Abstract for: Social tipping mechanisms for rapid decarbonization

Social tipping processes describe how social, political, economic or technological systems can move rapidly into a new system state if cascading positive feedback mechanisms are triggered. Interventions for activating these social tipping processes are promising levers for accelerating progress towards net-zero. This study explicitly characterises the feedback mechanisms and interconnections between systems that collectively help explain social tipping processes. Using a participatory system dynamics modelling approach with experts in five specific social systems, we delineated both positive and negative feedback mechanisms in each system: energy, finance, urban infrastructure, norms and values, and education. We then co-developed a conceptual model of relevant feedback mechanisms, and identified the variables that can be used to monitor tipping dynamics. The presence of many coupled positive feedback loops within and between the systems indicate a high potential for social tipping dynamics to help tackle climate change. However, we also identified conditions and countervailing feedback loops that could result in undesirable dynamics. Further work is needed to explore potential tipping dynamics, identify the conditions under which they can be achieved including through interventions, and elaborate tipping processes in other social systems such as food and land use.