10 years to transform the future of humanity -- or destabilize the planet

TED Talks Daily


Ten years is a long time for US humans on Earth. Ten turns around the Sun. When I was on the Ted. Stage a decade ago I, talked about planetary boundaries that keep our planet in a state that allowed humanity to prosper. The main point is that once you transgress won the risks, start multiplying the planetary boundaries are all deeply connected but climate alongside bio-diversity, our core boundaries they impact on all others. Back then we really thought we had more time. The warning lights were on absolutely, but no unstoppable change had been triggered. Since mytalk, we have increasing evidence that we are rapidly moving away from the safe operating space for humanity on earth, climate has reached a global crisis point. We have now had ten years of record breaking climate extremes, fires blazing, Australia set area California, and the Amazon floods in China Bangladesh and India. During heatwaves across the entire northern, hemisphere we risk crossing tipping points that shift the planet from being our best resilient friend dampening are impacts to start working against US amplifying the heat. For the first time, we are forced to consider the real risk of destabilizing the entire planet. Our children can see this they are walking out of school to demand action looking with disbelief at our inability to deviate away for potentially catastrophic risks. The next ten years to twenty thirty must see the most profound transformation. The world has ever known. This is our mission. This is the countdown. When my scientific colleagues summarized about a decade ago for the first time, the state of knowledge on climate tipping points just one place had strong evidence that it was on a sears downward spiral. Arctic Sea ice. Other tipping points were long way off fifty four hundred turns around the Sun. Just. Last year, we revisited these systems in I got the shock of my career. We are only a few decades away from an Arctic without since summer in. Permafrost is now thawing at dramatic. Scales Greenland is losing trillions of tons of ice and may be approaching a tipping point. The great force of the North are burning with plumes of smoke, the size of Europe. Atlantic Ocean circulation is slowing the Amazon rainforest is weakening and may start emitting carbon within fifteen years. Half of the Coral Great Guy Wreath has died west Antarctica may have crossed the tipping point already today, and now the most solid of glaciers on earth east Antarctica parts of it are becoming unstable. Nine out of the fifteen big biophysical systems that regulate climate are now on the move showing worrying signs of decline in potentially approaching tipping points. Tipping Points Bring Three threats I sea level rise, we can already expect up to one meter this century. This will endanger the homes of two, hundred million people. But when we add the melting is from Antarctica and greenland into the equation, this might lead to a two meter rise. But it won't stop there. It will keep on getting worse. Second if our carbon stores like permafrost enforced flipped to belching carbon, then this makes the job of stabilizing temperatures so much harder and third these systems are all linked like dominoes. If you cross one tipping point, you lurch closer to others. Let's stop for a moment and look at where we are. The foundation of our civilization is a stable climate and the rich diversity of life everything I mean everything is based on this civilization has thrived and a goldilocks zone not too hot not too cold. This is what we have had for ten thousand years since we left the last ice age. Let's zoom out a little here three million years. Temperatures have never broken through the two degree Celsius limit. Earth has self regulated within a very narrow range of plus two degrees in a warm into glacial minus four degrees. Defy. Sage. Now we are following path that would take us to a three to four degree world. In just three generations, we would be rewinding the climate clock, not one, million, not two million, but five to ten million years we are drifting towards hothouse earth. For. Each one degree rise one billion people will be forced to live in conditions that we today largely consider uninhabitable. This is not a climate emergency. It is a planetary emergency. My fear is not that Earth will fall over a cliff on the first of January twenty thirty. My fear is that we press unstoppable buttons in the Earth System.

Coming up next