(CN) – The climate as we know it could drastically change should Earth’s average temperature and the temperatures of the polar regions rise by just 3.6 degrees – a threshold the planet may already be poised to cross within 15 years, according to a study published Wednesday in Science Advances.
Researchers did a deep analysis into the kinds of changes Earth would face should average temperatures only slightly increase and found that some of the greatest challenges stem from warming near Earth’s polar regions. Researchers found that as the Arctic temperatures increase, significant environmental problems such as ice land-loss and rising sea levels are compounded.
With Earth’s temperatures on the rise and 2019 on track to be the hottest year on record, researchers say these problems will become more pronounced as temperatures inch toward the 3.6 degree Fahrenheit increase many climate scientists believe is the point of no return.
Data show Earth may reach that threshold as soon as 40 years from now – and Arctic temperatures may reach the mark within about 15 years.
Eric Post, a University of California, Davis, professor of climate change ecology and lead author of the study, says this research further suggests Earth is on the brink of climate changes on a massive scale.
“Many of the changes over the past decade are so dramatic they make you wonder what the next decade of warming will bring. If we haven’t already entered a new Arctic, we are certainly on the threshold,” Post said with the release of the study.
Researchers say the consequences of rising polar temperatures will not be a problem unique to those regions. The study reports that as a temperatures rise in the Arctic, the repercussions will be experienced across the world.
“Environmental consequences of continued Arctic warming are unlikely to be limited to the northern high latitudes. The past decade has witnessed an increase in the occurrence of unusually hot summers in Europe and the most extreme heat wave on record: the 2010 Russian heat wave in which 55,000 heat-related deaths were estimated,” according to the study.
Scientists also say warming polar temperatures likely contributed to the historic 2011-2017 California drought. Data show that as polar temperatures rise, winter storms north of California get manipulated to the point that they produce less snow and rainfall. This, in turn, only exacerbates drier climates and can lead to longer, more severe drought conditions.
Michael Mann, professor of atmospheric sciences at Penn State and co-author of the study, says these problems occurring around the world further illustrate that rising temperatures in the Arctic can shape climate crises on a global scale.
“What happens in the Arctic doesn’t stay in the Arctic. The dramatic warming and melting of Arctic ice is impacting the jet stream in a way that gives us more persistent and damaging weather extremes,” Mann said with the release of the study.
The study concludes by stressing the importance of reducing carbon emissions in response to this problem. Researchers say that by cutting back on the greenhouse gases released into our atmosphere we can significantly slow the rate at which temperatures rise, and as a result, weaken the severity of temperature shifts-related issues.
However, studies released this week found global carbon emissions hit a new record in 2019, driven in large part to a surge in the use of oil and natural gas.
The study also implores international cooperation to stem rising temperatures. Researchers say it is unreasonable to suggest that any one nation, regardless of its size or intentions, can singlehandedly reverse the global consequences of climate change. Rather, it must be a global effort working toward meaningful and common climate goals to make the most progress and be best equipped to tackle the issue moving forward.