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Climate Change Will Be Sudden and Cataclysmic Unless We Act Now

Climate Change Will Be Sudden and Cataclysmic Unless We Act Now

The speed and scale of the response to COVID-19 by governments, businesses and individuals seems to provide hope that we can react to the climate change crisis in a similarly decisive manner - but history tells us that humans do not react to slow-moving and distant threats.

Our evolution has selected the "fight or flight" instinct to deal with environmental change, so rather like the metaphor of the frog in boiling water, we tend to react too little and too late to gradual change.

Climate change is often described as global warming, with the implication of gradual changes caused by a steady increase in temperatures; from heatwaves to melting glaciers.

But we know from multidisciplinary scientific evidence - from geology, anthropology and archaeology - that climate change is not incremental. Even in pre-human times, it is episodic, when it isn't forced by a human-induced acceleration of greenhouse gas emissions and warming.

There are parts of our planet's carbon cycle, the ways that the earth and the biosphere store and release carbon, that could trigger suddenly in response to gradual warming. These are tipping points that once passed could fundamentally disrupt the planet and produce abrupt, non-linear change in the climate.
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