The report on Global Tipping Points was presented today at COP28 in Dubai
We are on the verge of triggering tipping points that will cause sudden and irreversible changes in the Earth’s natural environment, with global consequences. The ice sheets of Greenland and Western Antarctica, the coral reefs in the tropical belt, the circulation of the subpolar vortex of the North Atlantic and the regions covered by permafrost. These are the 5 points of no return climate most at risk today, due to the acceleration of global warming. The latest data from Copernicus estimate that global warming in 2023 reached +1.46°C, a breath from exceeding the threshold of 1.5 degrees set by the Paris Agreement.
The warning comes from the Global Tipping Points Report, a study by the University of Exeter that coordinated 200 researchers affiliated with 90 research entities in 26 countries. The report was presented today at COP28 in Dubai.
How do tipping points work?
Our understanding of climate tipping points is still limited due to the complexity of the interactions between the different elements that make up the Planet’s climate system. What we do know is that, unlike extreme events like heat waves, these changes do not proceed linearly with the increase in global warming, but undergo sudden accelerations once a certain threshold is exceeded. The change is drastic and rapid and ends in a new state of equilibrium, radically different from the previous one.
Points of no return are activated ahead of schedule
These threats could materialize in the coming decades and “at lower levels of global warming than previously thought,” the authors warn. They could be “catastrophic” and lead to a loss on a global scale of the ability to cultivate the main basic crops. The trigger of points of no return could trigger a domino effect that would accelerate all the ongoing transformations, not unlike what the pandemic of COVID-19 did, and lead to “unmanageable damage“. “The critical points show that the overall threat posed by the climate and ecological crisis is much more serious than commonly thought,” warn the authors.
However, some of these critical points in the Earth’s system could be activated, allowing us time to take coordinated global action against the climate crisis, the authors argue. “Mitigating risk is still possible by reducing vulnerability, and it becomes increasingly urgent, because every manifestation of a critical point threat diverts attention and resources towards disaster response, eroding part of our ability to act to address the underlying factors. This increases the risk of triggering more critical points in the Earth system, creating a vicious circle,” they add.