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Another potential climate tipping point?

Forests’ role as massive carbon sinks is “at risk of being lost entirely“, top forestry scientists have warned.

The International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO) says forests are under increasing degrees of stress as a result of climate change.

Forests could release vast amounts of carbon if temperatures rise 2.5C (4.5F) above pre-industrial levels, it adds…

[The report, Adaption of Forests and People to Climate Change – A Global Assessment was] compiled by 35 leading forestry scientists, the report provides what is described as the first global assessment of the ability of forests to adapt to climate change.

“We normally think of forests as putting the brakes on global warming,” observed Professor Risto Seppala from the Finnish Forest Research Institute, who chaired the report’s expert panel.

“But over the next few decades, damage induced by climate change could cause forests to release huge quantities of carbon and create a situation in which they do more to accelerate warming than to slow it down.”

The bottom line is that if greenhouse gas emissions aren’t brought down soon, forests may be transformed from carbon sinks into sources, thus accelerating the warming trend and making it far more difficult for GHG reduction polices to be effective. In other words if forests start releasing GHGs we will gave to make even deeper cuts to our emissions if we hope to stop global warming.

This is one of those thing that we should all be worried about.

2 Responses to Another potential climate tipping point?

  1. There is no evidence that we are willing to make the necessary cuts required now — let alone if forest become carbon sources in the (near) future.

    Nobody is willing to admit that 2C is already a given — and what this means to all life on Earth. Basically, this guarantees a 50% die-off of all biodiversity, and it further guarantees a 3C rise, which in turn guarantees a 4C rise (feedback loops are now irreversible) and so on, until the planet has stabilized at it’s new mean temperature (which is will be inhabitable for almost all life on Earth).

    There is zero evidence that we will stop our dumping of carbon “in time”. This is now become a laughable but tragic point oft used to imply that we can change outcomes. There is no basis of this claim in fact, just make-believe fiction and wishful thinking.

    Now, mix this in with forests as carbon sources, or add it to the methane release we are about to trigger in the permafrost and you’ve got zero hope to stop catastrophic (extinction levels) carbon / methane release into the atmosphere.

    And guess what? This will occur far sooner then the current crop of scientific predictions (which are chronically slow on their estimates). By 2050, the Earth will see anywhere from 2C to 5C of GMST shifts, and that means, a minimum of 50% of global species extinction. Homo sapiens won’t be far behind, give them at most, 50 more years. If we make it to 2100, I’d be VERY surprised.

    Let me put this another way. All of the so-called “tipping points” are arbitrary measurements that assume the GMST will can be stabilized BEFORE catastrophic climate changes take affect. The problem with tipping points is they fail to account for the fact that we have already dangerously increased GMST.

    They also fail to remind us that we are on a linear curve upwards and have been for 100 years. This curve isn’t something that we can just arbitrarily “stop” by releasing X amount of carbon, because we are dealing with “climate inertia”, an unstoppable but global effect of past emissions and carbon releases from a variety of sources.

    This is why 2C is a given and the accelerating trend of species extinction and biodiversity loss is already “fact” which we will soon experience.

    2C means 3C follows, as inertia continues, increased temperature means less carbon sinks and more carbon sources and so on. 3C means 4C and on and on until the planet then stabilizes with a new GMST. We already know this has in fact happened before and can most certainly happen again.

    Therefore, all this talk about “cuts” is quite frankly, ludicrous. It won’t happen because we’re still “debating” and too enamored with our lifestyles, and even if we did somehow manage to do so, it would not change the outcome, it’s already too late.

  2. Nobody is willing to admit that 2C is already a given

    2C of warming is not a given. Yes there is some unavoidable warming in the pipeline but even if you include all of that we can still avoid 2C of warming. Obviously that means large cuts to GHG emissions, but that is still a possibility.

    This will occur far sooner then the current crop of scientific predictions

    If you are referring to the IPCC predictions then you might be right, if you are referring to the recent scientific papers on the issue then I don’t see how you can back up such a claim. Furthermore your estimates of 2C-5C of warming by 2050 are also unsubstantiated. The high end business as usual estimates are 5C-7C by 2100, with the majority of the warming occurring after 2050.

    Secondly while massive biodiversity loss is a likely possibility of warming I highly doubt that it will result in the end of mankind. Will it result is a massive reduction in ecological services, and millions (billions?) deaths? Yes. Will it wipe us off the planet? No.

    I appreciate your enthusiasm, but you need to be very careful not to oversell the science.

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