Cascading Climate Change Tipping Points Could Send the Planet into a Hellish Spin

In its 2012 World Energy Outlook, the International Energy Agency gives a flip of the coin, 50-50 chance of stopping short of 2 Celsius warming above pre-industrial levels, if, and it’s a big if, we keep 2/3 of all fossil fuels in the ground:

Here’s reasonably well-argued scenario of what happens if we lose the flip of the coin.

“If we cross the ‘tipping point’ of Amazonian collapse and soil carbon release that lies somewhere above two degrees, then another 250 ppm of CO2 would pour into the atmosphere, yielding another 1.5C (2.7F) of warming and taking us straight into the four-degree world. Once we arrive there, the accelerated release of carbon and methane from thawing Siberian permafrost will send even more greenhouse gas into the atmosphere, driving yet more warming, and perhaps pushing us on into the five-degree world. At this level of warming, Š organic methane hydrate release becomes a serious possibility, catapulting us into the ultimate mass extinction apocalypse of six degrees. The lesson is as clear as it is daunting: If we are to be confident about saving humanity and the planet from the worst mass extinction of all time, worse even than that at the end of the Permian, we must stop at two degrees.”

Mark Lynas. Six Degrees. 2008. National Geographic Society by arrangement with HarperCollins. P.276

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