An interdisciplinary framework for navigating social–climatic tipping points
People and Nature
To effectively navigate out of the climate crisis, a new interdisciplinary approach is needed to guide and facilitate research that integrates diverse understandings of how transitions evolve in intertwined social–environmental systems. The concept of tipping points, frequently used in the natural sciences and increasingly in the social sciences, can help elucidate processes underlying major social–environmental transitions. We develop the notion of interlinked ‘social–climatic tipping points’ in which desirability and intentionality are key constitutive features alongside stable states, feedbacks, reversibility and abruptness. We demonstrate the new insights that our interdisciplinary framework can provide by analysing the slowdown of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation and associated flooding of the Ahr Valley in Germany as a social–climatic tipping point. This framework can enable more sustainable and equitable futures by prioritising social–climatic tipping points for interdisciplinary research, identifying opportunities for action, and evaluating the nuanced desirability and acceptability of proposed solutions. Read the free Plain Language Summary for this article on the Journal blog.
Open Access Status
This publication may be available as open access
University of Alabama at Birmingham