US National Research Council wants abrupt climate change warning system

John Timmer, writing for Ars Technica:

Overall, the report comes to a conclusion that’s pretty difficult to argue with: it would be nice to know when these sorts of tipping points are approaching, rather than scrambling to adjust to them once they’ve already tipped. This is especially true because a number of them will affect human infrastructure. We’ve built many roads and pipelines (ironically, many of these were built to handle fossil fuels) on top of permafrost, which we’re now realizing isn’t going to stay frosted if our carbon emissions continue. We’ve also built lots of port facilities (again, including many that handle fossil fuels) that would be at risk for sea level rise.

In fact, the stakes are so high that the report recommends setting up a formal early warning system for these sorts of tipping points. This would involve a group that identifies systems where abrupt climate change is a risk and directs research into the factors that control the behavior of these systems, as well as how their behavior changes as it approaches a tipping point. The group would also identify the human infrastructure and ecosystems that would be most vulnerable to sudden changes.

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