02 Aug 2022, 13:28
Benjamin Wehrmann

World's govts must factor in “climate endgame” scenario of catastrophic heating effects – PIK director

Clean Energy Wire

Governments around the world should factor into their planning more catastrophic trajectories of global heating impacts, Johan Rockström, director at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), has said in a comment on a new study published in the U.S. journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that highlights the risk of a so-called “climate endgame.” If temperature rises occur faster and stronger than expected so far, triggering yet unknown tipping points and “cascades” of environmental collapses, the risks to international stability and even human survival could be much more significant than commonly recognised, the authors, who include the PIK director, argue. Researchers and governments still lack vital information about global climatic mechanisms, but a proper cost and risk assessment based on sound data is necessary to make adequate preparations for the scale of change that could ultimately materialise. “If there’s one common thread in science in the past 30 years, it’s that the more we learn about how our planet works, the more reason for concern arises,” Rockström said. Tipping points in the climate system did not only edge closer due to carbon dioxide emissions but also because Earth is more vulnerable than previously thought. “Our planet is more fragile and a more sophisticated organism with feedbacks and interactions that quite abruptly can shift its functions from dampening and cooling, to amplifying and warming,” the scientist warned. The dying of the Amazon rainforest or the melting of Greenland’s ice shield were but two examples of how chilling carbon sinks could turn into sources of further warming. “We must not be complacent with merely looking at average forecast values but have to factor in external and non-linear risks,” Rockström said. Getting the maths right on climate could provide the key for coming up with the right answer, he added.

Temperature records across Europe had been broken in July 2022, when unprecedented heat waves and severe droughts also brought more forest fires and other climate-related damages to the continent than during the historical reference period. Government figures and other officials in Germany have already suggested Germany ought to better prepare for the impacts of climate change, including calls for not resettling areas already destroyed by catastrophic floods one year ago as these could become permanently prone to suffer from climate-related risks.

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