New research is raising the alarm over a possible “domino effect” that could cause separate but interconnected climate systems to reach their tipping points at lower temperatures than previously estimated.
A risk analysis produced by scientists at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) has determined that “ice sheets and ocean currents at risk of climate tipping points can destabilize each other as the world heats up,” reports The Guardian. The resulting cascade of system collapses could have “severe consequences for humanity.”
The study, which was just published in the journal Earth Systems Dynamics, undertook three million computer simulations “and found domino effects in a third of them, even when temperature rises were below 2°C, the upper limit of the Paris Agreement.” The overall pattern affirmed melting ice sheets as “potential starting points for tipping cascades, with the Atlantic currents acting as a transmitter and eventually affecting the Amazon.”
While emphasizing that the new research offers “a risk analysis, not a prediction,” lead researcher Ricarda Winkelmann told The Guardian the findings nonetheless suggest there may be little time left to reduce emissions.
“In the next years or decades, we might be committing future generations to really severe consequences,” she said.
PIK scientist Anders Levermann, who was not part of the study, told The Guardian that, as demoralizing as the results may seem, the imperative to take action still remains to avoid worse consequences.
“The Earth will get as warm as we make it, which means we’re the ones [that must] stop it,” he said.