Explainer: Warming could trigger nine ‘tipping points’
This explainer from Carbon Brief outlines nine interlinked “tipping points” where climate warming could trigger an abrupt change. They include disintegration of ice sheets, changes in ocean circulation, thawing of permafrost, and dieback of ecosystems such as the Amazon rainforest and coral reefs.
For more on tipping points in the FCRN research library, see:
- Comment: Tipping points are close, but can still be slowed
- Domino effect could cause “Hothouse Earth”
- Report with new evidence for existence of environmental tipping points
The explainer notes that, once a tipping point has been triggered and an ecosystem has shifted to a different state, the ecosystem will not simply revert to its initial state once the driving force that triggered the tipping point has been removed. The explainer uses the game Jenga as an analogy: it takes relatively little energy to tip over a tower of blocks compared to the energy it takes to rebuild it. Furthermore, one tipping point being triggered could set off others.
Read the full explainer here. See also the Foodsource resource How might climatic change affect food systems in the future?
While some of the food system challenges facing humanity are local, in an interconnected world, adopting a global perspective is essential. Many environmental issues, such as climate change, need supranational commitments and action to be addressed effectively. Due to ever increasing global trade flows, prices of commodities are connected through space; a drought in Romania may thus increase the price of wheat in Zimbabwe.