When we hang on to things for too long, change can happen abruptly and even catastrophically. While this will ring true for numerous from individual experience, comparable things can happen at large scales also. Certainly, the history of Earth’s environment and communities is punctuated by frequent massive disruptive occasions.
When the air warmed and the last ice age was pertaining to an end, the continent-size glaciers– or ice sheets– remained around for much longer than the climate would allow. Then parts of them collapsed in spectacular fashion. One such collapse– we still do not know of which ice sheet— caused at least 4 metres of sea-level rise per century and potentially also the following abrupt shift to a much warmer climate, only to be followed by an equally abrupt flip-flop between warm and cold conditions, before the onset of the steady environment we have taken pleasure in until recently.
This extended period of stability seems to have ended currently. Australia’s environment had actually been warming quickly for many decades, and eventually, the minute came when record-breaking severe heat combined with an extremely dry period developed the conditions for a series of mega-fires.
In all, the fires burned more than 20% of temperate broadleaf forests in New South Wales and Victoria, compared to less than 2%in a typical season. Many of the forests might never ever recuperate to their previous state. Other ecosystems might contain comparable tipping points.
Predictive models are the lifeblood of climate science and the structure upon which political actions to the climate and ecological crisis are often based. Their capability to forecast such massive disruptive occasions is badly limited.
For example, the huge scale of the recent Australian bushfires goes beyond what any design used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Environment Modification (IPCC) has ever simulated— for the present or the future. One of us (Wolfgang) has actually published thoroughly on future wildfires, and his work found that fire activity in parts of south-eastern Australia would likely increase considerably by the late 21 st century