Through centuries of innovations that have improved the quality of life and comforts that we can enjoy, humanity has also caused significant changes to the climate. Most other lifeforms adapt to the world around them so they can live where they are. We change our surroundings to make them more hospitable. From removing entire forests to driving anything that threatens us to the brink of extinction, we have set in motion a series of events that could result in catastrophic consequences for the planet.
Over the past several decades, scientists have been singing the tune of how global warming can cause climate change. There has been an increasing awareness of the problem generation after generation. Most generations that preceded ours chose to ignore the warnings.
Whether it was because they did not believe climate change was real or merely didn’t bother because it wouldn’t be their problem, we will never know. People today realise the impact of our actions on the planet and are making concerted efforts to change their ways.
Are we applying duct tape to a broken vase?
We are constantly reminding ourselves and each other to recycle what we use, up cycle items, and down cycle things. We are told to ditch plastic straws and plastic bags for biodegradable alternatives. We teach our children the importance of environmentally-friendly practices, and so much more. Are all these efforts futile in the face of an overwhelming crisis?
Many believe that we can still prevent climate change and the apocalypse, and the end of times by reducing our carbon footprint and planting more trees. However, some believe that the only way we can prepare for the catastrophic changes that will occur due to climate change is by accepting the fact that they will inevitably happen.
Scientists believe that if the world gets a better understanding of the harmful factors leading to catastrophic climate change, we can make a difference and prevent it. However, it seems that we might be past the point of preventing climate change. We should stop pretending and start preparing.
The point of no return
The point of no return within the context of the environmental impact of humanity is the theorised point after which we cannot do anything to prevent catastrophic changes to the Earth. While everybody is hoping against hope that we are still far from the point of no return, several factors point towards the possibility that we are on the brink, if not already over, the point of no return.
The Antarctic ice sheets are becoming frailer each year. If global temperatures rise by 1.5 C, we could see the Greenland ice sheets completely melt and contribute to a devastating rise in sea levels. Rising sea levels are already having a disastrous impact on the planet, from destroying entire ecosystems to causing mass migrations of people to higher grounds.
Biosphere tipping points
Scientists have long feared the impact of rising global temperatures on various ecological systems worldwide. We are already experiencing some of them right now. Heatwaves in the ocean have caused the loss of more than half of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef and caused coral bleaching for whatever remains. The marine biodiversity that leads to an overall healthy ecological system is fading to oblivion. If the average global temperature increases by 2C, we could see far more drastic changes to life as we know it.
The Amazon rainforest is one of the most prominent sources of oxygen for the entire planet. The largest forest in existence, the Amazon, has also come to the tipping point. Deforestation in the name of progress and climate change are destroying the forest. Scientists estimate that the tipping point for Amazon could be a 40-20% loss of forest cover. We have lost 17% of forest cover in the Amazon since 1970.
A global domino effect
Director of the Global Systems Institute at the University of Exeter, Tim Lenton, said that the most significant risk to the Earth is a global cascade of tipping points that will gradually lead to a less hospitable world. Scientists have found evidence that we risk exceeding others as a direct or indirect result when we exceed one tipping point.
For instance, the rising global temperatures contribute to rising sea levels because of the melting ice sheets. However, the rising sea level also comes with introducing substantial freshwater that disrupts the flow of the saltwater oceans. It can cause the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation to slow down. The AMOC distributes much of the heat that affects the global climate. Enough factors slowing down AMOC could destabilise weather patterns, cause flooding, droughts, dry out the Amazon, and accelerate further ice loss.
Are we too late?
With everything considered, it truly seems that we are in a state of emergency, but we do not realise it. Many believe that we still have time to save the planet from devastation due to catastrophic climate change. Others believe that we might have already lost control over the factors that could keep various tipping points in check.
We do know that our scientific community understands enough about the global climate to recognise and declare climate change as a real threat to life as we know it. However, the people who possess the power to make positive change have always ignored the scientific community at the behest of their convenience.
Exactly when we might see the catastrophic effects of this global climate change remains to be seen. Many have predicted the end of the world due to various factors over several centuries. Thomas Bayo might have insight into how it could realistically happen and why. He talks about it in his book 2042 End of USA.
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