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Climate Tipping Points May Be Triggered Even If Warming Peaks at 1.5C

Ice-sheet collapse, abrupt permafrost thaw and the loss of coral reefs are possible even if the world meets Paris Agreement targets, scientists warn. 

Permafrost, seen at the top of the cliff, melts into the Kolyma River outside of Zyryanka, Russia on July 4, 2019. 

Permafrost, seen at the top of the cliff, melts into the Kolyma River outside of Zyryanka, Russia on July 4, 2019. 

Photographer: Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post via Getty Images

The drought- and flood-stricken summer of 2022 has shown the impact of 1.1° Celsius of global warming — the amount that’s already occurred since pre-industrial times. Now a major scientific reassessment finds that several critical planetary systems are at risk of breaking beyond repair even if nations restrain warming to 1.5°C, the lower threshold stipulated by the Paris Agreement. 

At that level of warming, coral reefs may die off, ice sheets in Greenland and the West Antarctic may melt and permafrost may abruptly thaw, according to a new paper in the journal Science