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The climate future is at a critical crossroads

The climate future is at a critical crossroads

Humanity faces a defining moment where threats and opportunities are accelerating. This appears in a report by more than 200 researchers who investigated so-called tipping points.

*Critical points, or tipping points, involve changes in large climate systems that can no longer be reversed. It is irreversible even if the reason for the change disappears.

According to the report, it is no longer possible to continue as usual as rapid changes are already occurring in nature. Global warming is on track to exceed 1.5 degrees and poses significant risks to important climate systems, including the collapse of large glaciers and coral reefs.

Tipping points in the Earth system pose threats of a magnitude that humanity has never faced before. It could lead to devastating domino effects, including the loss of entire ecosystems and our ability to grow staple foods, with societal consequences such as mass displacement, political instability and economic collapse, says Harvard University professor Tim Linton. Exeter Institute for Global Systems.

Investing in fossil fuel-free alternatives

However, there are also positive turning points that give hope. But Linton says measures to accelerate the sustainable transformation of societies and economies must now take priority.

This is already happening in fields ranging from renewable energy and electric cars to social movements and plant-based diets. Now is the time to start a series of positive points to ensure a safe, just and sustainable future for humanity.

International work required

The report is being presented during the COP28 climate conference in Dubai. Researchers believe that world leaders meeting now can use positive turning points to steer the world toward a sustainable future.

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This report is a valuable review of the state of knowledge on different potential turning points. The conclusions are worrying, and we hope they will contribute to increasing the ambition of some parties at COP 28. Meanwhile, the chapter on positive turning points, and the opportunities highlighted, is very good. Gustav Hugelius, professor of physical geography at Stockholm University, says it’s important to be able to provide positive examples alongside bad news.

Ice sheets may exceed critical thresholds

He himself contributed to the knowledge of turning points in the cryosphere, that is, the frozen components of the Earth.

There is strong and alarming evidence that the ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica are exceeding thresholds even before two degrees of warming. The loss of permafrost and glaciers is rapidly accelerating and has irreversible, long-term negative impacts on humanity and the planet, says Gustav Hugelius.

The researchers behind the report say fossil fuels must be phased out quickly.

In this way, positive turning points can be enhanced

According to the research report, coordinated policy actions can lead to positive turning points across multiple sectors, including energy, transportation and food production.

According to the researchers, a series of positive turning points could save millions of lives, avert the suffering of billions of people, reduce the damage associated with climate change, and begin to restore a more normal world.

Researchers’ proposals for measures:

  • Phase out fossil fuel and land use emissions now. It must be stopped long before 2050.
  • Strengthening adaptation and damage and loss fund management and recognizing inequalities between and within countries.
  • Include critical points in each country’s efforts to address climate change.
  • Coordinate policy efforts to stimulate positive turning points.
  • Quickly convene a global summit on turning points.
  • Deepen knowledge of change points. The research team supports calls for a separate IPCC report on tipping points.
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Global turning points report, Exeter Institute for Global Systems.


Gustaf Hugelius, Professor at the Department of Physical Geography and Deputy Director of the Paulin Center for Climate Research, [email protected]