What’s a Climate change tipping point?
In the climate system, a tipping point is a threshold that, if crossed, can result in substantial and often permanent changes in the system's state. In the physical climate system, affected ecosystems, and human systems, potential tipping points have been identified.
Climate change tipping points are reached when certain effects of global warming, such as the irreversible loss of ice sheets or forests, become uncontrollable. In the past, significant heating of 5 degrees Celsius was assumed to be required to reach tipping thresholds, but new research reveals that this could happen at temperatures between 1 and 2 degrees Celsius.
With Greenhouse Gases (GHG) still on the rise, it is increasingly likely that we could be heading towards lasting and irreversible changes in terms of climate on the planetary scale.
According to a dire warning from experts, the globe may have already crossed a series of climatic tipping points.
A concrete tipping point: The risk of an AMOC dysregulation
A new study released on the 5th of August 2021 has found that currents known as the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC) showed “an almost total loss of stability over the previous century,”.
The AMOC (Atlantic meridional overturning circulation) is the Atlantic Ocean's zonally integrated component of surface and deep currents. The ocean currents circulation is characterized by a northward flow of warm, salty water in the top layers of the Atlantic and a southbound movement of colder, deep waters.
A dysregulation of the AMOC would have devastating global effects, potentially interrupting the rains that billions of people rely on for food in India, South America, and West Africa; intensifying storms and decreasing temperatures in Europe; and raising sea levels off the east coast of North America. It would also potentially severely impact countries beyond the Atlantic already vulnerable to heavy storms and sea rising such as Indonesia and other countries in Oceania. It would also have important implications for marine ecosystems as nutrient-rich water from the arctic won't be brought up to swallower depths thus fuelling trophic links.
It is still uncertain as to when would the tipping point could be crossed. However, there is an urgent need to act in order to reduce our GHG production. It is also becoming clearer by the day that there is a real need to encourage preparedness and resilience building across countries that would be the most heavily impacted by such an event.
Key projects in the Atlantic such as the Life’Adapt Island project are already dealing with the first outcomes of this evolutive dysregulation. The project acts to protect, sustainably manage, and restore natural or modified ecosystems to directly address societal challenges and environment challenges in an effective and adaptive manner, while ensuring human well-being and producing benefits for biodiversity.
Projects such as Climate Resilient and Inclusive Cities proposing a long lasting and unique cooperation between cities and research centres in Europe, Indonesia and other countries from South East Asia are a real asset in supporting resilience building in vulnerable countries.