Weather disasters and climate upheavals could be upcoming as certain systems near their tipping points.
If it completely shut down, cities like Boston and New York could be in great danger, as scientists have already noted jut a slow down of the AMOC caused sea levels to rise four inches in New York in 2009 and 2010.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says the likelihood of a complete shutdown of the AMOC by the end of this century is low, but some studies suggest the system is operating at levels some 15-20 percent below normal today.
Should that slow down accelerate rapidly, conditions like the ones in The Day After Tomorrow might not seem so far-fetched after all.
In 2014 the Working Group II of the IPCC pointed out three other natural systems that were showing evidence of moving toward a tipping point, the Arctic, coral reefs and the Amazonian forest. The report said all three of these events could trigger irreversible changes in the climate of their respective areas and have major implications for the human populations.
A recent study by the Worldwide Fund for Nature estimated the coral reefs have declined by as much as 50 percent since 1985, and warns they could disappear entirely by 2050, if the current warming trends in the ocean continue. Corals are sensitive to changes in the temperature and acidity of the water, which are rising due to more carbon dioxide being absorbed into the atmosphere.
Corals are essential for the survival of fishing communities around the world and one estimate says that around 850 million people are dependent on the health of the corals to supply adequate fishing ground for their food security.
The Amazonian forest is endangered due to a drought and major deforestation by loggers, farmers and ranchers. Despite it being rainy all year in the Amazon, there are certain periods of time each year identified as the rainy season and the dry season. One report says the dry season has been extended by a week every ten years since 1980, and if it becomes too long, it will also reach a tipping point.
The IPCC says the collapse of the ecosystem in the Amazon would have “cascading impacts” on the ways of life for many indigenous peoples, and would likely heighten the intensity of climate change, sending other systems around the world near to tipping points.
All of this should be weighing heavily on the upcoming climate change summit to be held in Paris.