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What is a Climate Tipping Point?

What is a Climate Tipping Point?

Sustainability Quiz 35: Tipping points in climate change are something we all need to worry about 

Scientists give less and less leeway as they believe we are close to - and have probably passed - a number of dangerous climate change tipping points.  

Climate scientists talk a lot about Climate Tipping Points. What is a Climate Tipping Point?
     When ice falls off a berg 
     The little ledge on a slippery slide
     A small change sparks a rapid change
     When a trend goes mainstream

What is the big deal with tipping points?

Climate tipping points are conditions beyond which changes in a part of the climate system become self-perpetuating. These changes may lead to abrupt, irreversible, and dangerous impacts with serious implications for humanity. In the case of our planet, incremental increases in temperature sparks polar ice melts that cause surging sea levels and fast-spiking temperatures as methane escapes thawing permafrost. 

The problem with tipping points

A recent piece of research by several scientists, published in Science, put forward the very troubling case that even exceeding 1.0 , which we have already passed, puts us in a position where will trigger some tipping points. Exceeding 1.5°C global warming could trigger multiple climate tipping points.

Abstract from Science

This work speaks for itself, so we have elected to republish the Abstract so as to be very clear.

Climate tipping points occur when change in a part of the climate system becomes self-perpetuating beyond a warming threshold, leading to substantial Earth system impacts.

Synthesizing paleoclimate, observational, and model-based studies, we provide a revised shortlist of global “core” tipping elements and regional “impact” tipping elements and their temperature thresholds.

Current global warming of ~1.1°C above preindustrial temperatures already lies within the lower end of some tipping point uncertainty ranges.

Several tipping points may be triggered in the Paris Agreement range of 1.5 to <2°C global warming, with many more likely at the 2 to 3°C of warming expected on current policy trajectories. This strengthens the evidence base for urgent action to mitigate climate change and to develop improved tipping point risk assessment, early warning capability, and adaptation strategies.

What can you do?

Firstly, don't let anyone tell you that one person is powerless to change anything that will have any real impact. It is the collective actions of all of us that got us here and it is only collective action that will get us out. So, do something. What you do depends on how you live, how much power you have over others and frankly, how much you care.

We are spoilt for choice with personal decisions, which makes it very easy to start anywhere. Use less plastic, waste less food, buy organic, don't buy things you don't need. Get solar, use renewable energy, recycle, reuse. There are zillions of tips and hints across the internet - and right here on - even for the laziest person. The UN also publishes excellent tips - lazy person's guide to saving the world

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