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Feedback Effects

Evidence on feedback effects demonstrate that decisions on fossil fuels (investment, policy, and/or judicial decisions) can have complex, non-linear feedback effects, which can accelerate system-wide decarbonisation.  

The work of Farmer et al (2019) on ‘sensitive intervention points’ draws on complex systems theory to show how well-calibrated interventions can trigger disproportionately large shifts in the systems that cause climate change. Otto et al (2020) similarly examine how certain ‘social tipping interventions’ can catalyse change within and across specific systems (e.g. the energy system, education system, information systems, norms and values, human settlements, and financial markets). Lenton et al (2020) analyse theories on positive tipping points in social and technological systems, suggesting events such as market reconfigurations and governmental interventions can lead to systemic change.  

Evidence on non-linear feedback effects can be used to challenge arguments that assume actions, such as a single decision on a fossil fuel project, only have linear, marginal effects. Instead, rejecting a proposal for a new fossil fuel project may contribute to processes that trigger widespread change, as discussed in our category page on Norm Diffusion and Other Non-Price Effects.  

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