Climate and Ecological Tipping Points That Lead to Disaster

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The environmental disaster is threatening to doom all of us if humans are not wary of reaching the point of no return that will lead to loss of rainforests or irreversible climate change, according to the most detailed study of its kind. New research conducted by the University of Reading, while combining mathematics with climate science, explored the thin line separating the Earth’s current climate from a frozen one.

Authors of the studies analyzed how the reach of a tipping point can be influenced by random events and human actions and choices.
With the purpose to help us understand how Earth’s climate, landscape features, and ecosystems can be altered or permanently destroyed past a certain point, the findings were published in the journal Physical Review Letters.

The lead author of the study, Professor Valerio Lucarini, said: “Changes in climate or catastrophic declines in natural features like forests all happen in a fashion similar to a journey in a mountain region. These states are like two valleys divided by a mountain pass, which must be crossed to move between them.”

Climate and Ecological Tipping Points That Lead to Disaster

The new study adds to a previous one published in 2017 by the same authors, which attempted to identify the tipping point between two competing states. The paper received praise, as it led to an unprecedented understanding of the global stability properties of the climate. The team showed at what point a critical transition becomes likely, using random fluctuations to simulate an approach to such a tipping point.

A great example is the Amazon rainforest. It can regenerate after significant fluctuations, such as fires, drought or human-caused deforestation. The research aims to help us judge the point at which the rainforest would become unable to combat such events, allowing us to act accordingly to prevent it.

Next on the team’s list is to apply their discoveries to a real-world climate transition currently happening, analyzing the processes that lead to irreversible effects. “Human action might be insignificant when the tipping point is far away but could be the final straw as we approach it. Understanding this context is crucial to judging when we might topple into a new state”, Professor Lucarini said.

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