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Risk-analysis of global climate tipping points

Abstract

There are many elements of the Earth system that are expected to change gradually with increasing global warming. Changes might prove to be reversible after global warming returns to lower levels. But there are others that have the potential of showing a threshold behavior. This means that these changes would imply a transition between qualitatively disparate states which can be triggered by only small shifts in background climate (2). These changes are often expected not to be reversible by returning to the current level of warming. The reason for that is, that many of them are characterized by self-amplifying processes that could lead to a new internally stable state which is qualitatively different from before. There are different elements of the climate system that are already identified as potential tipping elements. This group contains the mass losses of the Greenland and the West-Antarctic Ice Sheet, the decline of the Arctic summer sea ice, different monsoon systems, the degradation of coral reefs, the dieback of the Amazon rainforest, the thawing of the permafrost regions as well as the release of methane hydrates (3). Crucially, these tipping elements have regional to global scale effects on human society, biodiversity and/or ecosystem services. Several  More>>
Authors:
Frieler, Katja; Meinshausen, Malte; Braun, N [1] 
  1. Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research e.V., Potsdam (Germany). PRIMAP Research Group; and others
Publication Date:
Sep 15, 2012
Product Type:
Technical Report
Report Number:
UBA-FB-001609-E
Resource Relation:
Related Information: Series: Climate Change|v. 14/2012
Subject:
54 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES; CLIMATIC CHANGE; ECOSYSTEMS; ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION; PERMAFROST; PRECIPITATION; REEFS; RISK ASSESSMENT
Sponsoring Organizations:
Umweltbundesamt, Dessau (Germany); Bundesministerium fuer Umwelt, Naturschutz und Reaktorsicherheit, Berlin (Germany)
OSTI ID:
22006133
Research Organizations:
Umweltbundesamt, Dessau (Germany)
Country of Origin:
Germany
Language:
English
Contract Number:
Foerderkennzeichen UFOPLAN 370 841 103
Other Identifying Numbers:
Other: ISSN 1862-4359; TRN: DE12GB986
Availability:
Commercial reproduction prohibited. Available from ETDE as OSTI ID: 22006133;
Submitting Site:
DE
Size:
369 page(s)
Announcement Date:
Dec 22, 2012

Citation Formats

Frieler, Katja, Meinshausen, Malte, and Braun, N. Risk-analysis of global climate tipping points. Germany: N. p., 2012. Web.
Frieler, Katja, Meinshausen, Malte, & Braun, N. Risk-analysis of global climate tipping points. Germany.
Frieler, Katja, Meinshausen, Malte, and Braun, N. 2012. "Risk-analysis of global climate tipping points." Germany.
@misc{etde_22006133,
title = {Risk-analysis of global climate tipping points}
author = {Frieler, Katja, Meinshausen, Malte, and Braun, N}
abstractNote = {There are many elements of the Earth system that are expected to change gradually with increasing global warming. Changes might prove to be reversible after global warming returns to lower levels. But there are others that have the potential of showing a threshold behavior. This means that these changes would imply a transition between qualitatively disparate states which can be triggered by only small shifts in background climate (2). These changes are often expected not to be reversible by returning to the current level of warming. The reason for that is, that many of them are characterized by self-amplifying processes that could lead to a new internally stable state which is qualitatively different from before. There are different elements of the climate system that are already identified as potential tipping elements. This group contains the mass losses of the Greenland and the West-Antarctic Ice Sheet, the decline of the Arctic summer sea ice, different monsoon systems, the degradation of coral reefs, the dieback of the Amazon rainforest, the thawing of the permafrost regions as well as the release of methane hydrates (3). Crucially, these tipping elements have regional to global scale effects on human society, biodiversity and/or ecosystem services. Several examples may have a discernable effect on global climate through a large-scale positive feedback. This means they would further amplify the human induced climate change. These tipping elements pose risks comparable to risks found in other fields of human activity: high-impact events that have at least a few percent chance to occur classify as high-risk events. In many of these examples adaptation options are limited and prevention of occurrence may be a more viable strategy. Therefore, a better understanding of the processes driving tipping points is essential. There might be other tipping elements even more critical but not yet identified. These may also lie within our socio-economic systems that are vulnerable to climate change impacts. Here we focus on tipping elements within the physical / biological system. In the following two sections, we briefly highlight some of our methodological research regarding global mean precipitation and regional climate change. These methodological developments provided the underpinning for our subsequent analysis of individual large-scale climate impacts, as e.g. mass losses of the Greenland ice sheet, the release of greenhouse gases by the thawing of permafrost regions or the threat of coral reefs by high ocean temperatures.}
place = {Germany}
year = {2012}
month = {Sep}
}