Last week I had the opportunity to attend a lecture by Johann Rockström explaining his most recent Nature commentary about tipping points “too risky to bet against”.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) introduced the idea of tipping points two decades ago. At that time, these ‘large-scale discontinuities’ in the climate system were considered likely only if global warming exceeded 5 °C above pre-industrial levels. Information summarized in the two most recent IPCC Special Reports (published in 2018 and in September this year) suggests that tipping points could be exceeded even between 1 and 2 °C of warming.
This is a cruel message in particular as probably already one tipping point has been passed @ the Amundsen Sea embayment of West Antarctica. There is a thick ice sheet of about 3 km which forms one of the three major ice-drainage basins of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. And the ice is melting rapidly – with the tipping point having been passed in 1996.
The Amazon is burning right now — the world’s largest rainforest. Estimates of the Amazon tipping point ranges between 20% and 40% deforestation.