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Humans May Have Passed the ‘Point of No Return’ in Climate Crisis, Says Study—But That Doesn’t Mean All Hope Is Lost

Humans May Have Passed the ‘Point of No Return’ in Climate Crisis, Says Study—But That Doesn’t Mean All Hope Is Lost

In order to roll back catastrophic carbon emissions, humans must “start developing the technologies for large-scale removal of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere,” says one of the study’s lead authors.

Melting permafrost in Canada's Northwest Territories, a sign of accelerating global heating. (Photo: Charles Tarnocai/Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada)

Melting permafrost in Canada’s Northwest Territories sends carbon-rich sediment into the Mackenzie Delta. (Photo: Charles Tarnocai/Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada)

Humanity may have passed the “point of no return” in the climate crisis—even if everyone on the planet stopped emitting all greenhouse gases at this very moment, according to a study published Thursday.

The study, published in the peer-reviewed British publication Scientific Journals, alarmingly asserts that “the world is already past a point of no return for global warming” and that the only way to halt the catastrophic damage caused by greenhouse emissions is to extract “enormous amounts of carbon dioxide… from the atmosphere.”

“[The crisis] simply will not stop from cutting manmade greenhouse emissions.”
—Jørgen Randers, study co-author

The crisis “simply will not stop from cutting manmade greenhouse gases,” Jørgen Randers, one of the study’s two lead authors, told Future Human. Humanity, stressed Randers, “should accelerate its effort to cut greenhouse gas emissions… and start developing the technologies for large-scale removal of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.”

What exactly does a “point of no return” mean for Earth and its inhabitants? The researchers describe “a threshold which, once surpassed, fundamentally changes the dynamics of the climate system,” including “by triggering irreversible processes like melting of the permafrost, drying of the rainforests, or acidification of surface waters.”

The researchers used a computer model called ESCIMO to simulate outcomes from various levels of CO2 reductions until the year 2500. They concluded that even an immediate reduction to zero greenhouse emissions would still result in a 3°C rise in global temperatures by 2500.

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