By- Aaquib Javed
2019 was a year that saw a large number of climate protests around the world demanding control on global CO2 emissions which are the primary cause of global warming alongside this, last year was probably the hottest year of my life as I felt and to add onto this statement I shall state that I am only 20 years old and 20 years aren’t significant at all when compared to the number of years since the time our mother earth has been suspended like a tiny dust particle in this massive universe,( 90 percent of which is still claimed to be unobserved by humanity). It means universally it won’t change much if a distant galaxy with an average-sized star having a relatively smaller planet has life on it or not! The universe will stay as it is like a bookshelf stays as it after one or two books are being removed or displaced from their location. But, does it matter globally, I mean on this planet? It means certain things on this planet are going to change if global warming continues and one of those things is climate, An unnatural change in the climate.
Hence global warming and climate change matters to the earth but does it matter to the people living on it ? not to our leaders at least and waking up to this unfortunate news article is terrifying.
It maybe only sheer negligence of our leaders or maybe it is the lack of knowledge that makes them do such things but as everyone loves their children I don’t believe they have vested interests. In a democratic society, knowledgeable people and groups make government do things that aim for the betterment of the people. Thus it is necessary that people must know details about the changes that will take place in climate and that will affect humanity and more importantly our descendants. One of those detailed topics is ‘Tipping points in the climate system’.
Earth’s climatic system receives almost all of its energy from the sun. Alongside receiving the energy it gives energy to outer space as well. This incoming and outgoing of the earth’s energy determine the budget of the earth’s energy. This energy moving through the earth’s system finds its expression in weather varying at latitudes and varying in time.
When the incoming energy is greater than the outgoing energy, the earth’s energy budget is positive and the climate system is warming. If more energy goes out, the energy budget is negative and earth experiences cooling. Since the emissions of greenhouse gases have increased, they tend to trap this heat energy inside the earth’s atmosphere inhibiting some of it to radiate outside resulting in an increase in temperature globally which is causing abrupt climate change in the modern era. This change in climate can escalate up to an irreversible state called the tipping point.
A tipping point in the climate or ecological system is a threshold point which once exceeded due to various reasons can cause large and highly significant changes in the state of the climate system. Potential tipping points have been identified in the climate system and various highly impacted ecosystems and sometimes in both. Studies have revealed that tipping points in the climate have been very closely related to the global warming patterns after the industrial revolution has happened. Possible tipping points have been identified already for a certain mean average temperature of the earth by observing the self-reinforcing feedback patterns of the earth to a certain rise in global temperature as well as the patterns in the past are read as well.
Here are the top 4 most feared climate tipping points by scientists all over the world :
1. ARCTIC SEA ICE MELTS
The melting of the arctic ice in summers is the greatest and the most major threat to the climate. While some scientists think that we’re only decades away from the tipping point, some of them think that we have passed the tipping point already that is alarming.
As the ice melts and gets mixed up into the dark sea and ocean, more sunlight is exposed to the arctic ocean water that absorbs more heat reinforcing global warming as a result.
Alongside having climatic implications, it also will have political implications with whole cities underwater at once. It will also destroy a whole ecosystem that will disrupt the food chain at a very large scale with many other unimaginable consequences.
2. MELTING OF GREENLAND ICE-SHEET
Warming of the arctic zone might also trigger the Greenland ice sheet loss. It has been suspected that with the same rate of rising in global temperatures, Greenland will become ice-free within this century while some scientists argue that it may take a few hundred years but certainly in this decade an irreversible tipping point will be achieved with the same carbon emission trends.
If the Greenland ice sheet disappears, it will cause a massive 20 feet to rise in sea level by this century which will take with it cities like MIAMI, BOSTON, NEW YORK, MUMBAI which will at least displace a massive 1.8 billion people.
3. INSTABILITY OF WEST ANTARCTIC ICE SHEET
The same thing is happening on the other side of the world where the west Antarctic sheets have been disintegrating slowly. Scientists believe that it will tip this century but since the ice glaciers are too far below sea level in most of the antarctic region it will certainly disintegrate in the next few hundred years.
This will trigger a rise in the sea level by at least 10 feet and may take in its grasp major cities of south america and africa.
Recently an iceberg larger than the city of LosAngles disintegrated from the west Antarctic ice sheet and alarmed the whole world.
4. EL-NINO BECOMES PERMANENT LIKE MONSOONS
Due to the heating of the earth and when the energy budget of earth is positive,
The major amount of extra heat from the atmosphere is being absorbed by the oceans and this generally cause the El-Nino events.
Permanent and year by year warming may lead to increased ocean interactions with the atmosphere and increased permanent el-ninos over time.
Heated oceans set the currents to flow away from the oceans rapidly.
These fast ocean currents may trigger drought-like situations in Southeast Asia and other parts if they became permanent while floods in South America if they occur there.
Alongside these 4 tipping events, other events like multistability of the Indian Monsoon, finishing of the Amazon rainforests etc are other majorly feared events of climate change.
We, humans, have farsightedness but do not have any defense mechanism against far off dangers. We are hard-wired through evolution to be emotionally invested in immediate events and things but the ability to reason tells us something about climate change that if we invested into this problem as an immediate event and tried to defend it then as an immediate event then ladies and Gentlemen we are going to be screwed!
People often tend to say things like :
“What can I do in this regard if my government is so negligent and while most of the CO2 emissions are by virtue of those rich and powerful fossil fuel companies?”
I would like to tell those friends that this is why our ancestors gave their lives and waged revolutions for a democratic society and democratic form of government, we can’t change the government in an instance and neither we can shut down excessive fossil fuel emissions in a moment that too on our own. What we can do is activism, activism that makes visible pressure on the governments, that makes them do things that we want, not what they want for theirs (maybe) vested interests.
For instance, recently in the Indian state of Maharashtra, activism and activists helped to prevent the chopping down of a forest named AAREY having approximately 3000 trees, for a metro project and saved a whole ecosystem. Section 144 of the Indian Constitution was imposed that prevented them from protesting but they didn’t stop protesting and were eventually detained and arrested for protesting. Then, the Supreme Court of India intervened and put a stay on tree cutting in the forest until further decision or hearing but the government still managed to cut down some trees at 1 am in the morning while the hearing was at 10 am that day. After the court imposed a halt to any further “Tree Slaughter” the forest was deemed safe. After a few months, this incident (potentially)helped in government change. This incident shows us the power of Activism and doing your part for the Earth.
Doing your part to the future of whole humanity takes no cost but it takes will and if all of us somehow gather such will then I assure you this little grain of sand (Earth) is going to remain suspended in the universe as it has been since the dawn until the Sun dies.