Climate disaster cascade in effect as nine tipping points now ‘active’

28 Nov 2019

Image: © volki/

Researchers have warned that half of the climate ‘tipping points’ warned about a decade ago are now active.

A number of climate scientists are ringing alarm bells in a piece published to Nature. They wrote that more than half of the climate ‘tipping points’ that threaten humanity’s existence are now in effect.

Evidence is mounting that these events are more likely and more interconnected than was previously thought, leading to a possible domino effect. In the article, the scientists called for urgent action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to prevent further tipping points being crossed, resulting in a ‘hothouse’ worst-case scenario.

“The growing threat of rapid, irreversible changes means it is no longer responsible to wait and see. The situation is urgent and we need an emergency response,” said lead author Prof Tim Lenton, director of the Global Systems Institute at the University of Exeter.

The nine active tipping points indicating where the climate crisis is altering the earth include:

  1. Arctic sea ice
  2. Greenland ice sheet
  3. Boreal forests
  4. Permafrost
  5. Atlantic meridional overturning circulation
  6. Amazon rainforest
  7. Warm water corals
  8. West Antarctic ice sheet
  9. Parts of east Antarctica

‘Countries simply cannot wait until the end of 2020’

The collapse of major ice sheets could see an irreversible sea level rise of approximately 10 metres, but reducing emissions substantially could allow more time for low-lying populations to move.

Writing in the piece, the scientists said: “If damaging tipping cascades can occur and a global tipping cannot be ruled out, then this is an existential threat to civilisation.

“No amount of economic cost-benefit analysis is going to help us. We need to change our approach to the climate problem.”

The piece comes not long after an alarming UN Environment Programme (UNEP) report warned that unless emissions fall by 7.6pc each year between 2020 and 2030, the world has no hope of meeting the goal set by the Paris Agreement to limit temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

In terms of figures, the report said that annual emissions in 2030 need to be 15 gigatonnes of CO2 equivalent lower than today if we’re to keep to the 2 degrees Celsius goal, or 32 gigatonnes lower for the 1.5 degrees Celsius goal.

UNEP’s executive director, Inger Andersen, said of the findings: “Countries simply cannot wait until the end of 2020, when new climate commitments are due, to step up action. They – and every city, region, business and individual – need to act now.”

The EU has approved its budget for next year, which will include an additional €504m earmarked for climate-related spending, equating to 21pc of the union’s overall expenditure.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic