UK academic study outlines a series of positive’tipping points’ in crucial sectors that, if attained, would catalyse the International net zero transition
Positive”tipping points” in low carbon technology development may spark cascading changes that accelerate activity that slows global temperature increases, based on new academic research today which offers a welcome dose of urgency to the fight against climate change.
Penned by Professor Tim Lenton from the Global Systems Institute at the University of Exeterthat the study explains tipping points in human societies which it argues could cause rapid reductions in carbon emissions in the coming years.
Lenton has warned the world is “dangerously close” to many negative tipping points that may accelerate climate change, like the reduction of the Amazon rainforest and also the accelerated degradation of the West Antarctic ice sheet.
Nevertheless, the new paper, printed at the Climate Policy journal, highlights cases of positive tipping points that have led to the planet’s fastest low-carbon transitions in road transport and power generation, asserting”small coalitions of countries” could trigger”upward-scaling tipping cascades” to accelerate the international roll out of clean technologies.
The research focuses on two crucial areas where decarbonisation will have to accelerate quickly over the coming decades to keep temperature rises below globally agreed targets, asserting adoption of both electric vehicles and renewable energy technologies have the capacity to tip into exponential growth globally.
According to the most recent study, Lenton explained that although the planet had”left it too late to tackle climate change incrementally”, there was still cause for optimisim at the possibility of accelerated adoption of crucial green technologies and systems.
“Limiting global warming to well below 2C now requires transformational change, and a dramatic acceleration of progress,” he continued. “Many people are questioning whether this is achievable. But hope lies in the way that tipping points can spark rapid change through complex systems.”
The study looks at road transport, in which it claims”the pace of the transition to zero-emission vehicles needs to double”. But, electric vehicles (EVs) already account for just two to three per cent of new car sales worldwide and now there are signs the market is accelerating quickly, while at Norway the figure has now risen above fifty per cent, thanks to policies that make EVs exactly the exact identical price as conventional automobiles.
The study posits a worldwide tipping point will happen when EVs cost exactly the same to manufacture as conventional automobiles, together with China, the EU, also California – together accountable for half the world’s car sales – most inclined to induce this shift after setting goals to quickly decarbonise their economies. Working together, they can change investment throughout the worldwide industry, increasing EV production and decreasing expenses, triggering a worldwide tipping point for the electrification of road transport, according to the study. This then would make batteries simpler and more economical, helping decarbonisation from the energy sector.
Second, the paper – that is co authored by Simon Sharpe, deputy director from the UK Cabinet Office’s COP26 unit – considers positive tipping points from the power sector, which it estimates needs to decarbonise”four times faster than the current rate”. It highlights the UK, that has lately decarbonised its power sector faster than any other country, demonstrating how tipping points have played a key part in forcing renewables adoption. By way of example, a federal carbon tax together with the EU’s emissions trading scheme (ETS) helped drive up the prices of coal compared to gasoline, while climbing renewable energy production tipped coal into unprofitability, it also notes.
Globally, however, renewables are already creating electricity cheaper than fossil fuels in many countries, and a further tipping point can be reached when the price of funding for coal plants exceeds that of wind and solar in all countries, according to the study. Decarbonising worldwide power generation would in turn help accelerate decarbonisation of large elements of transport, heating and cooling, and industry, the report adds, potentially triggering further economy-wide tipping points.
However, these positive tipping points are by no means inevitable, and policies will be required to overcome the many barriers to transition, the paper warns. But at the exact identical time it worried , thanks to reinforcing feedbacks, the presence of these tipping points implies that a relatively few of first policy actions could catalyse changes at the international scale.
“If either of these efforts – in power or road transport – succeed, the most important effect could be to tip perceptions of the potential for international cooperation to tackle climate change,” said Lenton.
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