Climate Tipping Points (CTPs) And Flood Risk Models

Published: Monday, November 6, 2023
Author: Michael Kraten, PhD, CPA

Data analysts who develop flood risk models for property insurers, land developers, and government zoning officers have a new variable to plug into their data sets. Climate Tipping Points (CTPs) are now becoming crucial factors in risk forecasts.

The two most famous CTPs, of course, were made public during the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris. 196 national entities jointly ratified a set of climate change goals to preclude environmental catastrophesby limiting the increase in global temperatures to a CTP of 1.5 degrees Celsius. And even if the planet surpassed that threshold, assurance was given that we could still preclude the very worst apocalyptic outcomes by limiting the increase to a CTP of 2.0 degrees Celsius.

According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), our global temperature has only increased by 1.1 degrees Celsius thus far. Does that mean that we need not worry about environmental collapse?

Start worrying! Last week, the British Antarctic Survey published a study in the research journal Nature Climate Change. It found that the meltdown of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet is now unavoidable. In other words, we are already past the point of no return regarding the Ice Sheet, regardless of any future success in moderating temperature increase.

According to Reuters, the study concludes that “the West Antarctic Ice Sheet will continue to melt this century regardless of how much the world slashes planet-warming emissions … locking in further sea level rise over the coming decades.” That means higher sea levels and much greater risks of flooding on ocean coastlines.

Reuters also notes that “the collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet is one of nine global climate ‘tipping points’ scientists identified in 2009. The passing of these environmental red lines would be catastrophic for life on Earth.”

Thus, the 1.5- and 2.0-degree Celsius CTPs are no longer the only ones that pose material concerns. According to the British Antarctic Survey, we have already passed one critical CTP that will significantly impact coastal flood risk models around the world.

An earlier version waspublished at All rights reserved by author.

For additional information, we recommend:

  • Climate Change: Vital Signs of the Planet – NASA Earth Now. Explore a real-time data visualization of NASA’s Earth-orbiting satellites and the data they collect about climate change.