Abrupt changes to the climate system could be seen even before we reach global warming of 2ºC – widely viewed as the limit beyond which we start to experience ‘dangerous’ climate change. Researchers have used climate models to investigate how warming could trigger sudden shifts in our climate system. They identified 37 such ‘tipping points’, and 18 of these could happen with warming of less than 2ºC. These might include abrupt regional changes to ocean, sea ice or snow cover. The research team concludes that there is no ‘safe’ limit to global warming, and they warn that mechanisms not currently included in climate models could also lead to abrupt changes. In a timely reminder of the urgency of our situation, the UK’s Met Office has announced that its data for 2015 suggests that global temperatures are likely to reach 1ºC above pre-industrial levels.
- Climate News Network: Climate changes can kick in below 2°C limit
- PNAS: Catalogue of abrupt shifts in Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change climate models (subscription may be required)
- Met Office: Global temperatures set to reach 1 °C marker for first time