Climate extremes on the rise, with worse to come IPCC leader says!


Limiting global warming to the international goal of 2 degrees may trigger some important tipping points in the climate and much more extreme conditions will result if temperatures continue on their present trajectory, a US scientist has said.

Chris Field, a co-chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and a director of the Carnegie Institution’s department of global ecology, said the irreversible melting of the Greenland ice sheet was one such tipping point that might be reached even if international efforts to curb the temperature rise to 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels succeeded.

We don’t have the opportunity to do nothing and just get away from the problem scot-free. 

Greenland’s ice sheet, the world’s second largest, contains about 2.85 million cubic kilometres of ice. Its melting would take “several centuries” and lift sea levels by about seven metres, said Professor Field, who also teaches at Stanford University.

Nature is already variable. Photo: Louie Douvis

Nature is already variable. Photo: Louie Douvis

“It would be a mistake to say that (2 degrees) represents a guard rail and below that there hasn’t been anthropogenic interference,” said Professor Field, who was also a drafting author of last year’s special IPCC report on managing the risks of extreme events.

There was clear evidence that extreme events were are on the increase over the past 50 years, he said. These included extreme high temperatures, precipitation in the heaviest events, storm surges on top of a gradual rise in sea levels, and the length and severity of droughts.

Soaring greenhouse gas emissions from China and other developing nations and only modest commitments by rich countries to cut carbon meant even a 2-degree target would be difficult to achieve, he said. Even so, efforts needed to be doubled and redoubled to restrict any temperature increase beyond that level, Professor Field said.

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