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What are complex adaptive systems, why do they have tipping points and why do tipping points matter?

In this activity we will look at tipping points, because crossing these has big impacts for a very long time.

You may have come across the term tipping points? If so, what does it mean to you? Make a note of this. Do you have an example? Note this down too. If not, do not worry.

We will start by describing complex adaptive systems and identifying some of their key characteristics. After this step, you will be able to:

  • describe differences between three kinds of systems and
  • how these different systems need different approaches when to dealing with them;
  • list a few characteristics of complex adaptive systems – in particular tipping points.

Ecosystems are complex adaptive systems, and most people can picture an ecosystem making these a good example to work with. In this activity, we will look at coral reefs. After this step you will:

  • have an example of what kinds of changes can lead to crossing a tipping points
  • what happens when a tipping point is crossed and
  • why this matters.

This is important understanding as when we are talking about climate change, we are talking about complex adaptive systems.

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