Hothouse Earth? Scientists believe the planet could soon have a threshold, which lead to warmer temperatures and the sea is rising

By drought to be seen in Cape Town, South Africa.


Scientists believe we could soon cross a climate threshold leading to extreme heat and catastrophic sea-level rise in the coming decades and centuries to come.

A study by a team of international climate research concludes that the planet can be led to “Greenhouse” the Earth’s conditions— with the global temperature by four or five degrees celsius higher than pre-industrial levels, and sea level 30 to 190 metres higher.

Although these terms sound extreme or something out of a science-fiction movie, the researchers write that as soon as the temperature rises, hit a certain tipping point (in this case, a global rise of 2 degrees Celsius), a destructive “feedback” would be created, so you can drive temps even more.


Each year, the Earth, the forests, the oceans and the land enjoy of about 4.5 billion tons of carbon that would otherwise end up in the atmosphere adding to the temperature increases.

However, if the Earth gets warmer, this so-called ‘ carbon sinks could end up spewing more carbon into the atmosphere.

The barren land of Death Valley, California, is shown above.


“These tipping elements could act as a row of dominoes. Once one is pushed, pushes the Earth to the other. It may be very difficult or impossible to stop with the whole row of dominoes from tumbling over. Places on Earth will become uninhabitable as a ‘Hothouse Earth’ is the reality”, co-author Johan Rockström, former director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre, said in a statement.

The possible feedbacks are permafrost thaw, a loss of methane hydrates from the seabed, dieback of the Amazon rainforest and a loss of sea ice in the Arctic summer.

“We are the ones in control, but when we go past 2 degrees, we see that the Earth system tips about a friend of an enemy. We completely hand over our fate to a system that begins rolling out of balance,” he added.


In spite of the serious warnings, and not all scientists agree that the conditions would be this bad. The authors of the study note that a reorientation of human values, behavior, and technology in the direction of as stewards of the planet can still preserve a livable climate for future generations. They are of the opinion that a transition to an emission-free world should go quickly.

“Climate and other changes in the world show us that we are people of influence on the Earth system on a global level,” co-author, Katherine Richardson, from the Centre for Macroecology, Evolution and Climate at the University of Copenhagen, said in a statement. “This means that we as a global community can also manage our relationship with the system to influence future planetary conditions. This study identifies a number of levers that can be used to do this.”

Christopher Carbone is a reporter and news editor covering science and technology for He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @christocarbone.

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