Then a heart attack or appendectomy would be a death sentence for many as well, because hospitals cannot help because of the overload.
If too many people are ill at the same time, general supplies such as electricity or water are also at risk. Large areas of industry could no longer maintain their production due to a lack of staff.
It is the fear of a classic tipping point caused politicians to initiate these extreme measures, which in turn triggered a severe economic crisis long before the wave of infections reached its peak. Up to a certain number of infections, the system is stable, even if many people suffer or die.
Above a certain infection rate, our entire system tilts into an uncontrollable state with extreme consequences for many affected people. And here are the parallels to the climate crisis. Here, too, are tipping points that will be reached very soon if we do not take effective climate protection measures quickly.
The warnings of climate researchers are not necessarily about the people’s charge of the climate change. Climate skeptics like to argue that climate change has always existed in human history. But viruses have always existed as well. Just like the corona virus, the speed of change is important.
In this graph we see the global temperature rise since the last ice age. Around 3 to 4 degrees Ceslius, the global average temperatures rose from the ice age to the time before our industrialization. Since 1900, one degree Celsius is added. And if we do not take any radical measures, the global temperature could even rise about 4 to 5 degrees Celsius by 2100.
It is the pace of the rise in temperature that drives the sweat on the forehead of climate researchers, just like the pace of the rise in the number of infections does among virologists. While the transition from the last ice age to the warm period took around 10,000 years, we are talking about an additional temperature increase of a similar height in around 100 years.
When we talk about tipping points in climate protection, we usually discuss tipping points of climate change. For example, we are about to start defrosting the Greenland ice sheet or the West Antarctic ice sheet.
The result is a dramatic rise in sea levels. While sea levels have only risen by around 20 cm in the last century, the rate of sea level rise has already doubled. At the end of the century, sea levels could even rise a meter or two in the worst-case scenario.
The climate tipping points will then result in further social tipping points. A very slow rise in sea level is not a serious problem. This can be checked through increased coastal protection measures. If the increase takes place too quickly, fewer and fewer protective measures can be implemented for economic and technical reasons.
Then large coastal areas will become permanently uninhabitable in rapid succession. In 2050, a billion people in the coastal regions could be affected. Many of these people will then move to other regions and, in turn, overload the systems there.
Drinking water and food supplies will be further tipping points in many regions. Smaller climate-related fluctuations in food production can be compensated for worldwide by stocks. If the crop failures become too large, violent conflicts and wars will break out in the hunger regions.
Then, the systems will tip as well. Another dramatic tipping point is global species extinction. Climate change will significantly increase this species extinction. An extreme example of the extent of species extinction can be seen in the mass extinction around 250 million years ago at the end of the Permian era.
As a result of a high rise in temperature caused by gigantic volcanic eruptions, 75 percent of all land creatures and 95 percent of marine life died out at the time. Excessive extinction of species would lead to the overturning of many ecosystems even today. Since humans are at the end of the food chain, a too rapid extinction of the species could ultimately lead to a failure in the food supply when important species such as bees or fish disappear from this planet forever.
The tipping points that are triggered by unchecked climate change have a completely different dimension than the tipping points of the corona crisis can ever have, even in the worst case scenario.