‘Catastrophic’ Climate Shift Merely ‘Decades’ Away: Scientists Fear

Scientists have made some frightening projections, warning that a potentially catastrophic climate shift could be only decades away and not centuries as commonly imagined. According to experts, the likely consequences would include previously unprecedented storms of cataclysmic proportions, vanishing Arctic and Antarctic ice sheets, and a stunning acceleration of sea level rise that could eliminate the world’s coastal cities in just a matter of decades.

According to former NASA climate scientist Dr James Hansen, limiting global warming to universally agreed tolerable levels could, in fact, have grave repercussions for future generations.

“We’re in danger of handing young people a situation that’s out of their control. That would mean loss of all coastal cities, most of the world’s large cities and all their history. Have we passed a point of no return? I doubt it, but it’s conceivable. But if we wait until the real world reveals itself clearly, it may be too late to avoid sea-level rise of several meters and loss of all coastal cities.”

Image: Shutterstock

The notion of an inevitable shut-down in ocean circulation as a consequence of global warming has gained credence for many years. However, while climate experts had appreciated that the weakening in ocean currents may be imminent, some nonetheless have contested whether such an outcome was highly likely anytime soon or could involve centuries. New research headed by Dr. Hansen argues that the dreaded shut-down could ensue far more rapidly, precipitating a sea level surge that could prompt coastal populations to rush farther inland quite possibly over the next five or so decades.

In 2009, the world’s nations agreed to strive towards containing global warming to 2-degree C, above the pre-industrial level. Some two years ago, the planet’s leading climate scientists had concluded that more than half of the global allowance for carbon emission had been used up. They warned that with continued emission of greenhouse gases at a preposterously high rate, the accumulation of carbon in the atmosphere could hasten a rise in global sea levels in as little as two to three decades.

Most climate scientists agree that humanity is not striving hard enough to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. An agreement reached late last year in Paris had sought to drastically curb emissions, but these do not fall anywhere near the kind of cuts envisaged by Dr. Hansen’s paper. Dr. Hansen and his team released the findings in a paper on Tuesday sharing their perturbing conclusions.

“Given the inertia of the climate and energy systems, and the grave threat posed by continued high emissions, the matter is urgent and calls for emergency cooperation among nations,”

Image: Shutterstock

However, some experts have questioned the legitimacy of Dr. Hansen’s projections for sea level rise.

According to Michael E. Mann, a climate scientist at Pennsylvania State University, the predictions were not entirely convincing.

“Some of the claims in this paper are indeed extraordinary, they conflict with the mainstream understanding of climate change to the point where the standard of proof is quite high, namely the projected amounts of melt water seem large, and the ocean component of their model doesn’t resolve key wind-driven current systems (e.g. the Gulf Stream) which help transport heat poleward”

Dr. Hansen and his team have predicted an onset of massive “super-storms” in the Atlantic that could elevate global seas to more cataclysmic levels than ever imagined, despite the two-degree Celsius rise in global temperatures.

Dr. James Hansen is best known for his works in the field of climatology, his Congressional testimony on climate change, and his Earth advocacy. His most recent paper has offered some frightening insights into the inevitable perils of climate change and the effects and consequences of planetary warming.

[Image via Shutterstock]