A new study by E3G and Mistra Geopolitics, shows that the world is getting closer to dangerous climate tipping points and that no country is prepared for the subsequent geopolitical turmoil.
Researchers from the climate change think tank E3G have studied how climate risk and the measures to avoid breaching tipping points could impact international geopolitics. Taylor Dimsdale, Director of E3G’s Risk and Resilience Program in Washington and researcher within Mistra Geopolitics said:
“We’re already struggling to manage climate impacts at just 1ºC of warming. The closer you get to tipping points like ice sheet collapse, the more you start worrying about unmanageable impacts. Understanding those risks will upend everything we think we know about climate change and geopolitics. Policymakers have consistently missed opportunities to prepare for climate change. We literally can’t afford to miss this one.”
The geopolitics of climate tipping points
Key messages in the study “Living on the edge: How climate tipping points will reshape geopolitics” include:
- The world is much closer to breaching climate tipping points in critical Earth systems than previously thought. The consequences are so severe that a better understanding of the risk will have far-reaching implications for global cooperation on technology, finance, food, energy and migration.
- No government or institution worldwide is prepared for a change at the scale needed. While some are integrating climate risk assessments into their planning, none are seriously considering the risk of tipping points and subsequent geopolitical tensions.
- Policymakers can still avoid unmanageable impacts by adopting comprehensive climate risk management frameworks. This includes investing in better data and risk assessment, scaling up finance for vulnerable countries and communities, and strengthening international dialogue on extreme risk.
Abrupt and often irreversible climate change impacts
Climate tipping points are thresholds of abrupt and often irreversible change in the climate system. The most recent science on extreme risk warns of some climate tipping points already being breached. Additional tipping points could be breached even with less than 2ºC of warming. Some of these include the melting of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, the breakdown of the Gulf Stream, the dieback of the Amazon forest and coral reefs, or the slowdown of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation.
The impact of breaching these tipping points cannot be measured in economic or environmental terms alone, but they would have dire consequences for human society and international security.
The study has identified the impacts of climate tipping points on five different areas:
- Technologies such as geoengineering are untested and have risks of unintended consequences that could be unevenly distributed geographically.
- Climate finance for adaptation and loss and damage are already contentious and will become more urgent as the risks increase.
- Food security can be threatened by tipping points, contributing to political and social instability.
- Energy security is likely to be affected by breaching tipping points, which could incentivise the energy transition but also change the balance of power between energy producers and consumers worldwide.
- Migration can be exacerbated by extreme climate impacts, causing geopolitical tensions between countries and regions.
These potential geopolitical impacts do not receive enough political attention and planning. This could lead to geopolitical fragmentation where countries choose to “go it alone,” jeopardizing ongoing mitigation and adaptation efforts.
For further information, please contact:
Taylor Dimsdale is a Program Director at E3G in the area of Risk & Resilience. He works on several programmes including climate risk and security, the geopolitics of decarbonization, sustainable finance, and climate diplomacy. In Mistra Geopolitics, he works on the geopolitics of decarbonization.
Ylva Rylander is a Communications Officer at SEI. As a core member of SEI’s communications team and previous Press Officer of SEI, Ylva writes and edits press releases, develops communication plans and creates news stories. With 15 years of experience in public relations, awareness raising and external communication, she also provides strategic advice to SEI and Mistra Geopolitics researchers to help them maximize the impact of their research.
Telephone:+4673 150 33 84
Authors of the study
Taylor Dimsdale, Director of E3G’s Risk and Resilience Program in Washington and researcher in Mistra Geopolitics Decarbonization team; Carolina Cecilio, Policy Advisor for Risk and Resilience at E3G; Ines Benomar, Researcher in Climate Diplomacy and Risk and Resilience at E3G.
News story written by Ylva Rylander, Communications Officer for Mistra Geopolitics, based on the E3G press release published 21 September. #MistraGeopolitics #Climate #COP27
E3G is an independent climate change think tank with a global outlook. They work on the frontier of the climate landscape, tackling the barriers and advancing the solutions to a safe climate. Their goal is to translate climate politics, economics and policies into action. E3G is a consortium partner in the Mistra Geopolitics research programme which is hosted by SEI and funded by Mistra.