25 Jul 2023
 | 25 Jul 2023
Status: this preprint is open for discussion.

A global social activation model of enabling conditions for positive social tipping – the role of sea-level rise anticipation and climate change concern

E. Keith Smith, Marc Wiedermann, Jonathan F. Donges, Jobst Heitzig, and Ricarda Winkelmann

Abstract. Effective climate change mitigation necessitates swift societal transformations. Social tipping processes, where small triggers initiate qualitative systemic shifts, are potential key mechanisms instigating societal change. A necessary foundation for societal tipping processes is the creation of enabling conditions. Here we assess future sea-level rise estimates and social survey data within the framework of a social activation model to exemplify the enabling conditions for tipping processes. We find that in many countries, climate change concern is sufficient, the enabling conditions and opportunities for social activation already exist. Further, drawing upon the interrelation between climate change concern and anticipation of future sea level rise, we report three qualitative classes of tipping potential that are regionally clustered, with greatest potential for tipping in Western Pacific rim and East Asian countries. These findings propose a transformative pathway where climate change concern increases the social tipping potential, while extended anticipation time horizons can trigger the system towards an alternative trajectory of larger social activation for climate change mitigation.

E. Keith Smith et al.

Status: open (until 18 Oct 2023)

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E. Keith Smith et al.

E. Keith Smith et al.


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Short summary
Social tipping dynamics have received recent attention as a potential mechanism for effective climate actions – yet how such tipping dynamics could unfold remains largely unquantified. We explore how social tipping processes can developed via enabling necessary conditions (exemplified by climate change concern) and increased perceptions of localized impacts (sea-level rise). The likelihood for social tipping varies regionally, mostly along areas with highest exposure to persistent risks.