Carbon dioxide ‘could destroy clouds’ and turn our planet into a ‘Hothouse Earth’

Rob Waugh
Cloudscape with stratocumulus clouds (Getty)

A new study has highlighted a dangerous threshold which could turn our planet into a sweltering ‘Hothouse Earth’ by destroying clouds which reflect sunlight into space.

If the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere triples, clouds over the seas will break up and vanish, potentially leading to a disastrous sea level rise.

It’s a side-effect of pollution which had never been predicted before – and which could unleash devastating effects.

The clouds cover about 20% of subtropical oceans and play an important role in reflecting sunlight back into space.

Tapio Schneider, a scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, said, ‘Our results show that there are dangerous climate change thresholds of which we were unaware.

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‘When they disappear, Earth warms dramatically, by about eight degrees Celsius in addition to the global warming that comes from enhanced greenhouse concentrations alone,’ the researchers write.

Last year a UN report suggested that the world had only a few years to curb climate change, or face blistering heat waves, rising seas and a ‘shocking rise in hunger’.

To contain warming at 1.5C, manmade global net carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions would need to fall by about 45% by 2030, the report warned.

Otherwise, the world will face rising seas, deadly heat waves, floods and shrinking ice caps – and it may not be possible to get climate change under control

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report shows unprecedented changes were needed across society to limit global warming to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.

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