EGU General Assembly 2020
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Social tipping dynamics for stabilizing Earth’s climate by 2050

Ilona M. Otto and Jonathan Donges
Ilona M. Otto and Jonathan Donges
  • Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), Germany (

Safely achieving the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement requires a world-wide transformation to carbon-neutral societies within the next 30 years. Accelerated technological progress and policy implementations are required to deliver emissions reductions at rates sufficiently fast to avoid crossing dangerous tipping points in the Earth’s climate system. Here, we discuss and evaluate the potential of social tipping interventions (STIs) that can activate contagious processes of rapidly spreading technologies, behaviors, social norms and structural reorganization within their functional domains that we refer to as social tipping elements (STEs). STEs are subdomains of the planetary socio-economic system where the required disruptive change may take place and lead to a sufficiently fast reduction in anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. The results are based on online expert elicitation, a subsequent expert workshop, and a literature review. The social tipping interventions that could trigger the tipping of STE subsystems include (i) removing fossil fuel subsidies and incentivizing decentralized energy generation (STE1: energy production and storage systems), (ii) building carbon-neutral cities (STE2: human settlements), (iii) divesting from assets linked to fossil fuels (STE3: financial markets), (iv) revealing the moral implications of fossil fuels (STE4: norms and value systems), (v) strengthening climate education and engagement (STE5: education system) and (vi) disclosing information on greenhouse gas emissions (STE6: information feedbacks). Our research reveals important areas of focus for larger-scale empirical and modeling efforts to better understand the potentials of harnessing social tipping dynamics for climate change mitigation.

How to cite: Otto, I. M. and Donges, J.: Social tipping dynamics for stabilizing Earth’s climate by 2050, EGU General Assembly 2020, Online, 4–8 May 2020, EGU2020-21230,, 2020