Compilation: The threat of sudden / abrupt system shifts / tips / flips and the global climate EMERGENCY

The reality that’s ALREADY upon us and how planetary catastrophe could soon follow (as it has in the past) over time frames as brief as a few years.

 

Contents (Click links to jump scroll.)

What is abrupt climate ‘change’? (breakdown, disruption, destabilization)
A little perspective
A popular example from the past: the “Younger Dryas”
Present day threats – Arctic meltdown / jet stream shift / methane time bomb
Other examples on the horizon / already in progress
Greenland ice sheet melt
Antarctica ice sheet melt
Ocean acidification
Ocean(s) circulation / current disruption
Amazon rainforest dieback
Reality
More

 

What is abrupt climate ‘change’? (breakdown, disruption, destabilization)

For a quick overview, watch the brief videos in the playlist above. Excerpts below from Wikipedia.

“Abrupt climate change occurs when the climate system is forced to transition to a new climate state at a rate that is determined by the climate system energy-balance, and which is more rapid than the rate of change of the external forcing… The term is also used within the context of global warming to describe sudden climate change that is detectable over the time-scale of a human lifetime…”

“According to the Committee on Abrupt Climate Change of the National Research Council:

  • In terms of physics, it is a transition of the climate system into a different mode on a time scale that is faster than the responsible forcing.
  • In terms of impacts, “an abrupt change is one that takes place so rapidly and unexpectedly that human or natural systems have difficulty adapting to it”.”

Source: NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)…

“…paleoclimate research has shown that climate can in fact change very quickly, in a matter of seasons and years rather than centuries or millennia…”

“Abrupt changes in climate can occur at many time scales, and while usually they are abrupt warming events, sudden cooling can occur as well. …it is not a matter if such events will occur in the future but when.

 

A little perspective

Pre-industrial (pre-1900) greenhouse (heat-trapping) gas (GHG) concentration levels in the atmosphere were around 280 ppm (parts per million).

As of 2014, for the first time in human history, they’re around 400 ppm.

According to the latest report(s) from the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the primary basis for policy makers, politicians, governments and business leaders in the development of corporate strategies, all international climate negotiations and, now, toward a supposed new deal / agreement in 2015), these are the highest levels in at least 800,000 years (first video above). But some studies argue they might be the highest in 1 million, 3 million, or even 15 million, years.

Meanwhile, 350 ppm, which was surpassed around 1990, is the upper boundary you most often hear is required to restore our current, ALREADY out of energy balance world to the more stable climate that enabled humanity to evolve / civilization to develop. And many leading climatologists think the *real* limit is probably much less than 350 ppm, perhaps even as low as 300 ppm. Yet the rate of increase continues to ACCELERATE.

Was 280. Now 400-ish and rising FAST. Needs to be 300-350. BUT…

As explained in the second video above, CO2 is cumulative. Doesn’t go away over the short term. And 15 to 40% of it persists for 1,000+ years (see more here). As a result, concentrations — and their clear, present, accelerated impacts — can ONLY be levelled off (let alone, reduced) once emissions STOP / return to ZERO, because ANY further releases, even if at reduced amounts and rates, will continue to increase the total accumulation, and worsen what are, ALREADY, drastic consequences.

Another BUT: Even if we could halt all GHG emissions this minute, a 30 to 40-year lag between their release and the lifetime of a major proportion of the CO2 they contain (the primary source of momentum based on the time it takes for that energy to force itself into the climate system / 90% oceans) would continue to ‘warm’ up the planet for decades AND any reduction from a future peak would take hundreds of years.

That means the last several, super-charged decades of added heat energy from burned fossil fuels hasn’t even presented itself yet. Meanwhile, the uncertain influence of feedback mechanisms / imminence of multiple tipping points and the unpredictable potential of sudden, abrupt climate shifts threaten irreversible ‘runaway‘ breakdown / disruption / destabilization.

Compared to the climate we evolved in, our future well-being for centuries to millennia or more is, no matter what, ALREADY assured to be at extremely elevated and, in many places / ways, CATASTROPHIC, risk.

Now consider this:

The projected rate of temperature change for THIS century is greater — and at least 10 times faster — than that of any extended global warming (heating) period over the past 65 million years, the Jurassic Park, um, apocalypse, when somewhere between 75 and 95 per cent of all species alive at the time were rendered extinct.

RIGHT NOW, we are in the midst — and primary cause — of the 6th great mass extinction event. 150-200 species die-off every 24 hours, up to 140,000 species per year, which is at least 1,000, maybe even 10,000, times the average background rate.

How’s all that for a ‘little’ perspective?

More

 

A popular example from the past: the “Younger Dryas”

From a 2009 Live Science article by science journalist, Charles Q. Choi…

“Starting roughly 12,800 years ago, the Northern Hemisphere was gripped by a chill that lasted some 1,300 years. Known by scientists as the Younger Dryas and nicknamed the “Big Freeze,” geological evidence suggests it was brought on when a vast pulse of fresh water — a greater volume than all of North America’s Great Lakes combined — poured into the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans.

This abrupt influx, caused when the glacial Lake Agassiz in North America burst its banks, diluted the circulation of warmer water in the North Atlantic, bringing this “conveyer belt” to a halt. Without this warming influence, evidence shows that temperatures across the Northern Hemisphere plummeted.

Previous evidence from Greenland ice samples had suggested this abrupt shift in climate happened over the span of a decade or so. Now researchers say it surprisingly may have taken place over the course of a few months, or a year or two at most.

“That the climate system can turn on and off that quickly is extremely important,” said earth system scientist Henry Mullins at Syracuse University, who did not take part in this research. “Once the tipping point is reached, there would be essentially no opportunity for humans to react.”

Greenland ice core samples also indicate that, when things began to heat up again, it happened over a mere 40 to 50 years. Other evidence points to the possibility of an even more rapid increase in as little as a few years.

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Present day threats

 

Arctic meltdown / jet stream shift / methane time bomb

Global heating and climate disruption has already forced Arctic sea ice into a new state of ‘death spiral’ meltdown and it is anticipated to disappear in Summer months within a decade, or even a few years, many decades ahead of previous estimates.

This has ALREADY had domino effects.

The air conditioner of the northern hemisphere and a major global weather regulator, it has lost 80% of its volume, almost 50% of its long-term (1979 – 2000) average extent since 1979 (watch video) and rendered the jet stream much slower, wavier, weaker (watch video) / prone to cause more extreme / prolonged weather events (storms, floods, droughts, wildfires).

The Arctic hasn’t been ice-free for somewhere between 1,450 and 4,000 years, and before that, for about 120,000 years.  And a recent study concludes that the last time Arctic temps were this warm was at least 44,000 and, perhaps, as many as 120,000, years ago.

The ALREADY accelerated escape of massive amounts of the powerful, heat trapping greenhouse gas, methane, buried in the frozen permafrost of northern Canada, Siberia and underwater ocean shelves, is of EMERGENCY, ‘LIFE OR EXTINCTION’-SCALE CONCERN. (Yes, really!)

Not included in any of their future scenario calculations, this omission alone renders many of the most recent IPCC conclusions (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the primary basis for policy makers, politicians, governments and business leaders in the development of corporate strategies, all international climate negotiations and, now, toward a supposed new deal / agreement in 2015) to be dramatic underestimates.

Another new study has shown that, at as little as +1.5ºC of global average surface temperature increase (since pre-industrial times / pre-1900 / we’re at +0.85ºC now), the release of large amounts of methane — as much as 100 billion tons of carbon by 2100 — could become (in climateye’s words) a blow torch accelerator of rapid, unstoppable, irreversible (self-perpetuated / reinforced) heat feedback.

Put another way, this would be ‘GAME OVER’ ON A HORRIFIC SCALE for most life, and would persist long beyond any relevant human time frame.

More

 

Other examples on the horizon / already in progress

 

Greenland ice sheet melt

Greenland ice sheet melt is “very likely” 6 times faster NOW than in the 1990s.

“The average rate of ice loss from the Greenland ice sheet has very likely substantially increased from 34 [–6 to 74] Gt yr–1 over the period 1992–2001 to 215 [157 to 274] Gt yr–1 over the period 2002–2011.” (IPCC AR5, WG1, SPM, page 7)

Thought to contain enough ice to increase sea levels by 23 feet (7+ metres) were it to all melt, in 2012, scientists were stunned to discover that, for the first time, thaw was detected over 97% of Greenland’s surface.

And in 2014, an international team discovered that the last stable portion of the Greenland ice sheet is now unstable.

More

 

Antarctica ice sheet melt

I’ll spare you (and me!) a blurb on this one (for now). Watch the short videos in the playlist above, and check out the compilations below for more info.

More

 

Ocean acidification

For most of history, life has existed only in the global ocean (one, all connected), which makes up 99% of the living space on the planet. Every second breath we breathe comes from plankton. And if all land life were to die tomorrow, ocean life could survive. But if all ocean life were to die, land life — all of us — would also die.

“If the oceans go down, it’s game over… This Ocean is like the earth’s circulatory system: it performs numerous vital functions which make the planet habitable and we cannot survive without it. Currently, the Ocean is in a critical state of health. If it continues to decline, it will reach a point where it can no longer function effectively and our planet will be unable to sustain the ecosystems that support humankind.” ~
Dr. Alex Rogers, StateoftheOcean.org, 2011

In 2009, it was reported that the pH balance (acidity) of the global ocean had become lower (more acidic) than it’s been for 65 MILLION YEARS, and that the protective shells of some of its base life have ALREADY become compromised.

In 2011, a major study concluded that phytoplankton (those tiny organisms that make it possible for all other life on Earth to exist) have ALREADY declined (died-off) by 40% since 1950 and continue to do so at an accelerated rate — about 1% per year(!) — because of the impacts of global heating,

In 2013, a report concluded that oceans are at their fastest rate of acidification (from carbon emissions) in 300 MILLION YEARS, and that the process is in a state of, you guessed it, acceleration.

Bottom line: The projected outcome of our current, carbon-intensive course is the potential collapse of ocean life — and the foundational base organisms that are an indespensible necessity for ALL LIFE to exist — within decades.

No known individual or combination of Hail Mary geoengineering methods could address this, or save coral reefs, hotbeds of nurseries / habitat for 25-30% of all fish species / seafood / that evolved over millions of years / are relied upon for protein by 2.6 billion people and could be decimated by 2050.

So it should be of considerable alarm that the (conservative) IPCC reports, upon which all international climate negotiations have been based and are limited to, did not even broach this threat until the most recent 2013/2014 (AR5) release.

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Ocean(s) circulation / current disruption

Several global ocean(s) current patterns are at risk of potential disruptions that could result in abrupt climate state shifts / tips / flips:

More

 

Amazon rainforest dieback

In 2005, the world’s largest, most species-rich and biodiverse rainforest, the Amazon (also called Amazonia), suffered what was described as a once-in-a-100-year drought.

Instead of absorbing 2 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide (global heating greenhouse gas) from the atmosphere each year, the rainforest is estimated to have *released* 5 billion tonnes.

By comparison, the U.S. is responsible for about 5.4 billion tonnes per year, or about 25% of annual global carbon emissions from fossil fuel use.

In 2010, only 5 years later, it happened again, but this time on a much larger, more severe scale that unleashed 8 billion tonnes of CO2.

Meanwhile, deforestation from the unsustainable practices of the timber industry, cattle ranching and soya farming has already destroyed 20% of the area that had existed a few decades ago.

This trend is consistent with the projected impacts of global warming (heating) and climate change (breakdown / disruption / destabilization).  By 2025 (or sooner), the Amazon could tip into an overall carbon emitter and dramatic accelerator of global climate breakdown, rather than the essential carbon sponge, storehouse (80-120 billion tonnes) and regulator it has long been.

Often referred to as the lungs of our world, the Amazon represents over half of all rainforests that remain.  It is home to 21 million people and 25% of all known land species.  An irreversible 20-40% die-off may already be unavoidable.  Pessimistic models suggest 50% could be lost to large, savannah-like areas by 2030 and that up to 85% could be destroyed this century.

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Reality

Given the DIRE EMERGENCY of the climate (energy / population / democracy / justice) crisis and the severe impacts already observed / suffered by the most vulnerable / least culpable peoples and species, a rapid return to a less than +0.85-degree Celsius (our current, already out of energy balance) world is what is required to attempt to restore the more stable climate that enabled humanity to evolve / civilization to develop.

If this umbrella peril is not tackled fast, the consequences — already grave compromises to fresh water availability, food / agriculture production / supply and multi-regional insecurity / instability — will make it impossible for us to address ALL other global issues and causes, let alone to thrive or survive.

And if the governments of the world continue to allow themselves to be guided and limited as they always have by the cautious, conservative, flawed, lowest common denominator and, in large part, outdated by the time of publication IPCC conclusions; if they refuse to leap beyond the delusional / suicidal frame of the supposed, long-pervasive, incorrect, political, arbitrarily chosen, profit and delay-motivated +2°C (+3.6°F) ‘danger threshold’ (far too high) / nonsensical ‘carbon budget‘ mentality…

global catastrophe will soon be locked in and assured to ensue over the next few decades.

Difficult as it is to communicate, absorb and process, let alone accept, and as shrill / alarmist as it may sound…

Our shared atmosphere is on an accelerating course to reach a state of potentially unsurvivable, global climate extremes during the lives of today’s children and teens. (Compilation: +4°C by 2060s or sooner catastrophic / incompatible with organized civilization.)

The projected rate of temperature change for THIS century is greater — and at least 10 times faster — than that of any extended global heating period over the past 65 million years, when somewhere between 75 and 95 per cent of all species alive at the time were rendered extinct.

We are in the midst — and primary cause — of the 6th great mass extinction event. 150-200 species die-off every 24 hours, up to 140,000 per year, which is at least 1,000, maybe even 10,000, times the average background rate.

Oceans are at their most acidic levels in 65 million years / most rapid (and, yes, accelerating) rate of increase in what may be 300 million years. It has been suggested that an outcome of our current, carbon-intensive trajectory could be the potential collapse of marine life — and the foundational base organisms that are an indespensible necessity for ALL LIFE to exist — within decades.

Sea levels could rise by metres this century and may be committed to tens of metres long-term.

Clear, present impacts ALREADY displace / KILL millions each year, and compromise the lives of billions RIGHT NOW.

With several key regulatory systems in advanced stages of breakdown / disruption / destabilization, the risks / threats / catastrophic implications of sudden / abrupt / unpredictable / irreversible shifts / tips / flips are ALREADY upon us.

No less than the fate of all generations of all peoples and most species hangs in the balance TODAY.  And only emergency international action at emergency (world war-time) speed FAST *may be* proportional enough to confront the scale, scope and urgency of what is ALREADY the greatest crime against humanity, most life and most future life EVER. (Compilation: Betrayal of Life.)

To deny this is to deny reality. But regardless of odds or potential outcomes, we ALL have the power and moral responsibility to ACT. And if we take the choice to see and face the wickednes of the predicament, there will at least be possibilities.

 

More

Compilations – Urgency

Abrupt climate ‘change’ (breakdown / disruption / destabilization)

General, Wikipedia

climateye’s most essential info