The effects of climate change
It is not scientifically possible to assign individual weather events to the current climate change, however, it can be statistically proven that global warming will increase the probability of extreme weather events. The AR6 synthesis report from 2023 states that “Widespread and rapid changes in the atmosphere, ocean, cryosphere and biosphere have occurred”.
Many changes - especially changes in the ocean, ice sheets and global sea level - due to past and future greenhouse gas emissions over centuries to millennia, are irreversible.
As the global climate is a highly interconnected system that is influenced by many different factors, the consequences usually result in positive or negative feedback effects. This refers to developments that are self-enhancing due to the occurrence of certain conditions. These tipping points are the crossing of thresholds for which certain consequences can no longer be avoided, even if temperatures were to be lowered again later.
A common example is the ice-albedo feedback, which refers to the melting of the polar caps. According to this, extensive ice surfaces have a cooling effect on the global climate, as a high proportion of radiation is reflected. As a result of the global rise in the average temperature, however, these ice surfaces begin to melt, the ice surfaces shrink and the amount of reflected radiation is reduced. At the same time, the area of land or ocean that has a significantly lower albedo will increase, reflecting less radiation and thus intensifying the actual cause of glacier melt.
Scientists can calculate the tipping points of individual subsystems of the global climate. The higher the global rise in temperature, the more the climate system is affected, so that at a certain point, despite significant efforts, a reversal in the process is no longer possible. Where exactly these tipping points can be found is difficult to predict. Such tipping points are expected for the melting of the polar caps and for the stability of important ocean currents. Other possible tipping points are the disappearance of the Amazon rainforest, the thawing of the permafrost with the release of methane and carbon dioxide, or the acidification of the oceans and the decrease in the absorption capacity for carbon dioxide.
According to the 2021 IPCC report, profound and long-term changes such as melting ice caps, rising temperatures and sea levels or ocean acidification have already been irreversibly set in motion.
You can find further exciting information on the subject of climate change and climate protection in our climate booklet