Without decisive action, global warming in the 21st century is likely to accelerate at a much faster pace and cause more environmental damage than predicted, according to a leading member of the Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
IPCC scientist Chris Field of Stanford University and the Carnegie Institution for Science points to recent studies showing that, in a business-as-usual world, higher temperatures could ignite tropical forests and melt the Arctic tundra, releasing billions of tons of greenhouse gas that could raise global temperatures even more—a vicious cycle that could spiral out of control by the end of the century.
"There is a real risk that human-caused climate change will accelerate the release of carbon dioxide from forest and tundra ecosystems, which have been storing a lot of carbon for thousands of years," said Field, a professor of biology and of environmental Earth system science at Stanford, and a senior fellow at Stanford's Woods Institute for the Environment. "We don't want to cross a critical threshold where this massive release of carbon starts to run on autopilot."
Field will present his findings Feb. 14, at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in
during a symposium titled, "What Is New and Surprising since the IPCC Fourth Assessment?" Chicago