Climate 'tipping points' that could change our world forever

For Grist, Alexandria Herr, Shannon Osaka, and Maddie Stone wrote about how global warming is affecting the sea, polar regions, and the land:

In 2019 an international team of scientists published a commentary in the celebrated science journal Nature, sounding the alarm of a planet in crisis — and calling for transformative change. 

“We are in a state of planetary emergency,” they wrote, departing from the usual sterility of scientific writing. “The stability and resilience of our planet is in peril.”

Yes, they were writing about climate change, but of a particular kind: climate tipping points, elements of the Earth system in which small changes in global temperature can kick off reinforcing loops that ‘tip’ a system into a profoundly different state, accelerating heat waves, permafrost thaw, and coastal flooding — and, in some cases, fueling more warming. The planet has already warmed by roughly 1.2 degrees Celsius (2.2 degrees Fahrenheit) since the Industrial Revolution, and if humans keep flooding the atmosphere with greenhouse gases at the same rate, we’re on track to increase that to 2.7 to 3.1 degrees C (4.9 to 5.6 degrees F) by the end of the century. 

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