Policy ForumClimate Change

Sensitive intervention points in the post-carbon transition

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Science  12 Apr 2019:
Vol. 364, Issue 6436, pp. 132-134
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaw7287

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Summary

Conventional approaches to mitigating climate change are not working. Despite the actions pledged under the 2015 Paris Agreement, actual progress is falling well short (1). Given limited time and resources, traditional efforts such as the climate stabilization wedge approach (2) are unlikely to be effective on their own. Physical science has shown how complex adaptive systems can cross critical thresholds (“tipping points”) (3), such that a relatively small change can trigger a larger change that becomes irreversible (4), where nonlinear feedback effects act as amplifiers (5). We propose to examine how to exploit similar sensitive intervention points (SIPs) and amplification mechanisms in socioeconomic, technological, and political systems to advance climate change mitigation. We focus on research and policies in which an intervention kicks or shifts the system so that the initial change is amplified by feedback effects that deliver outsized impact.