Tipping points in a 2ºC world: risks and adaptation options

11:15 Tuesday 28 May


Room PA


Manuel Carmona Yebra (Belgium) 1; Liviu Stirbat (Belgium) 1

1 - Directorate-General for Climate Action - European Commission

The 2018 article on Trajectories of the Earth System in the Anthropocene (Steffen et al 2018), highlighted that certain tipping points could occur between 1ºC and 3ºC warming, e.g. Greenland ice sheet melting, ice-free Arctic summers, Alpine glaciers melting, West Antarctic ice sheet melting and the disappearance of coral reefs. The article investigated the possibility of a ‘point of no return’ beyond which global climate would enter a ‘hothouse’ scenario triggering dangerous and irreversible trends. In the face of such situation, it is also necessary to identify the opportunities, procedural conditions and required capacities for the emergence of ‘positive tipping points’ in social-ecological system able to divert human development from such catastrophic trajectories. For this purpose, new transformative science-policy approaches and solutions are needed – as conventional ones may not be sufficient.The proposed session would focus on the potential consequences and responses to tipping points being reached even under a 2ºC world, the uncertainty in tipping point modelling and the possible risks to the European continent in particular. It would also explore possible adaptation options and limitations and seek to motivate new research to help narrow down the huge uncertainties associated with tipping point modelling.

Proposed format for the session

The session will last 2 hours and a half approximately, depending on the number of speakers attending. It will start with presentations from the speakers (around 6 in total, sharing 1 hour and a half). Then, for the remaining hour, the organisers will ask the audience to identify themselves (raising hands) with one of three possible groups: science, policy or other. The three groups are to join, standing up in the room or elsewhere, and be joined by one facilitator form the organising team each. Then the facilitators will come back and present the impressions of the three groups synthetically. The speakers will then close the session reacting to inputs from the three groups.

Contributing Authors’ abstracts

At this moment, the participation foreseen is as follows:

  • Manuel Carmona Yebra, Policy Officer – Adaptation to Climate Change, Directorate-General for Climate Action, European Commission. Manuel Carmona Yebra will open the session with an overview of the results of the evaluation of the EU Adaptation Strategy, in particular those linked to research gaps and emerging knowledge needs such as tipping points and high-end scenarios.
  • Mrs Nacira Boulehouat, Head of Unit for Disaster Risk Reduction, European Voluntary Humanitarian Corps, Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations, European Commission.
  • Prof. Richard Betts. Chair in Climate Impacts at the University of Exeter and Head of Climate Impacts Research at the Met Office Hadley Centre (UK). Leader of the EU-financed HELIX (High-End Climate Impacts and Extremes) project. Prof. Betts could tackle the need to bridge the theory of tipping points with adaptation practice and solutions.
  • Prof Tim Lenton. Director of the Global Systems Institute of the University of Exeter. Research interests: Earth system science, climate change, global biogeochemical cycles, co-evolution of life and the planet, paleo-climate, modeling.
  • Mr Paul Watkiss. Stakeholder relations leader of EU-financed project COACCH. COACCH aims to study, among others, the economics of climate tipping points, and to introduce the concept of socio-economic tipping points.
  • Dr J. David Tàbara is Associate Senior researcher working on knowledge integration for sustainability at the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB) and at the Global Climate Forum. At EU project IMPRESSIONS (www.impressions-project.eu) he contributed to the definition of the concept of Transformative Climate Science (TSC) and ‘positive tipping points’ in the context of high-end climate change. See more on YouTube.
  • Prof Dr Ricarda Winkelmann. Junior Professor of Climate System Analysis at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK). See: https://ricarda.science/