Earth heading towards irreversible 'hothouse' state

Withered flower in dry ground

The report, "Trajectories of the Earth System in the Anthropocene", published Monday in the American Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, said "hothouse" temperatures could stabilize 7 to 9 Fahrenheit higher than pre-industrial levels.

It is very important to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases "warm up" the Earth.

The worldwide research released on Tuesday says human-induced global warming of 2C could trigger environmental processes, or "feedbacks", leading to an irreversible "hothouse" climate.

Sea levels would rise considerably due to melted polar ice caps. This summer dozens of people have died in wildfires and heat waves from the U.S. to Asia, giving the world an insight into what could lie ahead.

Professor Steffen said global average temperatures were now just over 1C above pre-industrial temperatures and rising at 0.17C each decade.

Many scientists argue that we have entered a new geological era, the Anthropocene, in which human activity is directly affecting the planet.

According to researchers, the tipping point is around 2° Celsius more than pre-industrial times. "This study identifies some of the levers that can be used to do so", concludes co-author, Katherine Richardson from the University of Copenhagen.

"The implications are that if we can't stop it we're in a hell of a mess".

This could trigger the likes of events such as permafrost thaw or loss of Arctic summer sea ice that would see temperatures rise to four or five degrees above pre-industrial levels.

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"Such action entails stewardship of the entire Earth System - biosphere, climate, and societies - and could include decarbonization of the global economy, enhancement of biosphere carbon sinks, behavioral changes, technological innovations, new governance arrangements, and transformed social values", the study says.

Speaking on RTE's Morning Ireland show this morning, Joseph Curtin, a senior fellow for climate and energy policy at the Institute of global and European Affairs, explained that as sea-ice melts, the sea directly absorbs more of the sun's energy, creating more warming.

We're now just a tad over 1°C above pre-industrial levels.

Scientists believe if global temperatures exceed that level, climate change will become "dangerous", threatening to existence of some nations with rising sea levels.

Current global climate efforts were unlikely to help avoid the "very risky" situation and warming could still occur if greenhouse gases were no longer emitted, lead researcher Will Steffen from the Australian National University said in a statement. "Once one is pushed over, it pushes Earth towards another", says Johan Rockström, executive director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre and paper co-author. "It may be very hard or impossible to stop the whole row of dominoes from tumbling over", Professor Steffen said. "Places on Earth will become uninhabitable if "Hothouse Earth" becomes the reality", Rockstrom said.

The report hit the presses amid a record-shattering heatwave that gripped Europe, with temperatures recorded in excess of 40°C (104°F).

"Two degrees is right on the border", he said.

Experts also worry about phenomena like wildfires, which will spread as the planet gets hotter and drier and have the potential to accelerate carbon dioxide buildup and global warming.

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