Upward-scaling tipping cascades to meet climate goals: Plausible grounds for hope
22 July 2020
UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose (IIPP) Working Paper Series: IIPP WP 2020-07
- Simon Sharpe | Visiting Policy Fellow, UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose
- Timothy Lenton | Director, Global Systems Institute, University of Exeter
Sharpe, S. and Lenton, T. (2020). Upward-scaling tipping cascades to meet climate goals: Plausible grounds for hope. UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose, Working Paper Series (IIPP WP 2020-07). Available at: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/bartlett/public-purpose/wp2020-07
Limiting global warming to well below 2°C requires a dramatic acceleration of decarbonisation to reduce net anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions to zero by mid-century. In complex systems – including human societies – tipping points can occur, in which a small perturbation transforms a system. Crucially, activating one tipping point can increase the likelihood of triggering another at a larger scale, and so on. Here we show how such upward-scaling tipping cascades could accelerate progress in tackling climate change. We focus on two sectors – light road transport and power – where tipping points have already been triggered by policy interventions at individual nation scales. We show how positive-sum cooperation, between small coalitions of jurisdictions and their policymakers, could lead to global changes in the economy and emissions.