Global Tipping Points (2023)

T. M. Lenton, D.I. Armstrong McKay, S. Loriani, J.F. Abrams, S.J. Lade, J.F. Donges, M. Milkoreit, T. Powell, S.R. Smith, C. Zimm, J.E. Buxton, E. Bailey, L. Laybourn, A. Ghadiali, J.G. Dyke (Eds), 2023, The Global Tipping Points Report 2023. University of Exeter, Exeter, UK, 478 p.

Link to the Report. – CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0

Foreword by
Dr. Andrew Steer, President & CEO at Bezos Earth Fund

Here’s a puzzle. Ask a group of the world leading experts on climate change where they stand on the pessimistic/optimistic spectrum, and you will get answers at both ends. Many will say “We are heading for disaster at a scale that we are only beginning to understand”, while others will say “We are seeing potential progress at a rate and scale that shocks even the optimists. Just look at those cost curves!”
They can’t both be right. Or can they?

This remarkable Global Tipping Points Report 2023 shows that both are indeed correct. And it is only by holding these seemingly inconsistent positions continually in view that we will be able to act with the inspiration and courage necessary to prevent catastrophe.
Things really are bad. Devastating climate events and nature loss are here today. We are no longer talking about tomorrow’s problem. This is with average warming of 1.2 degrees Celsius. Under current policies we are on a trajectory of warming beyond 2°C, which will have an impact exponentially greater than what we face today.
But it is worse than this. As warming approaches and surpasses 2 degrees Celsius this may cause critical Earth system tipping points, once considered low-likelihood, to rapidly become much higher-likelihood events. These harmful discontinuities pose some of the gravest threats faced by humanity. Consider for example the runaway collapse of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, which will redefine coastlines worldwide. Or the possibility of the dieback of the Amazon forest, causing it to tip into a savannah-like ecosystem. Already at 1.2 degrees Celsius of warming, warm-water coral reef ecosystems at risk of unravelling. Passing 1.5°C and certainly 2°C risks tipping several other systems, locking in change for centuries to come.
The scientific community has warned of the possibility of runaway climate change for some years, but never before have we had such a comprehensive assessment of the “negative tipping points” as is presented in the following pages.
The good news is that it is not too late. The Global Tipping Points Report shows us that, just as there are dangerous negative tipping points, so too there are very significant positive tipping points in our near-term future if only we have the courage and ambition to seize them. These provide the possibility of changing course much more rapidly than is commonly understood. Electric vehicles, for example, illustrate a growth in market share much more rapidly than anticipated. Potential for exponential change also exists in food systems, holding tremendous promise in meeting climate, biodiversity and development goals, including alternatives to livestock products and green ammonia production for fertilizer.
These positive tipping points will not be reached without effort. They require financial investments, policy support, courageous leadership, behavioural change, technological innovation, and social action, which create the enabling conditions to alter the balance so tipping can occur. And equity and justice must be at the heart of change.
This year we are presented with one of the most important moments in this decisive decade: the Global Stocktake under the Paris Agreement. We have the knowledge, resources, and capability to implement the solutions at speed and scale. But we must act now and in unison. Together, we can ensure positive change is unstoppable, irresistible, undefeatable.
The decisions we make in the next few years will affect the future of humanity for the next thousand.
It’s not too late. But later is too late!