IS IT OVER YET?

Earth’s ‘Tipping Points’  

We can define a tipping point as the point at which a series of small changes becomes significant enough to cause a larger change. This situation in which an ecosystem experiences a shift to a new state, with changes to biodiversity at a regional or global scale. Tipping points have common characteristics. For example the changes are long-lasting and really difficult to reverse and between the changes and the appearance of impacts there is a time lag, creating great difficulties.

The tipping points are real problem, because they have huge impacts on humans and ecosystems.  It can be extremely difficult for everyone and everything to adapt to rapid and potentially unsolvable changes. We are sure that tipping points are here and of course will occur in the future as well, but we don´t know the dynamics. We can´t predict the process and avoid or reduce impacts. If we want to eliminate the risk we should implement precautions and change human activities that drive to biodiversity loss.

Speedy climate changes are now a recognized phenomenon in Earth’s history, and there is huge concern that our planet may be at a “tipping point” of dramatic climate change. And this time due to human factors. A lot of scientists are now exploring many parts of the Earth system.

Climate tipping mechanisms

There are many possible tipping mechanisms, some of them we can see down on the map. We are already dealing with few of them. For example Arctic sea ice loss, melt of the Greenland ice sheet and boreal forest dieback. They are not necessarily caused by CO2 concentration, but they depend on rising temperature.

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The climate change tipping point is the point at which climate change is irreversible. With different words it is the point when drastic changes come even if we stop emitting CO2. Which was estimated between 350 and 400 parts per million. Last year, climate scientists confirmed that Earth´s atmospheric carbon dioxide levels reached 400 parts per million (ppm). Some scientists believe that crossing this level our planet passed the climate change tipping point. The last time, our planet reached this level was 4.5 million years ago, during the Neogene Period. Others say climate change with these CO2 levels may be reversible. Reversibility itself is very important because it’s impossible, or very difficult, to do anything once you have passed the tipping point.

For reversing we need geoengineering methods for removing CO2 from the atmosphere and cooling the Earth by reflecting or blocking solar radiation back to the universe.

One of the best converters of carbon dioxide into oxygen is Phytoplankton. It makes the oceans the most significant factor in fighting with atmospheric carbon dioxide. Given the rise in carbon dioxide levels, global temperatures can now be expected to rise 2°C. Global temperature is rising so the ocean temperature rises as well. That makes oceans more acidic. And phytoplankton can´t absorb more acidic waters and then they die and release the carbon in their bodies out. From absorbers of carbon dioxide into emitters.

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Tundra loss also causes the land to emit stored greenhouse gasses, which are trapped under the frozen surface. Rising sea levels cause the earth’s surface to absorb more heat, since water absorbs more heat than reflective ice.

We are in the middle of a crisis. We facing a catastrophe and everything that brings with it, like crop failure, drought, flooding, extreme weather and rising sea levels.

Have we passed the tipping point?

We need to take the sensitivity of climate into consideration. To find out how much warming a given greenhouse gas concentration causes. The models that show us what can be done are just predictions and illustrations; we cannot be sure what will actually happen. No one knows the answer, we can only guess.

But we can see the warming process and changing patterns already here. We are looking at a changed world. Unfortunately we don´t have any other option how to escape only change it or adapt to it. We have to try and contribute to the climate change. Take the reasonable actions to at least reduce our problem or stop worsening it. Even if we are skeptical about the tipping points, it is not an excuse for us to be inactive.

We cannot stay passive! It is our call.

Renata Smolkova

FMV – HD – Climate Change and Environment in International Relations

Sources:

http://biodiversity.europa.eu/topics/tipping-points

https://www.nasa.gov/topics/earth/tipping_points.html

http://www.conserve-energy-future.com/15-current-environmental-problems.php

https://www.liberationnews.org/we-have-reached-the-climate-change-tipping-point-whats-to-be-done/

https://www.forbes.com/sites/uhenergy/2017/03/16/have-we-passed-the-climate-change-tipping-point/3/#233874755f51

http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-38146248

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