Abrupt Impacts of Climate Change: Anticipating Surprises

Earth’s systems are reacting to climate change on different timescales and magnitudes. Many of the impacts of climate change are occurring so abruptly that there is little time to investigate solutions and react. Both abrupt and gradual climate changes can cross thresholds, or ‘tipping points’, forcing once-balanced systems out of control and beyond a point of remediation. This report examines existing knowledge about the likelihood and timing of abrupt climate changes, argues for the development of an early warning system to anticipate these changes before they occur, and identifies the shortfalls in climate science and measurement/monitoring practices.