Climate change & doomsday: Irreversible tipping points may mean end of human civilization | WRAL TechWire

What does the term “irreversible tipping point” or “irreversible feedback loop” actually mean?

Here is the simplest possible example. In a previous article we talked about the Thwaites glacier in Antarctica, also known as the “Doomsday Glacier”. The problem with this particular glacier is first that it is utterly gigantic (about the size of Florida), and second that it is in a very precarious position, where it could let go and slide into the ocean with remarkable speed (for a glacier). Recent headlines have painted a dire picture, for example:

‘Doomsday glacier’ hanging on ‘by its fingernails’: scientists

“’Thwaites is really holding on today by its fingernails,’ said Robert Larter, a marine geophysicist who co-authored the study. ‘And we should expect to see big changes over small timescales in the future — even from one year to the next…’ The Thwaites Glacier is roughly the size of Florida and could potentially raise the sea level by nearly 16 feet should it fall into the ocean… According to scientists, the glacier could potentially fall into the sea within three years.”

It is easy to understand why the collapse of the Thwaites glacier is irreversible. If it collapses, it will raise sea levels by many feet, inundating and destroying coastal cities and beaches. Trillions of dollars in damage will occur. Once the damage is done, there is no possible way to undo it: There is no way that humanity will ever be able to put the glacier back and lower sea levels again.

In other words, either humanity MUST save the Thwaites glacier now, or there will be trillions of dollars in irreversible damage that occurs to all of our coastal cities. In addition, there will be millions of climate refugees from these cities who will have to go somewhere. Take Miami as one example city. Miami will disappear when the Thwaites Glacier collapses. This means that 6 million Miami residents will need to move somewhere else.

Source: Climate change & doomsday: Irreversible tipping points may mean end of human civilization | WRAL TechWire