6 votes

There is no climate tipping point

1 comment

  1. streblo

    It is not particularly surprising that when arcane scientific detail meets simplistic reporting, it results in a muddle, and it’s a muddle the term “tipping point” itself—evoking an abruptness and immediacy not necessarily characteristic of most, let alone all, tipping elements—perhaps adds to. Climate tipping points and “runaway climate change” are now common parlance in climate conversations, and while different advocates may mean different things in practice when using these terms, they speak to a broadly shared, yet inaccurate, understanding that the climate system is on the verge of very unstable, self-reinforcing, and abruptly rapid disaster.

    It isn’t. And it’s important to understand that it isn’t. Taken at rational face value, the feeling that the planet is just years away from sliding beyond a catastrophic point of no return invites unproductive fatalism. At the same time, the perception of an imminent climate cliff seemingly rules out long-term planning in favor of emergency measures, skewing discussion of climate policies in ways that can be counterproductive.


    As I now see it today, the fight against climate change will be a long-term, multi-generational struggle without any such cathartic moment of clarity. It will involve efforts not just to build solar farms and nuclear reactors but also to deploy affordable cooling systems in apartments across Lagos and Bangalore and distribute drought-resistant crop varieties in Ethiopia and Afghanistan. Humans will continuously dictate and revise Earth’s climate conditions, and humans must continuously strive to build a more free, just, and sustainable present and future within those conditions.

    2 votes