Dynamics of Social Transformation and Physical Tipping Points
November 2, 2023, Bundesstraße 53, Room 22/23, from 3:15pm-5pm
The aim of CLICCS to assess the plausibility of climate futures by focusing on processes of change and dynamics of social transformation has inspired an interdisciplinary discussion between the social and natural sciences. In the joint endeavour of the Hamburg Climate Futures Outlook, interdisciplinary author teams assess the conditions shaping the plausibility of changes in social drivers and physical processes. The social plausibility assessment framework offers a novel approach to social transformation that accounts for the agency of actors and structural conditions of change. The 2023 Outlook offered a critical assessment of the role that postulated physical tipping points play in attaining or missing the temperature goals of the Paris Agreement. Recently, the concept of social tipping points has permeated the debate on the social dynamics of climate change as well.
In this CLICCS convent, we would like to critically debate the potentials and pitfalls of concepts such as social transformation, physical tipping points, and social tipping points. The convent offers a series of brief inputs (approx. 45 min.), which lead to an open discussion (60 min.).
Moderator: Jan Wilkens
Anita Engels and Jochem Marotzke:
We will introduce the discussion by highlighting some of the key aspects of social transformation as discussed in the Outlook 2021 and 2023. We will further contextualize how the analysis of physical tipping points has contributed to the findings of the assessment in the Outlook 2023.
Tipping elements of the Earth system
The term "tipping elements” of the Earth system refers to large-scale Earth system components such as ice sheets, AMOC, boreal and tropical forests, and permafrost. These components may exhibit large-scale changes, often abrupt and/or irreversible, after passing a certain threshold, the “tipping point”. This input will present relevant examples from geological archives as well as from modelling studies.
Cascades across scales between Earth System and social tipping points
While empirical evidence is currently scarce, extrapolating known feedbacks in complex human-natural systems suggest that tipping points in social and natural systems could form tipping cascades with catastrophic risks for human well-being. In human systems, as this input will highlight, focus of such tipping cascades related research has been on the prevention of carbon emission related tipping, rather than the preparation for potential consequences of physical climate risks.
A critical assessment of social tipping points – a social science perspective
The input will discuss some issues of applying the metaphor of tipping points to social dynamics. It will contrast this to other notions in the social sciences, such as critical junctures, path departure or punctuated equilibrium.
This is an in-person event, no registration is required.
After the event, we invite you to continue the conversation over drinks and snacks in the lobby next door.