How Social Tipping Points Could Limit Global Warming

How Social Tipping Points Could Limit Global Warming Shutterstock

Achieving the Paris Climate Agreement goal of keeping global warming to 1.5°C requires a worldwide transformation to carbon-neutral societies within the next 30 years. The task ahead is immense. It requires dramatic technological progress, policy implementations and wide scale changes in society.

To explore how to bring about such changes, we asked this question: is it possible to unleash tipping points within societies, which unlock positive and rapid climate action in line with keeping warming to 1.5°C?

To answer it we conducted a survey of 133 international experts in the field of sustainability research and practice. Those experts suggested potential societal transformations that could lead to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions fast enough to avoid crossing dangerous tipping points in the Earth’s climate system.

The survey, an extensive literature review, and a workshop involving 17 selected experts formed the basis of our recently published research paper. We found that social tipping interventions have the potential to collectively pave the way for rapid transformative change, making the seemingly impossible possible – a decarbonising global society.

Positive social tipping points

Fossil fuel use and emissions are at record highs because business-as-usual and conventional policy processes have proven inadequate to slow climate change. Achieving a rapid global decarbonisation to stabilise the climate depends on activating processes of social and technological change within the next few years.

In our paper, we identified a number of potential tipping points that could trigger such changes. These ranged from technologies to behaviours, social norms and the way society is run and governed.

Some examples include a shift in moral norms that leads to the removal of the fossil fuel industry’s social licence to operate. Another is reaching an economic shift where renewables out compete and displace fossil fuels. These two tipping points could in turn lead to a withdrawal of capital from the fossil fuel industry.

Our research proposes concrete interventions which could potentially trigger such tipping points. These include:

The different interventions wouldn’t work in isolation. Rather, they could potentially reinforce and magnify each other, leading to a rapid decarbonisation of societies to avert some of the worst impacts of climate change.

How Social Tipping Points Could Limit Global Warming Social tipping elements (STEs) and associated social tipping interventions (STIs) Otto et al. (2020)

On the verge of tipping?

There are early signs that some of these social tipping points are close to being reached. For example, renewable energy prices are now lower than fossil fuel prices in most world markets. If this trend was coupled with the removal of distorting fossil fuel subsidies, it could see a rapid uptake of renewable energy.

Another example is the emergence of a younger, more climate aware generation which is becoming increasingly politically active. This has led to emergence of the youth-led climate strike and fossil fuel divestment movements. Both have played powerful roles in exposing the moral harms created by fossil fuels. As a result, the fossil fuel industry is increasingly losing its social and moral legitimacy, with a UK oil and gas boss, Tim Eggar, recently warning that:

The licence to operate for the industry has changed fundamentally and – unlike the oil price – forever.

Developments like these open up the possibility for more transformative action. They create political and economic space for ambitious policy platforms like the Green New Deal in the US, which seeks to rapidly decarbonise and transform societies for the better. Passing a Green New Deal could, in turn, inspire greater action by demonstrating the positive impacts of more transformative climate action.

Rethinking climate action

Traditional models of climate action presume linear change. Our research hopes to encourage exploration of more transformative, non-linear social tipping points and how to unlock them. Doing so can help discover novel pathways to reaching net zero emissions – and reveal what tipping points might be needed to get there.

Fortunately, many activists are already putting pressure on a number of these social tipping elements. Whether they’ll reach critical capacity in time to meet the Paris Climate Agreement targets depends on the agency of all of us. Financial investors, company managers, home owners, teachers, activists, public opinion leaders, young, old, and everyday people – all have a role to play as the critical minority that can tip society towards rapid decarbonisation.The Conversation

About The Author

Alex Lenferna, Mandela Rhodes & Fulbright Scholar, PhD in Philosophy (Climate Ethics), University of Washington; Ilona M. Otto, Research associate, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, and Jonathan Donges, Senior scientist, Earth system resilience, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

books_adpatation

enafarzh-CNzh-TWdanltlfifrdeiwhihuiditjakomsnofaplptruesswsvthtrukurvi

follow InnerSelf on

facebook-icontwitter-iconrss-icon

 Get The Latest By Email

{emailcloak=off}

LATEST VIDEOS

Methane Emissions Hit Record Breaking Levels
Methane Emissions Hit Record Breaking Levels
by Josie Garthwaite
Global emissions of methane have reached the highest levels on record, research shows.
kelp forrest 7 12
How The Forests Of The World’s Oceans Contribute To Alleviating The Climate Crisis
by Emma Bryce
Researchers are looking to kelp for help storing carbon dioxide far beneath the surface of the sea.
Tiny Plankton Drive Processes In The Ocean That Capture Twice As Much Carbon As Scientists Thought
Tiny Plankton Drive Processes In The Ocean That Capture Twice As Much Carbon As Scientists Thought
by Ken Buesseler
The ocean plays a major role in the global carbon cycle. The driving force comes from tiny plankton that produce…
Climate Change Threatens Drinking Water Quality Across The Great Lakes
Climate Change Threatens Drinking Water Quality Across The Great Lakes
by Gabriel Filippelli and Joseph D. Ortiz
“Do Not Drink/Do Not Boil” is not what anyone wants to hear about their city’s tap water. But the combined effects of…
Talking About Energy Change Could Break The Climate impasse
Talking About Energy Change Could Break The Climate Impasse
by InnerSelf Staff
Everyone has energy stories, whether they’re about a relative working on an oil rig, a parent teaching a child to turn…
Crops Could Face Double Trouble From Insects And A Warming Climate
Crops Could Face Double Trouble From Insects And A Warming Climate
by Gregg Howe and Nathan Havko
For millennia, insects and the plants they feed on have been engaged in a co-evolutionary battle: to eat or not be…
To Reach Zero Emissions Government Must Address Hurdles Putting People Off Electric Cars
To Reach Zero Emissions Government Must Address Hurdles Putting People Off Electric Cars
by Swapnesh Masrani
Ambitious targets have been set by the UK and Scottish governments to become net-zero carbon economies by 2050 and 2045…
Spring Is Arriving Earlier Across The US, And That's Not Always Good News
Spring Is Arriving Earlier Across The US, And That's Not Always Good News
by Theresa Crimmins
Across much of the United States, a warming climate has advanced the arrival of spring. This year is no exception.

LATEST ARTICLES

Two-thirds Of Glacier Ice In The Himalayas Could Be Lost By 2100
Two-thirds Of Glacier Ice In The Himalayas Could Be Lost By 2100
by Ann Rowan
In the world of glaciology, the year 2007 would go down in history. It was the year a seemingly small error in a major…
Rising Temps Could Kill Millions A Year By Century’s End
Rising Temps Could Kill Millions A Year By Century’s End
by Edward Lempinen
By the end of this century, tens of millions of people could die each year worldwide as a result of temperatures rising…
New Zealand Wants To Build A 100% Renewable Electricity Grid, But Massive Infrastructure Is Not The Best Option
New Zealand Wants To Build A 100% Renewable Electricity Grid, But Massive Infrastructure Is Not The Best Option
by Janet Stephenson
A proposed multibillion-dollar project to build a pumped hydro storage plant could make New Zealand’s electricity grid…
Wind Farms Built On Carbon-rich Peat Bogs Lose Their Ability To Fight Climate Change
Wind Farms Built On Carbon-rich Peat Bogs Lose Their Ability To Fight Climate Change
by Guaduneth Chico et al
Wind power in the UK now accounts for nearly 30% of all electricity production. Land-based wind turbines now produce…
Climate Denial Hasn't Gone Away – Here's How To Spot Arguments For Delaying Climate Action
Climate Denial Hasn't Gone Away – Here's How To Spot Arguments For Delaying Climate Action
by Stuart Capstick
In new research, we have identified what we call 12 “discourses of delay”. These are ways of speaking and writing about…
Routine Gas Flaring Is Wasteful, Polluting And Undermeasured
Routine Gas Flaring Is Wasteful, Polluting And Undermeasured
by Gunnar W. Schade
If you’ve driven through an area where companies extract oil and gas from shale formations, you’ve probably seen flames…
Flight Shaming: How To Spread The Campaign That Made Swedes Give Up Flying For Good
Flight Shaming: How To Spread The Campaign That Made Swedes Give Up Flying For Good
by Avit K Bhowmik
Europe’s major airlines are likely to see their turnover drop by 50% in 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic,…
Will The Climate Warm As Much As Feared By Some?
Will The Climate Warm As Much As Feared By Some?
by Steven Sherwood et al
We know the climate changes as greenhouse gas concentrations rise, but the exact amount of expected warming remains…