What if we left the planet a little more quickly, the experts say?
In that scenario, the climate would continue to warm, and the planet would continue its slow decline, and we would be left to fend for ourselves.
What if that scenario is also true of the Arctic?
It would probably be a lot more dangerous, say the scientists, who estimate that if we did nothing we could potentially cause a sea level rise of around one metre.
“The Arctic is a hot zone, but we haven’t seen any significant warming since 1992, and it’s the hottest year on record, and our sea level is rising faster than anywhere else in the world,” said lead author Paul Tingley from the University of Reading.
The authors also warn that the melting of the Antarctic ice sheet could cause a lot of sea level change.
That’s not a bad thing, since there are enough ice sheets on the continent to keep the ocean level stable for decades.
If we could avoid the melting and just keep warming, we could get back to pre-industrial levels of CO2 emissions, and avoid some of the worst effects of climate change, the scientists said.
But they warned that it would be very difficult to stop all of the warming.
We’d still have a lot to do, they said, with some of these changes already happening, such as rising sea levels in the tropics.
As for the planet as a whole, they wrote: “We’re at a tipping point, where it could take decades to avert the worst of the impacts.”
The study was published in Nature Geoscience, and was funded by the Natural Environment Research Council.