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IHRR’s Tipping Points project has now published its fourth annual report. It provides recent updates on the multiple strands of its research that combines different fields in the physical and social sciences, and arts and humanities. The project has generated a tremendous amount of academic research investigating the many different kinds of tipping points in banking, climate change, human behaviour, health, financial regulation and many others.

This reports provides updates from the project including the following research topics:

  • Tipping points in British banking
  • Climate research in the North Atlantic
  • Modelling complex systems
  • Diffusion of ideas
  • Critical transitions in art and literature

We are exploring and producing a variety of ways of disseminating this research, and welcome any feedback or questions about the contributions the project has made to better understanding tipping points in nature and society.

Download the report


For those of you who may not have come across the latest Tipping Points Annual Report yet, it provides the latest updates from the project. Tipping Points is now entering its fourth year of interdisciplinary research in climate change, the global financial crisis, mathematical tipping points and the tipping point metaphor itself.

Since the project started in summer 2010 it has questioned the fundamental understanding of tipping points in nature and society and has thus far produced a large body of work, with more publications to be uploaded to its website in the near future. This report includes field updates from paleoclimate research in the Arctic, historical bank failures in Britain, health tipping points and the agency of language.

Tipping Points Annual Report 2012-13

The term resilience is ambiguous, but is popular enough to spread widely throughout culture. Resilience literally means to ‘bounce back’. It is used virtually everywhere, from sport to science, environmental, economic and global policy.  As far as science is concerned, it seems to have been used in physics and ecology first (C.S. Holling), but it is also used frequently in the social sciences (see ‘Putting a Face on Resilience’ in HRR magazine).  Psychologists and psychiatrists talk about examples of personal resilience, especially in young people (see Norman Garmezy).

One big question about resilience is whether it actually means something universal or has its repeated use reduced it to nonsense?  During times of disaster, a radically changing climate and global financial crisis, it seems resilience allows people to talk about methods of recovery that were either unknown, not thought about as much, or never existed.

Resilience 1800

I thought it would be interesting to check on how often resilience has been used in books using Google’s Ngram tool.  Researchers with the Tipping Points project use data from Ngrams in many of their studies on the use of emotion words for example as well as the use of climate science terms, both of which are on downward trends at the moment.  The term ‘tipping point’ itself has also been studied by researchers and reached its peak in academic publications some years ago. Read more

The new annual report from the Tipping Points project is now available.

It features the latest research updates from all five work packages of the project:

  • Trust and maintaining resilience of financial markets
  • Development of UK banking sector
  • Field research on past climate in the North Atlantic
  • Tipping points in populations of UK banks and ‘titanic moments’
  • Use of ‘tipping point’ in popular culture and in discussions about climate change

Plus much more!

Tipping Points Annual Report 2011-12 

Smoking Prevalence and Lung Cancer Incidence, by Sex, Great Britain, 1948-2010 (Cancer Research UK)

This conference from the Tipping Points project focuses on modelling of social problems and health.  Researchers will present and discuss health problems of concern within society together with mathematical and statistical models, which may be useful predictive tools for deriving strategies that practitioners may use.  Emphasis of the workshop will be placed on actual health issues that are a huge financial burden to governments and taxpayers, such as smoking, alcoholism, substance abuse and heart problems.

Lectures will be given on mathematical and statistical methods by experts from the Universities of Bologna, Durham, Manchester, Strathclyde and Turin within the context of health problems. A key feature of the workshop are lectures by practitioners from government-sponsored bodies like FRESH (smoke-free North East), and NEPHO (North East Public Health Observatory), together with guests from Volterra Consulting, Rinicare, the Wolfson Research Institute, the NIBHI (Northwest Institute for BioHealth Informatics), and the Universities of Lancaster and Manchester. Read more

In one of the final presentations given at the Tipping Points Annual Conference, Prof Ranald Michie presents the history of London as a global financial centre before and after the 2007-08 banking crisis and subsequent euro debt crisis.  Prof Michie explains how London became the global financial centre it is today. Read more

This post is from Dr Matthew Hollow one of the researchers from the Tipping Points project blogging about the annual Tipping Points Conference held at Durham University.

“…think of what ninety nine percent of the human race want – food, shelter, a secure family life and to be left alone by bosses and busybodies. Unfortunately the one percent who are interested in power and ideals and ideologies are the ones who call the tune.” (Aldous Huxley, 1947)

One of the more powerful slogans adopted by the worldwide ‘Occupy’ movement has been the catchphrase ‘We are the 99%’. Inspired by Huxley’s above-quoted comments on the inequalities in society, the phrase was adopted by the Occupy movement to both criticise the extent to which power is concentrated in the hands of a powerful, wealthy minority and, simultaneously, to promote the idea that those involved in the Occupy movement are the true flag-bearers for the masses. Read more

Biodiversity is not only key to the survival of the human species, but the entire planet.  It is known as one of the most important drivers of global environmental change.  Anyone with appreciation for diversity of wildlife where they live for example understands the importance of biodiversity to non-human communities, but it is also essential to many human ones.  As the Earth’s ecosystems are currently threatened by a wide range of environmental factors such as climate change, land fragmentation and global intensification of agriculture, changes that take place at a local and global scale could together have dynamic, unforeseen impacts on the planet as a whole.

Many mostly non-western societies are directly dependent upon biodiversity for their livelihoods.  People who depend on biodiversity usually live in rural areas or in forests sharing a close relationship with species they depend on for survival.  Biodiversity refers to many things, but especially species richness or abundance, reproduction of plant and animal species and both the timing and geographic dispersion of species throughout the world. Read more

How do you identify tipping points before they occur?  This question is being asked by many scientists including those in the Tipping Points project about how early warning signals could be detected before a system – a biological, climate or even economic one – tips into an entirely different state.  Many researchers are concerned that the Earth itself will undergo a critical transition that will cause radical physical, ecological and social changes that are also difficult to anticipate.  One of the main drivers of this is climate change, but others are also included.  The world could likely experience unprecedented transformation on a number of different scales, but when this will occur is difficult to say.

It may already be happening as signs of the planet’s changing climate have indicated.  But have we passed a tipping point?  Are the changes inevitable and is there no turning back?  These two questions in particular have sparked a frenzy in the popular media.  A recent study published in Nature, ‘Approaching a state shift in Earth’s biosphere’, reviews research on different parts of the Earth’s biosphere providing context and useful knowledge for understanding the critical state of the planet at this time.

Read more

Does ‘tipping point’ cause people to view climate change proactively?  Does it help them feel they are able to do something about it or is it apocalyptic, simply another way of expressing the end?  This was one of several topics discussed after a film screening hosted by IHRR’s Tipping Points project — a dedicated group of physical and social scientists along with humanities researchers who are studying the implications of one metaphor –-‘ tipping point’.  Researchers who led the discussion were Prof Antony Long, Prof Pat Waugh, Prof Dave Petley and Dr Pojanath Bhatanacharoen.  The metaphor ‘tipping point’ is indeed special, but in some cases is no different from others that imply something similar such as ‘butterfly effect’ or in academia ‘paradigm shift’ or the closely related ‘turning point’.

Metaphors like tipping point get thrown around so much in general discussion that their meaning(s) expand and soon many people are using them, shifting the context in which they were originally used.  The movie, Beyond The Tipping Point?, is not really so much about the science of climate change per se, but rather how people think and feel about it, whether tipping point incites action or inaction about the political issue of climate change and why.

Read more

Hazard Risk Resilience Magazine Issue 2 Out Now!

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