It’s not the first time that we have been faced with the supposed end of the earth, a threat that seems to come up at least once every couple years whether by religious leaders or supposed experts. However, this time its backed by ‘scientists’ around the globe – How concerned should we be?
It’s the biggest challenge that comes from getting your information online. Unlike in the past, where supposed ‘experts’ would have to come out and share their information in person in order to be heard and shared with the world, anyone today can be an expert from behind their computer screen. All it takes is one piece of fake information catching attention, and sites across the internet pick up and share it with their own spin, each failing to cite where they obtained this information, and the original source (often a less than credible one) is lost in the shuffle.
This week the internet has blown up with warnings about the fact that climate change is pushing our planet into a ‘Hothouse’ state. This refers to a situation in which the temperatures here on earth are so extreme that it renders the Earth completely uninhabitable.
Digging through the articles, news reports, and information, you will find that many are pointing back to a report that was published Monday in the American Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences titled ‘Trajectories of the Earth System in the Anthropocene’. What they fail to tell you is that this paper isn’t the result of new ground-breaking research and discoveries, or even new data at all. This is a ‘perspective’ piece in which Will Steffen and his 15 co-authors discuss previous reports, studies, and research, pulling this information together and sharing their personal insight and conclusions based on the facts at hand.
The topic of climate change and global warming has long been a hot topic. On one hand, there are those that support the idea that we are slowly driving our planet towards destruction with rising temperatures and global changes such as rising water levels and melting ice sheets. Critics, however, argue that the situation has been blown out of proportion, often stating that the conclusions being drawn are too simplistic to truly explain what is going to happen to the planet. While we are often led to believe that these critics are simply uneducated and unaware, there are a number of scientists and well-respected scholars that believe there is more to the situation than we are being led to believe.
The paper that has once again brought this discussion into this spotlight explains that global temperatures have been on the rise, and if the global average temperature were to hit 2 degrees above the pre-Industrial levels then we will hit a tipping point, a literal ‘point of no return’. The research team explained that this “may trigger other earth system processes, often called feedbacks, that can trigger further warming – even if we stop emitting greenhouse gases.” In short, if we don’t stop the rise of temperatures before it hits this tipping point, then we are dooming the planet. What would this cause, the report states that reaching this point “would almost certainly flood deltaic environments, increase the risk of damage from coastal storms, and eliminate coral reefs (and all of the benefits that they provide for societies) by the end of this century or earlier.”
It’s a well-supported argument and not the first time that it has been brought to our attention. This is actually an ongoing debate that has existed as part of the climate change discussion for years. While there is the possibility that this could happen, it is a scenario that is dependant upon a number of different pieces of the puzzle all coming together in just the right way for the script to play out as predicted.
In fact, faced with this same discussion, David L. Kidder and Thomas R. Worsley wrote an article published in the Geological Society of America (GSA)’s journal ‘GSA Today’ in 2012. The article, titled ‘A human-induced hothouse climate?’ addresses the science behind this theory, and all of the things that would have to happen in order for it to occur as predicted. They conclude that “Feedbacks and still-unknown amplifiers will ultimately control just how far humans can force climate toward a hothouse.” However, Kidder and Worsley do warn that we are headed towards what they refer to as a ‘cool greenhouse climate’ in which we are experiencing higher than current temperatures, which will “severely disrupt many societies and economies.” So, while they argue that the planet isn’t doomed to burn up ending us all, we should take the risks of global warming seriously.
As for the destruction of the planet, we urge you to do your research. The more people who get out and educate themselves on the current state of global warming, where it may be headed and what we can do the better. As an individual, you may not be able to change the world, but if every one of us is willing to make a few small changes in our lives while putting pressure on bigger companies to also make a change, our society can still make a dramatic impact.