Yet more science warning climate catastrophe looms

Alan S. Miller
3 min readSep 15, 2022

Potentially catastrophic tipping points may be much closer than we thought

Climate Tipping Points. Image Credit: Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES)

Scientific reports describing the dangers of climate change are now so frequent that unless you track the relevant journals carefully it’s easy to miss something really significant. A study published September 9th in the journal Science is easily among the most dramatic and worrisome I’ve read in many months.

The new analysis updates our knowledge of tipping points, abrupt and potentially irreversible changes in the earth’s climate system with grave consequences. Multiple such possibilities have been discussed by scientists for more than two decades and were among concerns responsible for the Paris Agreement aim to limit warming to well below 2 °C (3.6F) and ideally to 1.5 °C. The number and consequence of tipping points is now thought to be much greater than originally thought.

The authors, ten leading climate scientists from the U.S. and Europe, assessed more than 200 previous studies on past tipping points, climate observations and modelling. They reviewed the evidence for 16 distinct tipping points, nine global “core” tipping elements which contribute substantially to Earth system functioning such as the collapse of several enormous ice sheets with the potential to raise sea levels several meters or more. The team of authors also assessed seven regional “impact” tipping points which could threaten human systems with great value.

Their dramatic conclusion is that the trigger for five tipping points, including collapse of the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets, die-off of low-latitude coral reefs, and widespread abrupt permafrost thaw may already have been reached by the current 1.1C warming above pre-industrial levels. Six more become likely within the Paris Agreement aim to limit warming to 1.5 to <2°C. Yet more become likely at the 2 to 3°C of warming expected on the basis of current policy trajectories. And every increment of warming increases the odds of crossing some threshold.

There is also the possibility of cascading effects of yet greater complexity and uncertainty but a source of additional danger. For example, melting from the Greenland ice sheet would release freshwater into the ocean and slow the Atlantic circulation, resulting in further…

Alan S. Miller

Alan S. Miller is co-author of “Cut Super Climate Pollutants Now!”. His full bio and links to writing are available at