'In a summer marked by global heatwaves, wildfires and drought, scientists have warned that things could get considerably worse under a future scenario dubbed “hothouse Earth”.
Even if greenhouse gas emissions are reduced, there is a chance human-induced global warming could trigger other processes which will lead to uncontrollable warming, the team at the Stockholm Resilience Centre said.
As Amazon rainforest is destroyed, Arctic permafrost thaws and Antarctic sea ice melts, these natural feedback mechanisms that currently help store Earth’s carbon will instead begin emitting it, scientists at the Swedish institute warned.
While it is unclear how likely this scenario is, experts agree that were it to happen the runaway warming after this tipping point would be an existential threat to humanity.
“These tipping elements can potentially act like a row of dominoes,” said Professor Johan Rockstrom, Executive Director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre. “Once one is pushed over, it pushes Earth towards another. It may be very difficult or impossible to stop the whole row of dominoes from tumbling over.”'
Read more: Earth at risk of entering ‘hothouse’ state from which there is no return, scientists warn
Remember the heatwave summer of 1976?
'Heathrow had 16 consecutive days over 30 °C (86 °F) from 23 June to 8 July and for 15 consecutive days from 23 June to 7 July temperatures reached 32.2 °C (90 °F) somewhere in England. Furthermore, five days saw temperatures exceed 35 °C (95 °F). On 28 June, temperatures reached 35.6 °C (96.1 °F) in Southampton, the highest June temperature recorded in the UK. The hottest day of all was 3 July, with temperatures reaching 35.9 °C (96.6 °F) in Cheltenham.
The great drought was due to a very long dry period. The summer and autumn of 1975 were very dry, and the winter of 1975–76 was exceptionally dry, as was the spring of 1976; indeed, some months during this period had no rain at all in some areas.
The drought was at its most severe in August 1976 and in response the government passed the Drought Act 1976. Parts of the south west went 45 days without any rain in July and August. As the hot and dry weather continued, devastating heath and forest fires broke out in parts of Southern England. 50,000 trees were destroyed at Hurn Forest in Dorset. Crops were badly hit, with £500 million worth of crops failing. Food prices subsequently increased by 12%.'