Tipping points exist in social, ecological and climate systems and those systems are increasingly causally intertwined in the Anthropocene. Climate change and biosphere degradation have advanced to the point where we are already triggering damaging environmental tipping points, and to avoid worse ones ahead will require finding and triggering positive tipping points towards sustainability in coupled social, ecological and technological systems.
To help with that Tim outlines how tipping points can occur in continuous dynamical systems and in networks, the causal interactions that can occur between tipping events across different types and scales of system – including the conditions required to trigger tipping cascades, the potential for early warning signals of tipping points, and how they could inform deliberate tipping of positive change. In particular, the same methods that can provide early warning of damaging environmental tipping points can be used to detect when a socio-technical or socio-ecological system is most sensitive to being deliberately tipped in a desirable direction. Tim provides some example targets for such deliberate tipping of positive change.
About the speaker
Tim Lenton is Director of the Global Systems Institute and Chair in Climate Change and Earth System Science at the University of Exeter. His research focuses on understanding the behaviour of the Earth as a whole system, especially through the development and use of Earth system models. He is particularly interested in how life has reshaped the planet in the past, and what lessons we can draw from this as we proceed to reshape the planet now – as described in his books Revolutions that made the Earth (with Andrew Watson) and Earth System Science: A Very Short Introduction. Tim’s work identifying climate tipping points won the Times Higher Education Award for Research Project of the Year 2008. He has also received a Philip Leverhulme Prize 2004, European Geosciences Union Outstanding Young Scientist Award 2006, Geological Society of London William Smith Fund 2008, and Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit Award 2013.
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