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'Positive tipping points' could halt the climate crisis – so what are they?

Words by Abi Scaife

Positive tipping points are the way forward for climate action, says new research.

Okay, what?

Think about policy changes like subsidies for renewable energy sources, or how the tax system in Norway makes electric vehicles cheaper than ones powered by fossil fuels.

Initially, they may not look like much - they might seem futile, or like they would only make things better for those who are already committed to climate action, rather than encouraging people who aren’t.

But these are what Professor Tim Lenton from the University of Exeter is calling ‘positive tipping points’.

But what does it really mean?

Positive tipping points are basically smaller actions that spark huge changes within a wider and more complex world.

Professor Lenton gives the example of Greta Thunberg, who burst onto the climate action scene as a young girl and created a feedback loop - encouraging more and more people to take action against climate change.

According to Professor Lenton, these ‘positive tipping points’ often begin in smaller groups and sub-cultures, and then make their way into wider society by influencing new actions.

Think of it like one of those amazing domino designs you see on TikTok - one small action could change everything.

What does this mean for climate action?

Perhaps these small tipping points won’t entirely reverse climate change - but according to Professor Lenton, it could cause a ‘climate stalemate’, helping to make up for some of the things that have gone wrong so far.

For example, as more people buy solar panels, more time is invested in researching the technology because it is a profitable business. From here, the technology has become more refined and easier to produce, making it cheaper - and because they’re more affordable, more people will buy the solar panels.

It might sound complicated at first, but in essence - even small actions can have a huge impact on our planet!

This article aligns with the UN SDG Climate Action.

This article aligns with the following UN SDGs

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