A Policy Brief for the EU says that taking advantage of groundbreaking research and having science and policy working collaboratively is the only way to prevent the destabilization of major Earth system tipping elements and avoiding the critical thresholds known as tipping points.
by Gunn Janne Myrseth (NORCE)
We live today under the threat of imminent abrupt and irreversible transitions in the Earth system – especially tipping points of ice sheets, ocean circulation systems, rainforests, or monsoon systems, as well as ocean warming, acidification and deoxygenation, processes leading to fast and abrupt changes in marine ecosystems.
Three EU-funded projects under the Horizon 2020 programme, Tipping Points in the Earth System (TiPES), Our Common Future Ocean in the Earth System (COMFORT), and Tipping Points in Antarctic Climate Components (TiPACCs) have worked together towards developing a policy brief that presents the key findings to date from these projects. On that basis, we jointly formulated persisting knowledge gaps as well as policy recommendations.
The projects are hosted by The University of Copenhagen, The University of Bergen and NORCE and involves Bjerknes Centre for Climate Research.
Why us three?
We are the three projects funded under LC-CLA-08-2018 – Addressing knowledge gaps in climate science, in support of IPCC reports specifically H2020-LC-CLA-2018-2. We all deal with ‘tipping points’ in various areas and with different methods, but together we provide a comprehensive overview of the global tipping points system.
- A special report focussing on tipping points in the IPCC context is urgently needed to synthesise existing knowledge across the different scientific communities and inform policy makers and the general public about the risks of crossing tipping points in response to anthropogenic climate change.
- Urgent implementation of a drastic reduction of GHG emissions, which are the primary cause of global warming and ocean acidification, in order to avoid further stability loss of major Earth system tipping elements and long-lasting changes in ocean properties.
- Reduction of deforestation rates in both tropical and boreal forests alongside efforts toward binding international agreements to limit land-use change to sustainable levels. A global satellite-based monitoring system should also be implemented to assess health of terrestrial ecosystems. At the same time, large-scale ecosystem protection and reforestation will help reduce atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations globally and reduce drought risk regionally.
- Appropriate global resource management needs to be implemented to achieve GHG emission reductions in line with the Paris Agreement, and to avoid problematic path dependencies and lock-in situations. Human societies must engage in the transformation towards i) green energy production, ii) sustainable exploitation and food production both on land and in the ocean, and iii) climate-friendly land use and urban planning and development.
- Climate-neutral transformations need to be achieved urgently: there is already progress underway, such as the notable European Union Green Deal, including the goal to become climate neutral by 2050 supported by the ‘Restore our Ocean and Waters by 2030’ Mission, as well as the European Climate Pact. However, it is critical that these processes are accelerated to prevent the cumulative and compounding negative societal and Earth system impact