre-industrial level; the ice sheets will melt and rise seas with 10-60 meters, making some parts of the Planet uninhabitable.

The Good News?

It’s unbelievable, but there’s still some good news.

We could avoid this scenario if we adjust the way we impact Earth, explains co-author of the study, Katherine Richardson (University of Copenhagen): “we as a global community can also manage our relationship with the system to influence future planetary conditions.”

One of the things we have to do is stop burning fossil fuel by 2050. We should also plant a lot of trees, and build some machines to suck the carbon from the air. You can find more details in their article recently published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Rex Austin

Rex Austinwas born and raised in Thunder Bay Ontario on the shores of Lake Superior. Apart from running his own podcast (Ice Fishing And Other “Cool” Things), he spends his time canoeing and backpacking in Northern Ontario.. As a journalist Rex has published stories for Global News (Thunder Bay) we well as Buzz Feed and Joystiq. As a contributor to Great Lakes Ledger, Rex most covers science and health stories. Contact Rexhere