Climate Impacts, Tipping Points
“We have built our economies, our societies and our civilizations on two assumptions about the natural world: first, that change happens in an incremental, linear way; second, that earth’s biosphere has essentially infinite space and capacity to absorb human impacts (our waste) and cope with our extraction of resources (our consumption).
The science of resilience and complex systems have debunked both assumptions.”
The above quote appears in an essay by Johan Rockstrom, Swedish scientist, and Joint Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. It appears in Greta Thunberg’s, The Climate Book, Penguin Press, 2023.
We have now entered a new epoch of geologic time, a hotter Anthropocene, leaving behind the Holocene and its more stable “goldy locks” climate that was able to sustain the life systems of the biosphere of earth as we know it. The climate and its weather are changing before our eyes now that we have a rise in global temperature (since preindustrial time) of just 1 degree C (1.8 degrees F). Earth’s “boundless” biosphere, it turns out, is extremely fragile, so much so, that we humans can alter it in profound ways. Unfortunately, we humans are ignoring the signs. Grandmother Earth, our only home, has a fever that is getting rapidly worse with time.
Tipping point elements are climate-sustaining forces vulnerable to global warming, such as the boreal forests of Alaska, Canada and Siberia; the Antarctic, Arctic Ocean and Greenland ice sheets; the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) steering the climate and weather of the north Atlantic Ocean and surrounding countries; the tropical rainforests (especially the Amazon); and the arctic and Antarctic permafrost.
Surpassing tipping points alter these elements by breaking their self-sustainability, and it’s irreversible. They convert to, and remain, in another steady state that does not have the climate-stabilizing effect on the planet of the original system. Furthermore, crossing tipping points can lead to a cascading effect where other tipping points are rapidly surpassed in a domino effect.
Since the beginning of this century, scientific knowledge of the risks of increasing temperatures has been rapidly rising. As that knowledge has grown, so too, the risk level has increased drastically—as of just a few years ago, the Paris Agreement set the final limit (the line not to be crossed) at 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F). Today, however, the scientists are telling us that even remaining at a 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees F) rise is extremely hazardous. So, it’s obvious that the changes, as Johan Rockstrom wrote, are indeed non-linear. They are alarmingly unpredictable.
What a tragedy that the scientists have been warning us of the existential threat of global warming since the early 1980s and we have done precious little to meet the scale of the problem. We could have gently weaned ourselves from our addiction to fossil fuels, but we didn’t. Now we have a real climate emergency. In the United States it’s likely that the actions of our uninformed politicians and the ways in which an uninformed public makes decisions in the voting booth rank high on the list of our biggest causes. If we want to address this problem on behalf of our children and the future generations, who will have to pay the biggest price for our sins, we, the voters, simply must become more informed of the scientific facts.
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Johnny Armstrong, Author
#Biodiversity advocate. Ecosystem Restorationist. Steward of an old-growth forest and woodland in northern Louisiana. #ForestFolkMatter #ScienceMatters
Rescuing Biodiversity (publishing in June 2023) tells the story of Johnny's attempts at Wafer Creek Ranch to preserve a vanishing Louisiana ecosystem and restore the animal and plant species that once lived there.
“An avowed student of life and restoration ecology, Johnny Armstrong expertly teaches us how to restore an imperiled southern ecosystem based on deep research, firsthand experience, and delighted observation of the species that return to his beloved Wafer Creek Ranch. Driving his devotion is the alarming truth that loss of biodiversity poses a threat on par with climate change and his impassioned belief that society can alter that trajectory, one acre at a time.”
Cindy Brown, Executive Director
Land Trust for Louisiana
“Up there on your bookshelf between Tolkien and Watership Down is where this book belongs. As an anthropomorphic adventure that winds through the realm of animals possessing courage, savagery, perseverance, and ultimately wisdom in the face of mounting evil threats – humans disconnected from the natural world – the tale is relevant, if not necessary.”
Kelby Ouchley, Author
Bayou Diversity: Nature & People in the Louisiana Bayou Country
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Shadowshine, An Animal Adventure
by Johnny Armstrong
#Fiction #Literature #LiteraryFiction #AnimalFiction