Most people that hear our governments talking about fossil fuel reduction targets for 2040-2060 have no idea if we fail to make key reductions over the next 3-9 years, we are totally screwed! But why?
The following article covers those reasons in detail. The key reasons we are almost out of time to prevent our extinction are:
1. Our many climate consequences will rise exponentially about 2025-2031 instead of rising at their current levels of gradual increases.
2. We are already in a state of runaway global heating. If you imagined runaway global heating like a train without brakes rolling down a mountain, which is getting steeper and steeper, you would have a good idea about the seriousness of the ever-rising temperatures of runaway global heating.
James Hansen, a former NASA climate scientist, and leading climate researcher said that humanity should be safe if we stayed below an atmospheric carbon level of 350 parts per million (ppm). However, he also said that if we go beyond an atmospheric carbon level of about 386 ppm, we will enter into a state of runaway global heating. As of March of 2022, we were at carbon 421 ppm.
3. We ensure continuing global temperatures rises if we cross the carbon 425-450 ppm level. These levels of atmospheric carbon would eventually lock in an eventual total increase in average global temperature of about 2 -2.7° Celsius (4° - 4.9° Fahrenheit) from preindustrial levels.
Once we cross the 2° plus Celsius (the carbon 425-450 ppm level,) the higher mass extinction-accelerating temperature levels of 3°, 4°, 5°, and even 6° Celsius will also be all but locked in! According to James Hansen, a carbon 450 ppm level would eventually develop into an average global temperature increase of 6° Celsius (10.8° Fahrenheit) in this century and be the end of human civilization as we've come to know it.
4. If we cross the carbon 425-450 ppm level, we also begin triggering many additional climate tipping points and amplifying feedback loops. These tipping points and feedback loops will cause the primary and secondary consequences of global heating to occur more severely, frequently, and over larger and larger areas. Post-carbon 450 ppm, no government will be able to deal with these global heating consequences for long.
What does it mean in terms of your future?
Beginning about 2025-2031, the severity, frequency, and scale of current climate change consequences will rise exponentially. These rising consequences include heatwaves, droughts, wildfires, hurricanes, flooding, rain bombs, Derechos, extreme wind, dust, wildfire smoke storms, unseasonable and sudden cold spells, and wet areas will become wetter and dry areas dryer.
This increase in climate consequence severity, frequency, and scale is because we have already crossed into the beginning stages of runaway global heating. Because climate change consequences will soon begin rising exponentially, you may have only another 3-9 more years of relative climate change stability, depending upon where you live. (Beginning around 2025, if you are in a high-risk climate change area, the global warming consequences that you are already experiencing will start to become far worse than you are experiencing currently.)
Climate consequences will accelerate exponentially because more critical climate tipping points will be crossed! Saying we have only three to, at best, nine more years left to control climate change and global heating does not mean that humanity will go extinct in 3-9 years! It only means that if we do not do what is necessary to radically reduce global fossil fuel use over the next 3 to 9 years to meet the 2025 global targets:
1. many more climate change consequences will begin to occur at vastly higher levels of severity, frequency, and scale. (They will increase exponentially.) And
2. humanity will face many more unavoidable cataclysmic climate change consequences (such as about half of humanity going extinct by mid-century.)
One could easily consider the whole page below an excellent expanded definition of runaway global heating. Please also note that what you are about to read below falls within the definition of Abrupt Climate Change. The two most common definitions of Abrupt Climate Change are:
- In terms of impacts, "an abrupt change is one that takes place so rapidly and unexpectedly that human or natural systems have difficulty adapting to it".
- In terms of physics, it is a transition of the climate system into a different mode on a time scale that is faster than the responsible forcing.
What your governments do not want you to know about the accelerating climate change and the runaway global heating emergency
To put the climate danger we are in over the next 3-to 9 years (2025-2031) in the proper perspective, it is vital to be aware that atmospheric carbon was at about carbon 270 parts per million (ppm) for hundreds of thousands of years prior to the Industrial revolution. At carbon 270 ppm, there was climate stability. (See Atmospheric CO2 carbon graph above.)
James Hansen calculated that only if we kept atmospheric carbon below the carbon 350 ppm level, we would avoid the worse consequences of climate change, global warming, and mass extinction. What follows are the many details on how and why not crossing the carbon 425-450 ppm level is so critical to our future survival.
Most people do not understand that getting close to the extinction-preventing 2025 global fossil fuel reduction targets will keep us from crossing the carbon 425-450 ppm threshold. Nor do they understand the physics and mechanics behind the laws of climate momentum and human inertia.
The difficult news
Our current climate momentum factors mean that even if we stopped ALL global burning of fossil fuels today, global temperatures would continue rising for the next 2-3 (or more) decades. Furthermore, it also means that the radical 2025 global fossil fuel reductions we must make immediately will not deliver significant and observable benefits to the average citizen for about 2-3 decades. Finally, if we ever do make the needed fossil fuel reductions, this climate momentum time lag will challenge the patience and understanding of most everyone, not just our politicians.
The graph above beautifully illustrates an exponential rise in the three critical atmospheric greenhouse gases expressed in parts per billion. Since the mid-1700s and the start of the Industrial Revolution, these gases have been mostly human-made from burning fossil fuels. As a result, each of these greenhouse gases has built up considerable atmospheric heat-increasing momentum! (Click here if you need to learn more about our 40 years of failed global fossil fuel reductions.)
We now only have until about 2025 to 2031 to maintain control of our global warming futures. This short time is because we will cross new dangerous climate tipping points as we pass through the carbon 425-450 ppm threshold. The following sections will explain why.
The climate cliff, beginning runaway global warming and complete runaway global warming
For a little bit, we must talk about the concept of the climate cliff and what it is before we detail the first extinction-producing tipping point which is when we cross the carbon 425-450 threshold. For years, our organization had previously called this carbon 425-450 ppm level the climate cliff. (In this article, you will also hear us call the carbon 425-450 ppm level our first extinction-triggering or producing tipping point.)
The original climate cliff 425-450 ppm level was based on the United Nations' decades-long-held target of keeping the average global temperature rising no more than 2°C above preindustrial levels. Recently the United Nation's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) lowered its temperature target level based on realizing the consequences of a 2°C temperature increase above preindustrial levels would be far worse than original research indicated.
The UN's new climate cliff level of 2020 is now to stay below an average global temperature increase of 1.5C. This target level has changed because global warming consequences above this temperature are now known to be much worse than previously believed.
One of the other significant reasons now being acknowledged among recognized climate scientists for the new UN 1.5 C climate cliff temperature target level is that there are already considerably more atmospheric carbon emissions than was previously predicted. These additional carbon emissions come from other amplifying carbon feedback loops and carbon sink failures.
Many of these further amplifying carbon feedback loops and carbon sink issues will start to show up just beyond a 1.5C average global temperature increase as soon as 2025. (These amplifying carbon feedbacks and carbon sink failures will be described in detail further below.)
Newer research also shows that staying at or near a 1.5 C of average global temperature increase level is the only temperature level that entirely excludes the beginning level of runaway global warming and continuing to cross additional extinction-triggering global warming tipping points and amplifying carbon feedback loops.
Newer research also shows that staying at or near a 1.5 C of average global temperature increase level may be the temperature level that entirely excludes the beginning level of runaway global warming and continuing to cross additional extinction-triggering global warming tipping points and amplifying carbon feedback loops.
There are several different levels of runaway global warming, beginning level, extinction level, and the Venus effect level.
The beginning level of runaway global warming is defined as the point where numerous climate change and global warming consequences become catastrophic and unavoidable! For example, the UN's new 1.5 C climate cliff temperature threshold now means that because of what just the beginning level of runaway global warming can do, going above 1.5C level will eventually lead to the extinction of about half of humanity by mid-century. (This link will show you how this mass extinction event will happen.)
Extinction level runaway global warming is the level of runaway global warming that will ensure humanity's near-total extinction. Venus level runaway global warming will be so bad that it rips the atmosphere off our planet. As a result, the Earth will lose all human and biological life. This level of runaway global warming is believed to have happened to the planet Venus.
In our own internal 2016-17 climate analysis, using existing fossil fuel infrastructure, we calculated the first climate cliff for triggering beginning level runaway global warming (an unstoppable crossing of more amplifying global warming tipping points) would occur between the carbon 425 to carbon 450 ppm levels. These levels of atmospheric carbon would eventually create at least, a global 2C - 2.7C temperature increase over preindustrial levels.
Because of the UN IPCC threshold level of 1.5C, the beginning temperature and carbon limits for our former carbon climate cliff level now needed to be updated from its previous carbon level (425-450 ppm) and previous temperature level of about 2 -2.7° C above preindustrial levels to the new 1.5 C climate cliff starting point (about carbon 386.)
The new climate cliff shocker
The UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has previously calculated that reaching the carbon 420 ppm level is equivalent to a 1.6 C average global temperature increase from preindustrial levels. They made this very low-temperature rise calculation without including crossing any of the many climate tipping points or amplifying carbon feedback loops. But, as you will soon discover, we have already crossed important climate tipping points and amplifying carbon feedback loops and will quickly cross many more. (Our calculations making reasonable allowances and adjustments for crossed tipping points and omitted amplifying carbon feedback loops show the temperatures will rise much higher than the UN's temperature calculations.)
To have stayed below a 1.5 C target temperature increase, we would have had to have kept our atmospheric carbon level below 386 ppm. But, around 2015, we already had crossed over 386 carbon ppm level and ensured we would hit the 1.5 C level.
The good news is we can still slow down the extinction of half of humanity by mid-century if we come close to the 2025 global fossil fuel reduction targets. (It is perfectly normal to reject or doubt the possibility of such large-scale extinction occurring so soon. Therefore, we strongly recommend at some point clicking here to see the detailed sequences of some 80 primary and secondary consequences that will bring about the extinction of about half of humanity.)
All we can do now is slow and delay our partial extinction. But, it will take a government-driven mass mobilization to do it. This government-driven mass mobilization would have to radically reduce global fossil fuel use and get very close to the 2025 global fossil fuel reduction targets as its first action.
If the world governments act immediately and get close to the 2025 global fossil fuel reduction targets, more people will live longer and more comfortably. And, maybe we can still save humanity from the only thing that is worse than the extinction of half or more of humanity by mid-century, humanity's near-total extinction occurring from about 2050-2080 or sooner.
And, there is a bit more bad news. Acting only to minimize the current global warming extinction threat is insane! It is insane because any temperature increase of 1.5 C will also trigger the crossing of three more extinction-accelerating global warming tipping points and amplifying carbon feedback loops.
If nothing is done by our governments to radically slow and then reverse the average global temperature increase above the 1.5 C level, near-total extinction will be our eventual future. Supporting this 1.5 C danger is the Siberia permafrost field research (rather than the currently less accurate computer modeling) by Anton Vaks. (Reversing climate change means we need to get back down to at least carbon 350 ppm for some stability and hopefully and eventually back down to carbon 270 ppm where both humans and nature flourished.)
This Siberian research puts a global permafrost "thaw-down" also beginning at 1.5 C. This Siberian research means that when the world's permafrost crosses this 1.5 C average global temperature increase tipping point, the world's permafrost begins a near-continuous meltdown. Furthermore, this research indicates that after we reach this 1.5 C average global temperature increase, all permafrost stored carbon and methane will eventually be released from the permafrost.
This 1.5C permafrost release point plus other human-made carbon and methane releases put us squarely on the fast track for the worst global warming prediction scenarios. (Click here for more documentation on the permafrost meltdown.)
Our ticking permafrost methane time bomb is further illuminated by the rising atmospheric methane CH4 graph below. When viewing this methane graph, consider that atmospheric methane is about 80 times more effective than atmospheric carbon in increasing global warming. (The atmospheric methane graph below is in parts per billion [ppb].)
It is vital to know how having already crossed the carbon 386 ppm climate cliff will further accelerate the crossing of more global warming tipping points and amplify carbon feedback loops
The new carbon 386 ppm tipping point level was our last chance climate cliff because it was our last window of opportunity to keep from crossing the next critical atmospheric carbon threshold, which, when crossed, will significantly accelerate crossing more global warming tipping points and amplifying carbon feedback loops. Once we go over this 386 ppm climate cliff, our average global temperature will inevitably rise considerably above 1.5C - 2°C (eventually possibly as much as 3.2 C in eventual equilibrium warming. Equilibrium warming is known as equilibrium climate sensitivity (ECS.) it is the long-term temperature rise (equilibrium global mean near-surface air temperature) that is expected to result from a doubling of the atmospheric CO2 concentration.)
Moreover, this temperature rise will be far faster than has ever occurred over previous human-friendly geologically-scaled periods. This means that what used to happen over millennia or centuries within our climate systems will now occur over decades!
Unfortunately, rapidly rising global temperatures are not the worst effect of crossing the carbon 386 ppm level and climate cliff. These fast temperature rises will also create a decisive additional climate momentum factor in addition to the already existing atmospheric carbon momentum. This further climate-related momentum will not only push our global temperature even higher even faster, but it will also force many of the 11 climate tipping points below and more tipping points within the climate's subsystems to be crossed much faster!
(The illustration below lists the 11 major global warming tipping points. The arrows between the tipping points indicate that these tipping points interact and can also trigger each other's system or subsystem tipping points. Global warming temperatures will soar faster and faster as we cross more climate tipping points, which will cross even more climate and human system tipping points in an endless feedback loop.)
At some point, we also strongly recommend that you click here to learn more details about what each tipping point above is and how they will unfold to bring us closer to near-total extinction. This tipping point meltdown detail page covers what happens when you cross each of the above global warming tipping points, how they accelerate global warming temperature rise, how they accelerate global warming consequences, and how they cause sudden and complete climate, biological and human system collapses. Crossing these climate tipping points will also make any possible recovery from crossing these tipping points impossible or much slower, harder, and more expensive. This expanded tipping point reading will help you "see" the tremendous and dangerous impact that the many additional and soon-arriving crossed global warming tipping points will have on your future.
(At some point, to learn more about tipping point effects, we also strongly recommend that you click here to learn more details about what each tipping point above is and how they will unfold to bring us closer to near-total extinction. This additional tipping point meltdown page covers what happens when you cross the above tipping points, how they accelerate the global warming temperature rise, consequences, and how they will cause sudden and complete climate, biological and human system collapses if left unchecked. Crossing these climate tipping points will also make any possible recovery from crossing these tipping points either impossible or much slower, more complicated, and more expensive. This expanded tipping point reading will help you "see" the tremendous and dangerous impact that the many additional and soon-arriving crossed global warming tipping points will have on your future.)
What to expect in rising temperatures now that we have crossed the carbon 386 climate cliff into runaway global warming and heading toward the first extinction-triggering tipping point
Since we have already passed carbon 386 ppm level back around 2015, within about five years (around 2025 or less), we can expect to lock in an eventual total minimal increase in average global temperature of about 1.5 C.
Next, we cross the carbon 425 ppm level by or before about 2025; we can expect to lock in an additional eventual total increase in average global temperature of about 2 -2.7° Celsius (4° - 4.9° Fahrenheit) from preindustrial levels. (In January of 2022, we were at about carbon 419 ppm.)
The distinguished Professor of Meteorology Michael Mann from the University of Pennsylvania recently stated that once we reach the atmospheric carbon 405 ppm level, a 2 degrees C average global temperature increase is already baked in! And, once that happens, the terrible news is that we can do nothing effective at this point to stop those temperature levels from rising for many more decades.
At this 1.5 -2.7° Celsius increased average global temperature level, hundreds of millions will eventually starve, and hundreds of millions of people worldwide will eventually be forced to migrate or die.
Once we went over the new climate cliff of carbon 386 ppm, we doomed ourselves to hit the 1.5 Celsius global temperature increase level. Furthermore, we were also condemned by the total heat-producing momentum of all of the previous carbon and other greenhouse gases that we have ever put into the atmosphere, along with the other factors mentioned further down this page. All of which will inevitably and quickly not only push our global temperature even higher but also trigger the crossing of ever more tipping points at an accelerating rate!
Because we have already gone over the carbon 386 ppm climate cliff and triggered this next level of accelerating climate tipping point crossings, we are now locked into continually increasing temperatures for as much as the next 30+ years and crossing even more dangerous tipping points!
We will reach our next even more dangerous transitional carbon and temperature threshold when we cross the carbon 425-450 carbon ppm tipping point level. This is the extinction-triggering threshold where, because of crossing even more future global warming tipping points being crossed at an accelerating rate, we will be unable to stop ourselves from proceeding uncontrollably to average global temperature increases of 3°, 4°, 5°, and 6° Celsius (5.4°, 7.2°, 9°, and 10.8° Fahrenheit respectively.)
Once we cross the 2° Celsius (the carbon 425-450 ppm level,) the higher mass extinction accelerating temperature levels of 3°, 4°, 5°, and even 6° Celsius will be all but locked in!
According to James Hansen, one of the world's most influential climate researchers, a carbon 450 ppm level would eventually develop into an average global temperature increase of 6° Celsius (10.8° Fahrenheit) in this century and be the end of human civilization as we've come to know it.
At this point because of the many probable temperatures being discussed, it is crucial to explain the global warming temperature-fed feedback loop. The hotter it gets, the more it amplifies and drives more intense global warming consequences, crossing more climate change tipping points and triggering more amplifying climate feedback loops. Then, these more intense global warming consequences, additional crossed climate tipping points, and additional triggered amplifying climate feedback loops cause the temperature to rise even higher, which starts the cycle all over again. The bad news is that once this cycle gets going, it goes faster and faster like a train with no breaks running down a hill. That's more details about why they call it runaway global warming.
The uncontrollable continuous rise in average global temperature, which will cause mass starvation, death, and migration, will be due primarily to:
1. the major global warming consequences will continue to intensify and cross-react as heat rises.
The following illustration will help you visualize how future global warming consequences will intensify separately and together as we cross more tipping points and global temperatures rise. Imagine all of these global warming consequences whirling around, colliding with, and amplifying each other because of the agitation and "boiling effect" of ever-rising heat. This motion is similar to how the rising heat under a steam cooker churns, whirls, and collides the boiling water inside the steam cooker faster and more violently.
As increasing heat boils our planet, just like boiling water in a pot, the above global warming consequences will intensify and increase in severity, frequency, and scale! (To learn about exactly how the escalating 20 worst global warming consequences will cause mass starvation, death, and migration as well as social, economic, and political chaos, click here.)
2. more global warming consequences (listed above) will go into positive feedback loops as temperatures rise. Think of a positive feedback loop as a small stimulus that then amplifies a specific effect or consequence, causing it to get bigger and bigger. For example, if you hold a microphone too close to a music amplifier, there will be an irritating scratchy distortion of sound that "feeds back" to the amplifier getting louder and louder the longer the microphone is held closer and closer to the amplifier source.
3. our being unable to stop ourselves from crossing more global warming tipping points. Crossing more tipping points will again trigger other positive feedback loops and points of no return within the systems and subsystems of the global climate. It will also cause global warming tipping points to interact with each other cumulatively.
4. our continuing to cross "points of no return" within the global warming tipping points processes. Tipping point processes have within them definite points of no return. Once a tipping point's point of no return is crossed, crossing that tipping point is all but inevitable. Once that occurs, things usually collapse quickly, and recovery is typically slow, complex, costly, or downright impossible.
5. the accelerating heat-producing carbon and other greenhouse gas momentum (we will continue to add more fossil fuel burning carbon to the atmosphere every additional year (currently at the rate of about three carbon ppm per year.)
Because of the preceding, we have no other rational alternative than to prevent crossing into the hazardous transitional carbon 425-450 ppm threshold range and tipping point. At our current carbon and other greenhouse gas atmospheric pollution rate, entering this range will, unfortunately, begin sometime around 2025 if we do not get very close to the correct and honest 2025 fossil fuel reduction targets.
There is something we can always be sure of in this horrible emergency. No matter what and despite all of the challenges and painful tipping point outcomes that are coming, the single constant truth for the best possible climate outcome for humanity in this emergency is that the faster and more we reduce global fossil fuel use:
a. the more people we will survive to carry on humanity, life, and our beautiful civilization, and
b. future generations will suffer less from an ever-increasing sequence of escalating global warming consequences.
In the illustration below, you will see a red vertical line the "Must never pass, last chance battle line and range of carbon 425 to 450 ppm." As you can see, going over the carbon 425 ppm leads us to a very steep downward darker red slope toward our rapid extinction. (The illustration below also shows at what carbon ppm levels the six distinct phases of a Climageddon extinction scenario and countdown will occur (i.e., CS Phases 1-6 below.) After you complete the rest of this document, we strongly recommend that you review the detailed year-by-year global warming consequence timetables found in the Climageddon extinction scenario and countdown. (As a reminder, the Climageddon extinction scenario and countdown will be linked again at the bottom of this page.)
In summary of the first extinction-triggering tipping point, here is what is most important to remember about a failure to get close to our 2025 reduction targets and going over the carbon 425-450 ppm extinction-triggering tipping point:
1. Once we cross the carbon 425-450 ppm threshold, the frequency, severity, and scale of global warming consequences will go from gradual linear increases as they are now to exponential consequence increases! This exponential consequence explosion will begin within 3-9 years (2025-2031) as we cross this critical extinction-producing tipping point.
Once again please see the most current blue Atmospheric CO2 carbon graph (on this page) to see how dangerously close we are to this critical carbon 425 - 450 ppm tipping point already. (As of April of 2022 we are at carbon 421 ppm.)
2. After we also go over the carbon 425-450 ppm range, mass human extinction is assured and unavoidable. The mathematics and physics of atmospheric carbon and other greenhouse gases raising our temperature will climb exponentially after going over the carbon 425-450 ppm level. This additional greenhouse gas rise will drive our temperatures ever higher up to and through at least two more extinction-accelerating tipping points and into the many other global warming consequences described further below.
3. After we cross the 425-450 ppm threshold, stopping this ever-increasing global warming temperature momentum will be like trying to stop a gigantic boulder from rolling faster and faster down a hill that keeps getting steeper and steeper.
4. We are in an unacknowledged climate change extinction emergency, and so far, our governments are not even close to reaching the critical 2025 targets.
5. If we do not come close to the 2025 targets, we lose our last chance to stop ourselves from going over additional and far worse global warming tipping points. These extra tipping points will cause near-total to total human extinction and economic, political, and social chaos within our lifetimes!
If we do not come close to the 2025 targets, our final window of opportunity to effectively control our destiny regarding preventing the other two near-total extinction-accelerating tipping points from being crossed closes. This unthinkable outcome is also why the carbon 425-450 ppm tipping point level is our most crucial next tipping point to understand and respect. (More about what causes this near-complete loss of control of our global warming future will be explained in the following even worse climate tipping point sections below.)
6. The beginning levels of runaway global warming was initiated when we went over the climate cliff and crossed carbon 386 ppm in 2015. We will fully enter the near-total extinction-level of runaway global warming and climate change when we cross the carbon 425-450 ppm threshold. This is the carbon level where we can no longer stop ourselves from crossing a cascade of more significant climate tipping points and amplifying carbon feedback loops.
7. Mass human extinction will accelerate as we cross the 3° C level and pass beyond it. Once we cross the 2° Celsius (the carbon 425-450 ppm level,) the inevitable mass extinction accelerating temperature levels of 3°, 4°, 5°, and even 6° Celsius all will be all but locked in!
At 4° C, life will be a living hell for survivors. Crossing the carbon 450 ppm level will eventually develop into an average global temperature increase of 6° Celsius (10.8° Fahrenheit) well before the end of this century and be the end of human civilization as we've come to know it.
8. In case you're still somehow thinking or believing technology will save us at the last minute, no new carbon removal technologies (what we call magical carbon sucking unicorns) will be able to save us in time. This carbon removal technology fails because even those who believe this technology might save us are projecting that they will not be scaled up to make a difference until sometime after 2050. This 2050 date is long after the damage is done and long after anything can be done for billions who will suffer and die! (Please click here if you still have any illusions about new carbon removal technology miraculously saving us at the last minute. The science there will help you understand that the only way out of this imminent extinction catastrophe is to radically reduce fossil fuel use globally to come close to the 2025 targets.)
9. The only effective way to prevent our near-total extinction from the primary and secondary consequences of climate change is to get as close to the correct and honest 2025 global fossil fuel reduction targets.
Additional thoughts on the critical importance of the carbon 425-450 ppm near-total extinction-triggering tipping point and the probable sequences of climate events as we approach and cross it
Because we have ignored decades of climate warming, we are already deep into the climate change trajectory toward extinction and the collapse of civilization. This collapse outcome is highly likely because nine of the known global warming and climate change tipping points that regulate the climatic state of the planet have already been activated.
Most of the above-activated tipping points can and will trigger abrupt and significant releases of carbon back into the atmosphere, such as the release of carbon dioxide and methane caused by the irreversible thawing of the Arctic permafrost. After the above global warming tipping points are crossed, additional warming would become self-sustaining due to both positive feedback loops within the climate system and the mutual interaction of these global warming tipping points.
It is best to think about the above nine interacting global warming tipping points within the climate system like a row of dominos. These climate system tipping points are so interconnected that knocking over the first couple of "dominos" will most likely lead to a cascade knocking over many, if not all, of them. Once the above global warming tipping point "dominos" lock into their falling cascade, we are already at a point of global and societal no return.
It is not just us saying this:
Because of these global warming tipping points and positive feedback loops, Professor Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, director emeritus and founder of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, believes that if we go much above 2° C, we will quickly get to 4° C anyway and, a 4° C increase would also spell the end of a tolerable human civilization.
Johan Rockström, the head of one of Europe's leading research institutes, warned that in a 4°C warmer world, it would be "difficult to see how we could accommodate a billion people or even half of that. Not even a rich minority world survive with modern lifestyles in the post-4°C-warmer turbulent, conflict-ridden world".
Many other climate scientists have warned that once the climate warms 4 degrees C over our preindustrial average global temperature, human adaptation to these temperature levels will be all but impossible!
Leading Stanford University biologists released new research recently showing species extinctions are accelerating in an unprecedented manner. The rapid loss of biodiversity is another likely and already occurring tipping point for the collapse of human civilization. (These are the same Stanford biologists who were first to warn us that we are already experiencing the sixth mass extinction on Earth.)
please note that many climate researchers also believe that we entered into extinction-level runaway global warming long before we will hit carbon 425 ppm and even before we hit carbon 386 ppm. Like the NASA scientist James Hansen, who warned 40+ years ago about climate extinction, many climate researchers hold that global warming tipping points and amplifying positive climate feedback loops act to "stack up" on each other and magnify their combined adverse effects. They maintain that we entered into runaway global warming (because of the stacking effect) as soon as we crossed carbon 350 ppm, just as James Hansen predicted.
Soon we will lose control of the tipping points for the Amazon rainforest, the West Antarctic ice sheet, and the Greenland ice sheet in much less time than it's going to take us to get to any dubious and unenforceable global national net-zero emissions pledges.
There is an additional and crucial way to think about the race to reach the 2025 global fossil fuel reduction targets before we cross more of the extinction-accelerating global warming tipping points. Imagine that the captain on the Titanic suddenly sees the iceberg in front of him. To slow and steer the Titanic away from the iceberg, he needs at least 3 miles, but he is only 1 mile away from the iceberg. In this example, the titanic is already doomed when the captain notices the iceberg.
This Titanic example is not much different than our current situation. We have already gone over the carbon 386 ppm climate cliff. We are doing very poorly toward reaching the last chance 2025 global fossil fuel reduction targets. We have wasted so much time over the previous decades ignoring valid scientific warnings; we have very little time remaining to "steer" away from extinction.
We already have a baked-in minimal 1.5 - 2 degrees C in average global temperature increase. We also have initiated the global climate tipping point cascade effect, which will quickly get us to 4°C and the collapse of a civilization in which no one would want to exist. This 4°C alone will rapidly take us to a far less habitable planet and climate regardless of any additional global fossil fuel reductions we might now make.
In the image above, the unillustrated Planetary Threshold dividing line is the climate cliff previously mentioned of carbon 386 ppm. As one can see, once we crossed that carbon 386 ppm Planetary Threshold line, the stability of our climate rapidly collapses into an over-heating uninhabitable Earth!
Here are the most probable carbon feedback loops, carbon sink losses, points of no return, and tipping points to be crossed after we crossed the carbon 386 ppm climate cliff in 2015
1. Decreased albedo from reduced snow cover and melting Arctic ice increasing the earth's average global temperature,
2. Increased sea ice and glacier melt resulting in additional sea-level rise,
3. Increased atmospheric water vapor increases resulting in more extreme weather,
4. Increased permafrost and tundra heating, releasing more carbon and methane, resulting in more heat, disease epidemics, and possible pandemics. This tundra heating speeds up the process of more positive feedback loops and crossing more points of no return and tipping points.
(Please note that rapidly melting tundra permafrost is also because the northernmost areas are warming twice as fast as the rest of the world.) This permafrost melting also can cause local and global pandemics caused by ancient viruses and bacteria being released from the permafrost. They have already had localized anthrax and smallpox outbreaks in Siberia because of the bacteria and viruses released from the decomposition of ancient frozen animals from the melting permafrost and tundra. Unfortunately, the Siberian residents had no existing immunity to these diseases and were not prepared to deal with these outbreaks due to a lack of available vaccines.
5. Decreased carbon capture from the world's forests as temperatures rise and forests go from removing carbon from the atmosphere to carbon-neutral (no longer removing carbon from the atmosphere.) Carbon neutral is the state that occurs just before overheated over-stressed forests next begin to release carbon back into the atmosphere!
(Click here to learn more about each item listed above.)
Here are the most likely keystone tipping points to be crossed after we crossed the carbon 386 climate cliff in 2015
There is an extinction tipping point area that is the most likely first candidate to accelerate the beginning of the end of humanity. It is the increased melting of summer and year-round arctic polar ice due to global warming.
It will genuinely have profound effects not only on worldwide weather stability but, more importantly, on significantly lowering global crop yields and significantly increasing global crop failures. Eventually, this will cause accelerating and massive global starvation, which will then also destabilize national economics, politics, and society.
In the summer, when the Arctic ice melts, there is less cooling of all growing season areas affected anywhere by arctic weather. Therefore, the more polar ice melts each year, the less cooling and the more heat and drought during the critical growing season in arctic-affected areas.
Food crops are more sensitive to heat when there are droughts and, they are more sensitive to heat, rain bombs, and cold spells when they are just beginning to grow. Unfortunately, because more ice is melting in the Arctic ocean almost every summer and staying melted longer in the year, we are losing more and more critical cooling for our vital food crops. As a result, we are losing stable growing seasons.
The five major food grains are the largest source of the world's food supply. They are corn, wheat, rice, soybeans, and sorghum.
All of these grains have upper and lower temperature limits. Most of them cannot survive more than ten days during their growing season over 100° Fahrenheit. This is particularly true if this heat comes early in their growing season or when their soils are drought dry.
Because of the continually increasing loss of the cooling effect on growing regions below the Arctic because of the constantly diminishing Arctic ice, the number of growing season days with temperatures over 100° will continue increasing steadily as more and more Arctic ice melts and remains melted longer throughout the year. (We estimate within a decade or so, we could have as many as 30 days of 100-degree heat during the growing season in many critical crop-growing areas.)
Because melting Arctic ice also affects and disrupts the jet stream and ocean currents like the Gulf Stream, you will also have extreme and unseasonable cold spells appearing during the prime crop growing seasons worldwide. These cold spells will also further reduce food yields and produce more crop failures during the fragile growing season.
This again means that the world will continue to experience more and larger crop reductions and failures as more polar ice melts and stays melted longer. Corn is one of the most significant food staples for humanity, and it is also one of the most sensitive crops to increasing 100 degrees plus temperatures and drought.
The following is from Wikipedia:
"Since 1979, the minimum annual area of sea ice in the Arctic has dropped by about 40%, as measured each September. From sea ice models and recent satellite images, we can expect that an Arctic sea ice-free summer will come before 2020. Models that best match historical trends project a nearly ice-free Arctic in the summer by the 2030s. However, these models do tend to underestimate the rate of sea ice loss since 2007." (If you would like to see a video of how more polar ice is melting each summer as the years go by, click here for this NASA video.)
The increasing melting of arctic polar ice is a clear and glaring warning sign of increasing global warming and future severe reductions in future crop yields, as well as dangerous increases in future crop failures. These crop failures will also mean higher prices and ever-increasing food scarcity, and increasing global starvation.
This Arctic crop stability problem is not something far-off in the future. On the contrary, it is already happening in many world areas.
It is also already causing large human migrations. The expanding and increasing polar ice melting is a primary "canary in the coal mine" for increasing future mass starvation not way off in 2100 as we have been told, but now and in years the decade to follow.
Already in the growing belt of the United States, we are seeing increased and record-breaking heat, droughts, rain bombs, Derechos, and other extreme unseasonal weather that directly affects crop yields and crop failures in the most vulnerable areas. This pattern of greater crop yield reductions and crop failures will continue to increase as long as more polar ice disappears and the Arctic remains relatively ice-free into longer and longer summers. As the process of massive crop reductions and failures expand and continues, mass starvation will begin to destabilize all of our other economic, social, and political systems.
Reduced polar ice also reduces the albedo effect because white snow or ice reflects heat away from the earth and into the atmosphere, keeping the world cooler. However, as more Arctic polar ice is melted, the darker polar oceans absorb the heat and then heat up more, which once again causes more global warming.
As global temperatures continue rising, the time frames in which we will be crossing more of the tipping points listed above will get shorter. But that will not be the only significant effect of the melting Arctic ice due to global warming. Paradoxically, according to new studies, we will also have more extreme cold and heavier snows during the US winters because of melting Arctic ice.
In general, you can count on that increased crop yield reductions and crop failures will increasingly occur because of arctic ice melt, increased heat, increased droughts, increased cold spells, increased rain bombs, and extreme weather storms. This will make it more and more impossible for modern agriculture and the major food crops to survive throughout their current growing seasons. There are estimates that crop yield reductions and crop failures will average 5 to 10% or more for each degree Fahrenheit that the average global temperature rises. This will continue until the planet becomes so warm that too many days of the growing season will be at 100° or more. This will make successfully growing the world's five major grains all but impossible.
The carbon 386 ppm climate cliff and its 1.5 C temperature increase threshold was the last threshold for excluding humanity's mass extinction threat by mid-century. Staying below 1.5 C was also the final threshold where we could have prevented a significant acceleration in crossing other more dangerous global warming tipping points.
One can see from the preceding that while we all do our best to encourage our governments to meet the 2025 targets, it is also now wise to start a personal global warming emergency backup plan and "Plan B!"
New technology will not be able to save us in time!
Many people falsely believe that geoengineering, carbon capture, or some other new miracle technology will ride in like a knight on a white horse at the last minute to save humanity from the natural consequences of its decades of previous bad climate decisions, actions, inactions, and mistakes.
In the media, we regularly hear about these new technologies that will save for climate change. Directly or indirectly these new technologies promise that somehow we can still continue living our lives over-consuming, polluting, and burning fossil fuels exactly as we are now.
The bad news is that these promised new technologies are false solutions that suffer from one or more of the following deadly problems:
1. Most have not yet been proven to work even at a small scale.
2. They have not been adequately tested at a sufficient scale for any unintended side effects, which could create greater problems than the problems they are designed to solve.
3. They are prohibitively costly.
4. They burn so much fossil fuel trying to remove atmospheric carbon or geo-engineer the atmosphere that they realistically cancel out their benefit. And finally,
5. None of the current "new technology" solutions can come even close to globally scaling up in time (over the required next three years) to get close to, or compensate for missing the 2025 global targets, to prevent humanity's mass to near-total extinction.
(Click here to read more about why this fairy tale carbon capture technology is not going to happen or will be "too little too late" to save us.)
We are cautionary and warn people about the pitfalls of techno-optimism and the engineer's limited and mechanistic view of complex adaptive systems (the climate, biological and social systems, etc.). But, it does not mean we are anti-technology.
Our position on the use of technology is best described by the term Appropriate Technology. Appropriate technology is a movement encompassing technological choice and application that is small-scale, affordable by locals, decentralized, labor-intensive, energy-efficient, environmentally sustainable, and locally autonomous. Unfortunately, the miracle "new technology" solutions proposed for climate change are far from the best appropriate technology principles.
Allowing an atmospheric carbon 425-450 ppm level ever to be reached is humanity playing with fire and betting the house (its survival) on both being insanely lucky and on nonexistent or insufficient new remedial technologies
Humanity thrived for almost 1,000,000 years when the historical interglacial high atmospheric carbon levels remained within the carbon range of 270-280 ppm.
Decades ago, climate scientists warned us that when we crossed the atmospheric carbon 350 ppm level, humanity would be unsafe from horrible consequences and even extinction, and we were on the way to runaway global warming.
Measuring the most dangerous greenhouse gases of atmospheric carbon [CO2,] methane [C4,] and nitrous dioxide [No2] are the best ways to measure the increasing threat level of global heating consequences. These measurements are also one of the best ways to predict future global heating and temperature levels.
In the illustration below, on the left vertical axis are atmospheric measuring levels for both carbon and nitrous dioxide in parts per million [ppm.] On the right vertical axis, you see the measuring level for atmospheric methane in parts per billion [ppb.] Across the bottom of the illustration is the last 2,000+ years.
The red, blue, and black lines moving from left to right across the illustration tell the painful story of human history and the pollution of our atmosphere. The illustration clearly shows what happened when humanity began the fossil fuel-powered industrial revolution in the late 1700s to early 1800s.
Here is a bit more about our atmospheric carbon history and its meaning. Many climate researchers believe we are already in the beginning stages of runaway global warming and have been so for quite a while. (Think of runaway global warming like a train rolling down a steep hill with no brakes.)
What most people do not understand about what helps cause runaway global warming within the climate's systems and subsystems is that crossed climate tipping points will create a higher new global temperature that also will trigger more climate tipping points and more amplifying climate feedback loops. By themselves alone, more triggered climate tipping points and climate feedback loops will increase heating within the climate system, producing more severe consequences. Each add-on new tipping point and feedback loop helps create a growing "stack" of overlapping temperature-increasing mechanisms fueling runaway global warming!
At some point, triggering the next climate tipping point or feedback loop will initiate an unstoppable domino effect, which will trigger even more tipping points and amplify more feedback loops at faster and faster rates. Once this level is reached, the tipping point and feedback loop "stacking" effect ensure that a self-sustaining cycle of feedback loops that will repeatedly create the next higher level of temperatures and more severe consequences.
The stacking effect was predicted decades ago by one of the world's most respected NASA climate scientists, James Hansen. Hansen said that if the atmospheric CO2 level reached and stayed at only the carbon 385 ppm level and was allowed to sit there for many years, it alone could kick off a climate tipping point and feedback loop stacking effect. He warned that this stacking effect would lead to an unstoppable chain reaction to higher and higher temperatures (hence runaway global warming.)
So here is the tough love. Humanity thrived successfully for millennia when atmospheric carbon was at the 270 to 280 ppm-level. We went over the climate cliff in 2015 when we hit carbon 386 ppm level. Within the next 2-3 years, we will pass the carbon 425 ppm level.
We would have stayed safe from runaway global warming if we ONLY had stayed below the carbon 350 ppm level. According to James Hansen, since we have passed the carbon 386 ppm in 2015, we have already triggered the stacking effect. We already have activated the crossing of ever more climate tipping points and feedback loops.
Brace yourself. As of April of 2022, we were at carbon 421 ppm. From the preceding, one can see that this carbon 421 level is far, far beyond any reasonable and safe atmospheric carbon level and far into the stacking effect of runaway global warming.
At the carbon 421 ppm level, our atmospheric carbon level is about 155% greater than the humanity-thriving level of carbon 270 ppm. One has to wonder, how much higher does this percentage of atmospheric carbon have to rise beyond the last safe level of carbon 350 ppm, before we collectively finally realize we are in a grave extinction danger?
Allowing an atmospheric carbon level of 425-450 ppm ever to be reached is humanity playing with fire and betting the house (near-total extinction) on being both insanely lucky and on nonexistent or insufficient new greenhouse gas remedial technologies.
No matter how you look at it, we are at a completely immoral and insane risk level to the survivability of humanity. We are already living beyond the highest possible danger zone.
If we are very, very fortunate, and it is not already too late, we may have another 3 to 9 years before crossing over the 425-450 ppm threshold and into the full-on runaway global warming where global heating and the extinction emergency goes out of our control for centuries, but we indeed do not have any more time than that.
We are at our absolute last chance, 3 to 9-year warning!
Either we make the necessary and radical 2025 global fossil fuel reductions, or we face near-total extinction that survivors may never be able to reverse for centuries to thousands of years.
On the other hand, if we miss this last three to nine-year opportunity to prevent our extinction, we can at least hope to slow it down to have more time to get ourselves ready for near-total extinction.
"We have delayed facing and fixing the climate change emergency for decades, and it has now reached an insane climate change extinction risk level. This extinction risk level is so high that it is comparable to humanity playing Russian roulette with a gun where every chamber of the revolver has a bullet in it, and every bullet is an extinction-accelerating tipping point or catastrophic amplifying climate feedback loop." Lawrence Wollersheim
What we do in the next three to nine years in getting close to the 2025 global fossil fuel reduction targets will determine the survival and future of much of humanity. And, if we do not fix this, it will also be many of the lives of Earth's plants, animals that will suffer our same horrible fate.
If our governments fail to act, few, if any, will survive. Even fewer individuals would want to exist in the over-heated world we would leave them.
If you have any doubts about what amplifying climate feedback loops or climate tipping points are, or their importance to your future, a new video has come out called Earth Emergency. It takes you through the most dangerous climate feedbacks and tipping points in an easy-to-understand way. This public broadcasting (PBS) video also makes the key points that we are making on this website. Click here to see this "don't miss it" super simple video.
Please share these ten critical climate facts everywhere! Unfortunately, at best, we have only 3 to 9 more years to fix this climate nightmare.
(Special note 4.22.2022: There is a lively ongoing conflict between various climate change researchers. Some believe we are already in a state of runaway global warming, and there is nothing we can do about it at our current greenhouse gas levels. This group believes we are already headed to near-total to total human extinction.
Another group of climate researchers believes that we still may be able to prevent near-total extinction (but not avoid mass extinction) if we can do the nearly impossible task of cutting global fossil fuel use by 75% to at least get close to the 2025 global fossil fuel reduction targets discussed here.
Other climate researchers using the grossly underestimated and distorted IPCC calculations believe we have until about 2030- 2040 to make much smaller global fossil fuel reductions and still save humanity.
Our website reflects the ongoing conflicts within researcher positional differences. As an organization, we currently believe that the extinction of about half of humanity by mid-century is unavoidable. However, we still may be able to prevent near-total extinction if we can do the near-impossible task of cutting global fossil fuel use by close to 75% to meet the 2025 global fossil fuel reduction targets discussed here.
We believe the probability of getting even close to the 2025 reduction targets is extremely low. Therefore, we also have created an action program that compensates for this probable failure to prevent climate change from reaching severe extinction levels. We hope that this clarification helps our readers better understand our current position and our Job One action plan.)
Reviewing the most misunderstood climate danger because it means our survival or extinction
What not coming close to the critical 2025 global fossil fuel reduction targets means, and what is at stake:
1. If we fail, we will not be able to even slow down the unavoidable extinction of half or more of humanity by mid-century.
2. Only by coming very close to the 2025 global fossil fuel reduction targets do we have any reasonable chance of preventing an even worse, near-total extinction event from ending humanity and civilization occurring from 2050- 2080 or sooner.
3. Because near-total extinction is now associated with crossing the atmospheric carbon threshold of carbon 425 - 450 ppm and the eventual higher temperatures produced when we cross that threshold, we only have about 3 to about 9 more years to be able to prevent our near-total extinction. (Carbon is currently accumulating in the atmosphere at about three carbon ppm per year.)
4. Unfortunately, we also have two additional super-dangerous extinction-accelerating tipping points after the carbon 425-450 ppm tipping point threshold. (Please go to this page and go down to the second extinction tipping point. It will inform you of what happens after we cross the carbon 450 ppm threshold.
5. After crossing the carbon 425-450 level, the following three extinction-producing tipping points are FAR worse than what you have read above! they will create both extinction level and Venus affect level runaway global warming.