Search online for “climate change” and “tipping points” and you’ll find some scary results. Melting ice sheets, the collapse of the Atlantic thermohaline circulation , the permafrost methane “time bomb” and the die-back of the Amazon rainforest threaten to exacerbate the climate crisis and send global warming spiralling out of control.
But what if we could leverage similar tipping point dynamics to solve the climate problem? Like physical or environmental systems, socioeconomic and political systems can also exhibit nonlinear dynamics. Memes on the internet can go viral, loan defaults can cascade into financial crises, and public opinion can shift in rapid and radical ways.
In an article just out in Science, we outline a new approach to climate change that tries to find areas in socioeconomic and political systems that are “sensitive” – where modest but well-timed interventions could generate outsized impacts and accelerate progress towards a post-carbon world. MORE