Critical thresholds may be inherent to the climate system. If so, they could lead to abrupt, and perhaps irreversible, changes to the Earth system. This possibility has caught the imagination of the public — often under the emotive term ‘tipping points’ — and has led to a huge growth in media and scientific publications on the topic in the past few years. If we are about to cross such a critical threshold, the implications for climate adaptation strategies could be significant. Likewise, knowledge of thresholds would have a strong influence on mitigation policy, not least by helping to define the meaning of the term ‘dangerous climate change’.
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