A tipping point is a critical threshold at which the future state of a system can be qualitatively altered by a small change in forcing. A tipping element is a part of the Earth system (at least sub-continental in scale) that has a tipping point. Policy-relevant tipping elements are those that could be forced past a tipping point this century by human activities. Abrupt climate change is the subset of tipping point change which occurs faster than its cause. Tipping point change also includes transitions that are slower than their cause (in both cases the rate is determined by the system itself). In either case the change in state may be reversible or irreversible. Reversible means that when the forcing is returned below the tipping point the system recovers its original state (either abruptly or gradually). Irreversible means that it does not (it takes a larger change in forcing to recover). Reversibility in principle does not mean that changes will be reversible in practice.
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