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Science & Technology

Scientists warn of dangers of 'Hothouse Earth'

By T.K. Randall
August 7, 2018 · Comment icon 88 comments

Earth could get much, much hotter if we don't act. Image Credit: CC BY 2.0 USFWS / Steve Hillebrand
A runaway global warming effect may still occur even if countries do manage to slash CO2 emissions.
The troubling news comes courtesy of a new study by an international team of climate researchers who warn that mankind's impact on global temperatures could turn Earth's natural forces against us.

Right now, 4.5 billion tonnes of carbon that would otherwise end up in the atmosphere are absorbed by the Earth's rainforests, oceans and land each year, protecting us from runaway global warming.

Once global temperatures reach two degrees above pre-industrial levels however, these protective mechanisms may turn in to a source of carbon - releasing huge quantities in to the atmosphere and further raising temperatures to levels not seen on Earth in 1.2 million years.
The resulting sea-level rise could render most of the planet's coastal regions uninhabitable.

Our only chance to avoid this outcome will be to significantly reduce carbon emissions - far further than the currently stated targets - to avoid kick-starting this process in the first place.

"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," said co-author Prof Johan Rockstrom.

"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."

Source: BBC News | Comments (88)

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #79 Posted by lost_shaman 4 years ago
So what? Why did that offend you?††I was simply talking to Doug about our local Region because He and I have talked about these subjects for years and I know he works about 200 miles from my home. Once I started talking about the regional temperatures I made it perfectly clear I was talking about the regional temperatures not Global Climate at large so get over it!† † Actually it's the collection of these regional climates taken together that form a picture of Global Climate, and there are lots of issues to discuss like UHI effects and deforestation and greening due to increasing CO2 concentra... [More]
Comment icon #80 Posted by Doug1029 4 years ago
For Oklahoma City since 1891, July has averaged 81.66 degrees F, while August has averaged 81.40 degrees F.† On average, July is 0.26 degrees warmer than August.† The all-time records were†110 degrees in July 1996 and 113 degrees F. for August 1936 and 2012 (Tied.).† I'm working to refine those records, but don't have the result available just yet.† I don't expect refining them to change much of anything:† fill in some gaps, but no new records unless we set some next year. Doug
Comment icon #81 Posted by lost_shaman 4 years ago
Well for Vernon, Tx the all time high for July was 114 degrees (1944), and for August 119 degrees (1943). Although July averages 84.5 degrees and August averages 83.5 degrees. That said the really hot days tend to fall in August the average is lower because the Sun's angle really starts falling away from its peak faster in Mid to late August at this latitude (33.1545 N) while its just slowly moving away from its peak in Early to Mid July.
Comment icon #82 Posted by lost_shaman 4 years ago
You mentioned C4 grasses being predominate in the Vernon, TX area. My Family owns over 1,000 acres of land in Wilbarger Co. in the form of an Estate that has been unfarmed and in native grass/shrub for between 35-50†years with the exception of one plot my uncle has cattle grazing on native grass for the last 6 years or so. The 1,000 acres is 4 plots spread across the County Southeast to Northwest, the later two being on the Texas side of the Red River and one plot being split in half by Paradise Creek and the other just on the outskirts of the City of Vernon. One thing I've noticed over the ye... [More]
Comment icon #83 Posted by lost_shaman 4 years ago
Of course that is not what I did. First I didn't "cherry pick" anything. Doug and I discuss climate topics quite often, mostly amicably even though we don't always agree. That said I was thinking of "our" region of the U.S. (North Central Texas, and Central Oklahoma) Doug works in Stillwater, OK, I live in Vernon, TX, and my Daughters live in the DFW Metroplex. So I wanted to talk about the "region" where Doug and I live and my Daughters living in DFW simply forms a right triangle that encompasses the general "region" that Doug and I are familiar with it is also right about in the center of th... [More]
Comment icon #84 Posted by Doug1029 4 years ago
Generally, no.† We assume that animal effects at one time will also occur at other times, negating any differences. Doug
Comment icon #85 Posted by lost_shaman 4 years ago
Are you sure this is a valid assumption? Take Deer populations for example, just in my lifetime we've seen Deer populations fluctuate in Wilbarger Co. quite a bit. As noted Deer will eat Tree saplings and prevent Tree growth. So when Deer are not around saplings can grow larger enough that Deer can't eat them and Trees saplings get to grow, and when Deer are everywhere by the hundreds they eat up all the Saplings and prevent Tree growth. Anecdotally when I was younger I had a bad habit of driving all over Wilbarger Co. between 1993 - 2011 mainly in the evening and night time. I never even saw ... [More]
Comment icon #86 Posted by lost_shaman 4 years ago
Here are the numbers now that I have 2016 Stillwater OK data and have added Woodward, Ok data. This now forms a Trapezoid that encompasses†most of Central Ok and a large part of Central North Texas from present to 2016. The temperatures either positive or negative are departures from the respective Cities August averages and show Mid-August between the 12th through the 19th of each respective year from 2018 to 2016.† Dallas, TX (Aug, 12 - 19, 2018)† † † † -3.375 F Dallas, TX (Aug. 12 - 19, 2017)† † † † +0.699 F Dallas, TX†(Aug. 12 - 19, 2016)† † † † -4.295 F Vernon, TX (Aug. 12 - 19, 2018)† † ... [More]
Comment icon #87 Posted by Doug1029 4 years ago
There are lots of things in tree ring series that can't be explained.† It's called variance.† Even if we could remove deer effects, we'd still have lots of others.† Besides, to remove a variable deer effect, we would have to have records of deer usage going back decades, maybe centuries.† So it gets included in unexplained variance (That's the "Error" line in ANOVA tables.). There is a way to measure deer populations:† some studies way back when determined that deer leave, on average, 13 piles of pellets per day.† Just count the pellets at two different times and divide the difference by 13 to... [More]
Comment icon #88 Posted by Doug1029 4 years ago
Woodward Oklahoma and Vernon Texas are on my list of cities needing climate studies, but way down the list.† It will likely be a long time, if ever, before I get around to them. Doug

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