Positive tipping points offer climate hope

A photograph of solar panels in a field, with wind turbines in the distance.
13 January 2021

While tipping points are often used to describe the negative impacts of climate change, researchers have found some points of optimism as well. A new study has highlighted examples of positive “tipping points” in human societies that could rapidly slash carbon emissions. 

Timothy Lenton, director of the Global Systems Institute at the University of Exeter and Simon Sharpe, deputy director in the UK Cabinet Office COP 26 unit highlight examples that have contributed to the world’s fast low-carbon transitions in road transport and power generation. 

“We focus on two sectors – light road transport and power – where tipping points have already been triggered by policy interventions at individual nation scales,” they write in their paper published in the journal Climate Policy. 

They say that “small coalitions of countries” could trigger “upward-scaling tipping cascades” to achieve more. 

“Limiting global warming to well below 2⁰C now requires transformational change and a dramatic acceleration of progress,” says Lenton. “Many people are questioning whether this is achievable. But hope lies in the way that tipping points can spark rapid change through complex systems.” 

Read the full article on the Cosmos website, featuring Prof Mark Howden