2021 Feature, Small Newsroom finalist

The 7 Climate Tipping Points That Could Change the World Forever


Feature, Small Newsroom


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About the Project

In 2019, an international group of scientists sounded the alarm on a little-discussed aspect of climate change. We normally think of warming as linear — the more temperatures go up, the more Arctic ice melts, the more sea levels rise. These researchers cautioned that certain Earth systems had tipping points that could put warming on more of an exponential curve. So more like: Warming increases the frequency of wildfires, which in turn increases the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere from burning trees, which leads to an increase in global temperature, which means even more wildfires

Grist set out to detail for our audience several systems around the world that are at risk of tipping, from coral reefs to the Greenland ice sheet to the Amazon rainforest. With crisp writing and beautiful imagery, each profile dives deep into climate science and serves it up in a detailed and clear manner. Where we encountered trickier concepts, we turned to our well-honed expertise in crafting video explainers using desktop items from vases to soda cans full of dirt to break down complex ideas for readers.

It’s our intention to offer the kindling for conversations about climate change — but we also want to share signs of progress to give our readers a sense of hope and agency that the crisis is being, can be, and will be addressed. In line with our mission, we set the dramatic ecological and geophysical changes that warming could hasten against a social tipping point that is likewise picking up steam and could cause the global community to intervene before these Earth systems plunge into new realities.