Tipping Points

Environmental tipping points refer to changes in ecological systems that, once underway, are unable to be stopped and contribute to further impacts in turn. Albedo is a good illustration: albedo is the mirror-like reflective capacity of ice (usually referred to in polar contexts) that redirects incoming sunlight, and therefore heat, back out of the earth’s atmosphere. This system, among others such as the Gulf Stream, helps to regulate the earth’s temperature. But if ice continues to disappear as a result of the climate change that has already been induced, then this system will eventually lose so much ice that it can no longer prevent undue warming from the sun’s rays. That point will become a point of no return, or a tipping point at which the changes to the earth’s ecosystem can no longer be prevented. Current research suggests that 2 degrees centigrade of global warming above pre-industrial levels will constitute a tipping point, after which the impacts will become increasingly unmanageable.

See also: Changing Polar Landscapes, Environmental Migration, Heat Waves

Further Resources

7 Tipping Points That Could Transform Earth
Arctic Permafrost leaking methane at record levels, figures show
The 2ºC target (European Union)

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