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Study warns of looming potential for runaway global warming

The Hill logo The Hill 8/7/2018 Max Greenwood

Sea ice melts on the Franklin Strait along the Northwest Passage in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, Saturday, July 22, 2017. Because of climate change, more sea ice is being lost each summer than is being replenished in winters. Less sea ice coverage also means that less sunlight will be reflected off the surface of the ocean in a process known as the albedo effect. The oceans will absorb more heat, further fueling global warming. (AP Photo/David Goldman) © Associated Press Sea ice melts on the Franklin Strait along the Northwest Passage in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, Saturday, July 22, 2017. Because of climate change, more sea ice is being lost each summer than is being replenished in winters. Less sea ice coverage also means that less sunlight will be reflected off the surface of the ocean in a process known as the albedo effect. The oceans will absorb more heat, further fueling global warming. (AP Photo/David Goldman) A new study out Monday warns of the possibility of out-of-control global warming if humans fail to band together to fight the worst effects of climate change.

The analysis, conducted by researchers at the Australian National University and the Stockholm Resilience Center, among other institutions, outlines the potential for a "threshold" that, if crossed, would lead to runaway warming patterns and the advent of a "Hothouse Earth."

If such a threshold is crossed, the study warns, global average temperatures could climb as much as 8 degrees Fahrenheit above current temperatures and sea levels could rise 30 to 200 feet.

"Crossing the threshold would lead to a much higher global average temperature than any interglacial in the past 1.2 million years and to sea levels significantly higher than at any time in the Holocene," the study says.

The report is based on a review of past research of thresholds for climate change, according to USA Today.

Even if every country that signed on to the Paris climate agreement meets its obligations under the pact and limits the global temperature increase to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, runaway global warming could still be a threat, the newspaper reports.

The study says that mitigating that risk would require collective global action, including a drastic transformation of "social values" and the pursuit of new technology.

"Such action entails stewardship of the entire Earth System - biosphere, climate, and societies - and could include decarbonization of the global economy, enhancement of biosphere carbon sinks, behavioral changes, technological innovations, new governance arrangements, and transformed social values," the study says.

President Trump withdrew from the Paris agreement last year, arguing that it placed unfair burdens on the U.S. to curb carbon emissions and would ultimately hurt American businesses and industry.

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