The AtlanticThe Atlantic

Climate collapse could happen fast

By Lois Parshley

20 Jul 2023 · 4 min read

informed Summary

  1. Climate change impacts are accelerating faster than expected, with scientists warning that we may be approaching so-called tipping points, where incremental changes could push Earth's systems into abrupt or irreversible change. If these thresholds are passed, some effects of global warming, such as the thaw of permafrost or the loss of coral reefs, are likely to happen more quickly than anticipated.

Ever since some of the earliest projections of climate change were made back in the 1970s, they have been remarkably accurate at predicting the rate at which global temperatures would rise. For decades, climate change has proceeded at roughly the expected pace, says David Armstrong McKay, a climate scientist at the University of Exeter, in England. Its impacts, however, are accelerating—sometimes far faster than expected.

For a while, the consequences weren’t easily seen. They certainly are today. The Southwest is sweltering under a heat dome. Vermont saw a deluge of rain, its second 100-year storm in roughly a decade. Early July brought the hottest day globally since records began—a milestone surpassed again the following day. “For a long time, we were within the range of normal. And now we’re really not,” Allegra LeGrande, a physical-research scientist at Columbia University, told me. “And it has happened fast enough that people have a memory of it happening.”

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