Timothy M. Lenton et al. (2008): Tipping elements in the Earth's climate system. In: Proceedings of the National Academy of the Sciences. February 2008, doi:10.1073/pnas.0705414105

Nine ‘tipping points’ that could be triggered by climate change



  • While climate records are being routinely broken, the cumulative impact of these changes could also cause fundamental parts of the Earth system to change dramatically and irreversibly. These “tipping points” are thresholds where a tiny change could push a system into a completely new state.
  • In some cases, there is evidence that once the system has jumped to a different state, then if you remove the climate forcing, the climate system doesn’t just jump back to the original state – it stays in its changed state for some considerable time, or possibly even permanently.
  • The nine tipping points discussed include: 1. Shutdown of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation
    2. West Antarctic ice sheet disintegration
    3. Amazon rainforest dieback
    4. West African monsoon shift
    5. Permafrost and methane hydrates
    6. Coral reef die-off
    7. Indian monsoon shift
    8. Greenland ice sheet disintegration
    9. Boreal forest shift
  • This is not an exhaustive list – there are other parts of the Earth system that have the potential to display tipping point behavior.
  • Human society may also have “tipping points” that favor climate action.

The Climate Center’s rapid decarbonization campaign uses a timeline based on the latest scientific findings and supports achieving carbon neutrality by 2030.

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