According to experts, the current global warming threatens five major natural systems with potentially irreversible upheavals. This emerges from the “Global Tipping Points Report”.
In climate research, tipping points are when small changes trigger a domino effect, the consequences of which may not be reversible. The concept of tipping points and the associated uncertainties are sometimes intensively discussed in the scientific community.
The report was prepared by an international team of more than 200 researchers. The coordination was carried out by the British University of Exeter and the Bezos Earth Fund.
Researchers paint a bleak picture
"Five major tipping systems are already at risk of exceeding their respective tipping points given current global warming," said the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), which was involved in the report. This involves the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets, the subpolar vortex circulation in the North Atlantic, warm water coral reefs and some permafrost areas. “If global warming rises to 1.5 degrees Celsius, three more systems, including boreal forests, mangroves and seagrass meadows, could be at risk of tipping over in the 2030s,” says the PIK.
If multiple tipping points are exceeded, there is also a risk of a catastrophic loss of the ability to grow staple crops, the report's authors warn. “Without urgent action to stop the climatic and ecological catastrophe, societies will be overwhelmed as nature goes out of control,” said a statement from the University of Exeter.
Positive tipping points could “save millions of lives”
Since the previous response from governments worldwide is not sufficient, the researchers present six recommendations to avoid negative tipping points and even initiate positive tipping points.
The six recommendations include stopping emissions from fossil fuels and land use well before the middle of the century. In addition, negative consequences for particularly hard-hit groups and countries should be mitigated. Coordinated efforts are also needed to trigger positive tipping points and increase awareness of tipping points.
The expansion of renewable energies and the switch to electromobility are examples of positive tipping points. “A cascade of positive tipping points would save millions of lives, save billions of people from suffering, prevent trillions of dollars in damage and mark the beginning of the restoration of nature on which we all depend,” said the university statement.