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919. Global Tipping Point

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919. Global Tipping Point


The prevailing view in the climate change debate is that the Earth is steadily approaching a critical tipping point-a phenomenon where cumulative factors, such as greenhouse gas emissions, lead to profound and irreversible changes. This critical juncture, often referred to as a tipping point, represents a threshold beyond which even minor perturbations can trigger a qualitative shift in the state of the system.

Researchers identify tipping elements as significant subsystems of the Earth system that are on the verge of crossing this critical point. Anthropogenic activities, particularly global warming, are significantly affecting these tipping elements, including the melting of the Greenland ice sheet, the thawing of permafrost, the melting of the Antarctic ice sheet, and deforestation in the Amazon.

The Global Tipping Points report, authored by eminent researchers, underscores the possibility of accelerated progression across multiple tipping points due to global warming. The report emphasizes the interconnected nature of systemic perturbations and raises concerns about a potential cascade of irreversible changes in our globally interconnected society that could exceed the adaptive capacity of some nations and threaten societal stability. For example, a disruption in the North-South Atlantic thermohaline cycle, coupled with global warming, could lead to catastrophic losses in global wheat and corn production areas.

To avert a crisis resulting from a domino effect of negative tipping points, there is an urgent need for a fundamental transformation of social and economic systems to accelerate greenhouse gas emission reductions and promote natural recovery. This transformation requires the stimulation of positive tipping points where autonomous societal improvements can occur. Throughout history, rapid technological and social changes, such as the rise of renewable energy and environmental justice, serve as positive examples.

However, there is a looming risk of negative tipping points being triggered due to the time lag before appropriate governance actions are realized. The existence of a tipping point implies that continuing with business as usual is insufficient and that more radical societal changes may be inevitable. Without a rethinking of governance paradigms, the consequences of nature's failure could overwhelm our society.

To mitigate the impact of disasters with widespread and uneven social consequences, it is imperative to build resilient societies capable of fostering sustainable and equitable prosperity - a proactive approach aimed at triggering positive tipping points.


T. M. Lenton, D.I. Armstrong McKay, S. Loriani, J.F. Abrams, S.J. Lade, J.F. Donges, M. Milkoreit, T. Powell, S.R. Smith, C. Zimm, J.E. Buxton, E. Bailey, L. Laybourn, A. Ghadiali, J.G. Dyke (eds), 2023, The Global Tipping Points Report 2023. University of Exeter, Exeter, UK. https://global-tipping-points.org/ 

Contributor: IIYAMA Miyuki (Information Program)


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