The Arctic is already suffering the effects of a dangerous climate change

January 30, 2012, CSIC, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas

Two decades after the United Nations established the Framework Convention on Climate Change in order to "prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system", the Arctic shows the first signs of a dangerous climate change. A team of researchers led by CSIC assures so in an article published in the latest issue of the Nature Climate Change magazine.

These researchers assert that the is already suffering some of the effects that, according to The (IPCC), correspond with a "dangerous ". Currently, the rate of climatic warming exceeds the rate of natural adaptation in . Furthermore, the Eskimo population is witnessing how their security, health and traditional cultural activities jeopardize.

The experts demand an effort in order to develop indicators that warn about these changes in good time, soften its causes, and re-enact the adaptation and recovery capacity of ecosystems and populations.

Carlos Duarte, CSIC researcher and author of the article, states: "We are facing the first clear evidence of a dangerous climate change. However, some of the researchers and some of the Media are plunged into a semantic debate about whether the Arctic Sea-Ice has reached a tipping point or not. This all is distracting the attention on the need to develop indicators that warn about the proximity of abrupt changes in the future, as well as on the policymaking to prevent them".

Two decades after the United Nations established the Framework Convention on Climate Change in order to “prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system,” the Arctic shows the first signs of a dangerous climate change. A team of researchers led by CSIC assures so in an article published on the latest number of the Nature Climate Change magazine. Credit: CSIC Communications Department

Tipping points are defined as critical points within a system, of which future condition may be qualitatively affected by small perturbations. On the other hand, tipping elements are defined as those components of the Earth system that may show tipping signs. According to the experts, the Arctic shows the largest concentration of potential tipping elements in Earth's Climate System: Arctic Sea-Ice; Greenland Ice-Sheet; North Atlantic deep water formation regions; boreal forests; plankton communities; ; and marine methane hydrates among others.

Duarte maintains: "Due to all of this, the Arctic region is particularly prone to show abrupt changes and transfer them to the Global Earth System. It is necessary to find rapid alarm signs, which warn us about the proximity of tipping points, for the development and deployment of adaptive strategies. This all would help to adopt more preventive policies".

Effects on the Global Climate System

In another article, published in the latest number of 'AMBIO', Duarte and other CSIC researchers detail the tipping elements present in the Arctic. They also provide evidence to prove that many of these tipping elements have already entered into a dynamic of change that may become abrupt in most of the cases. According to the study, it is possible to observe numerous tipping elements that would impact on the Global if they were perturbed.

CSIC scientist explains: "In this work, we provide evidence showing that many of these tipping elements have already started up. We also identify which are the climate change thresholds that may accelerate the global climate change. The very human reaction to climate change in the Arctic (dominated by the increase of activities such as transportation, shipping, and resource exploitation) may contribute to accelerate the changes already happening".

Scientists believe that nearly 40% of anthropogenic methane emissions could be lessen to a zero cost or even produce a net economic benefit. The experts assert: "In the large term, cutting the accumulative carbon dioxide emissions is essential to downshift the tipping elements such as the Greenland Ice-Sheet".

Explore further: Climate change disasters could be predicted

Related Stories

Climate change disasters could be predicted

June 19, 2011

Climate change disasters, such as the melting of the Greenland ice sheet, dieback of the Amazon rainforest or collapse of the Atlantic overturning circulation, could be predicted according to University of Exeter research.

Tipping elements remain a 'hot' issue

August 24, 2009

( -- Research published by climate scientists at the University of East Anglia (UEA) has been named one of the most highly-cited in its field in the last two years.

Arctic sea ice may be at 'tipping point'

September 16, 2005

Arctic ice melting may have accelerated to a "tipping point" that will produce a vicious cycle of melting and heating, U.S. scientists say.

A global responsibility to help vulnerable communities adapt

May 28, 2009

For one international community - the 165,000 strong Inuit community dispersed across the Arctic coastline in small, remote coastal settlements in Alaska, Canada, Greenland and Siberia - it is already too late to prevent ...

Scientists warn on climate tipping points

March 17, 2009

( -- A survey of top climate scientists has revealed there is a real chance of key climate tipping points being passed with serious consequences for the planet.

Arctic heats up more than other places

January 16, 2009

Temperature change in the Arctic is happening at a greater rate than other places in the Northern Hemisphere, and this is expected to continue in the future.

Recommended for you

Archaeologists discover Incan tomb in Peru

February 16, 2019

Peruvian archaeologists discovered an Incan tomb in the north of the country where an elite member of the pre-Columbian empire was buried, one of the investigators announced Friday.

Where is the universe hiding its missing mass?

February 15, 2019

Astronomers have spent decades looking for something that sounds like it would be hard to miss: about a third of the "normal" matter in the Universe. New results from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory may have helped them ...

What rising seas mean for local economies

February 15, 2019

Impacts from climate change are not always easy to see. But for many local businesses in coastal communities across the United States, the evidence is right outside their doors—or in their parking lots.

The friendly extortioner takes it all

February 15, 2019

Cooperating with other people makes many things easier. However, competition is also a characteristic aspect of our society. In their struggle for contracts and positions, people have to be more successful than their competitors ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

2.2 / 5 (13) Jan 30, 2012
Uh Oh, the sky is falling - send money!
2 / 5 (6) Jan 30, 2012
I doubt that any intervention on a scale necessary to abate the process of climate change will ever occur. The Convention becomes a complex exercise in observing the inevitable. That particlar process could lead to prediction, but it evidently doesn't, based on the results of those observatons.
3 / 5 (6) Jan 30, 2012
Dangerous is a VERY descriptive word for CO2 above 350ppm in the earth atmosphere. That is a bottom line fact. No support needed on that statement. Big and rapid climate change is about to hit in the next 20 years that is preventable by an organized international effort to re-educated deniers like you.
2 / 5 (4) Jan 31, 2012
The Arctic is already suffering the effects of a dangerous climate change
Canada's growing polar bear population 'becoming a problem,' locals say http://thepolitic...d970b-pi
3.7 / 5 (3) Jan 31, 2012
The United Nations framework on climate change had a lot to say about them "tippin points" as well as every other "liberal" issue the toad deniers want to talk about. Out of the conference, the message I got, beware the tipping points, like methane, polar ice melting... etc.

A lot of change is about to happen from AGW.
1.6 / 5 (7) Feb 09, 2012
Adding descriptive words such as "dangerous" to CC are actually quite dangerous, because there so myriad unknowns...

Not at all, "dangerous" is an apt adjective, Eg increased CO2 shifts the chemical equilibrium in some plants such as Cassava and Clover to attend more to protection than protein/carbohydrate and generates more cyanogens. People that eat Cassava in Africa are more affected by HCN causing paralysis (and death) over long periods unless the method of cooking is changed.
Clover has a very similar issue and that crop is food for many grazing animals with troubling consequences for large scale food production.
Additional CO2 doesnt just provide more food for plants as there are chemical interactions when one changes the recipe...

HCN and acidification of the oceans are plainly dangerous when it comes to continuity of food production and at a price most can afford.

There doesnt seem to be much positive about higher CO2 and increased temperatures so far...

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.