On the Brink: Planet Near Irreversible Point of Global Warming

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Common Dreams

On the Brink: Planet Near Irreversible Point of Global Warming

Scientists issue dire call for action on climate change at conference; we must stop warming or "cross the threshold"

by
Common Dreams staff

We may have already passed the tipping points on global warming, say scientists at the Planet Under Pressure conference. At the London conference, scientists are giving a bleak view of the future of the planet due to catastrophic damage and growth by humans, saying we are close to the irreversible point of global warming.

Will Steffen, executive director of the Australian National University's climate change institute, gave an urgent warning that humanity needs to act radically on climate change. "We can ... cap temperature rise at two degrees, or cross the threshold beyond which the system shifts to a much hotter state," he said.

Bob Watson, former head of the UN's climate panel and chief advisor to Britain's environment ministry, stated that the world has already passed any hope of limiting global warming to two degrees Celsius, and stated that "we just have not acted. The need for action is becoming more and more urgent with every day that passes."

Martin Rees of the Royal Society, Britain's academy of sciences, stated this this century "is the first when one species -- ours -- has the planet's future in its hands."

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Reuters: Global warming close to becoming irreversible - scientists

LONDON - The world is close to reaching tipping points that will make it irreversibly hotter, making this decade critical in efforts to contain global warming, scientists warned on Monday.

Scientific estimates differ but the world's temperature looks set to rise by six degrees Celsius by 2100 if greenhouse gas emissions are allowed to rise uncontrollably.

As emissions grow, scientists say the world is close to reaching thresholds beyond which the effects on the global climate will be irreversible, such as the melting of polar ice sheets and loss of rainforests. [...]

In a worst case scenario, 30 to 63 billion tonnes of carbon a year could be released by 2040, rising to 232 to 380 billion tonnes by 2100. This compares to around 10 billion tonnes of CO2 released by fossil fuel use each year.

Increased CO2 in the atmosphere has also turned oceans more acidic as they absorb it. In the past 200 years, ocean acidification has happened at a speed not seen for around 60 million years, said Carol Turley at Plymouth Marine Laboratory.

This threatens coral reef development and could lead to the extinction of some species within decades, as well as to an increase in the number of predators.

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"System Change Not Climate Change" banner - United Nations Climate Change Conference - COP15 - Copenhagen, Denmark

Agence France-Presse: Shadow of 'Anthropocene' falls over Rio Summit

Man's catastrophic damage to the environment and disparities between rich and poor head the daunting challenges facing the Rio Summit in June, experts said on Monday.

The summit must sweep away a system that lets reckless growth destroy the planet's health yet fails to help billions in need, they said.

"This century is special in the Earth's history. It is the first when one species -- ours -- has the planet's future in its hands," said Martin Rees of the Royal Society, Britain's academy of sciences.

"We've invented a new geological era: the Anthropocene," he said referring to an epoch shaped by Man, not nature. [...]

"Under a worst-case scenario, it's very likely, I think, that the Earth's system will move to a new state of some sort, with a very severe challenge to contemporary civilisation," said Steffen. "Some people have even talked about a collapse." [...]

The UN's goal of limiting global warming to two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) is already out of reach, said Bob Watson, former head of the UN's climate panel and chief advisor to Britain's environment ministry, as he presented the laureates' study.

"If you look at the commitments today from governments around the world, we've only got a 50-50 shot at a 3 C (5.4 F) world, almost no chance of a 2 C (3.6 F) world, and to be quite honest I would say it's not unlikely that we will hit a 5 C (9.0 F) world," said Watson.

"That is clearly a world with significant adverse consequences for ecological systems, for socio-economic systems and for human health."

He added: "We have to realise that we are looking at a loss of biodiversity that is unprecedented in the last 65 million years... We are clearly entering the (planet's) sixth mass extinction."

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Welcome to the Anthropocene

A 3-minute journey through the last 250 years of our history, from the start of the Industrial Revolution to the Rio+20 Summit. The film charts the growth of humanity into a global force on an equivalent scale to major geological processes.

The film was commissioned by the Planet Under Pressure conference, London 26-29 March, a major international conference focusing on solutions. planetunderpressure2012.net

The film is part of the world's first educational webportal on the Anthropocene, commissioned by the Planet Under Pressure conference, and developed and sponsored by anthropocene.info

Welcome to the Anthropocene from WelcomeAnthropocene on Vimeo.

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Richard Black: BBC
Welcome to the Anthropocene - what now?

This conference, Planet Under Pressure, has assembled several thousand delegates from academia, business, campaign groups, and the occasional government representative.

It's designed to get people from science and the policy field together three months before the Rio+20 summit in June, to discuss where we are, where we might be going, and how the supertanker workings of our global society can be turned round, if that's what needs doing.

Much of what I've so far read and heard, though, seems very familiar:

"we need" to adopt a different development model
"we have to" move to more efficient farming
"we have to realise that" current western consumption patterns aren't sustainable.

Will one more conference, one more set of reports and - in June - one more global summit bring about these changes?

At the end of Monday's morning session, conference host Nisha Pillai asked the packed hall of delegates for a show of hands on this most basic question - will the changes that "we need" happen?

The noes outvoted the ayes.

Best wishes for a balmy Anthropocene.

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