A Social Tipping Point

The key to triggering a paradigm shift of public opinion that will result in a wartime mobilization to counter the worst effects of climate change is first revealed in a 2011 paper published by researchers at the Social Cognitive Networks Academic Research Center (SCNARC) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute entitled Social consensus through the influence of committed minorities which provides an explanation to how large global cultural movements like the Occupy Movement or Arab Spring are triggered.

The key is to determine the climate change public opinion tipping point threshold for each country and then develop a holistic strategy to exceed the tipping point. Once that threshold is crossed, the minority ideas spread into the majority in a relatively short time period.

This strategy will be called the Committed Agent Shift (CAS) strategy.The abstract from this 2011 paper asserts:

“We show how the prevailing majority opinion in a population can be rapidly reversed by a small fraction p of randomly distributed committed agents who consistently proselytize the opposing opinion and are immune to influence. Specifically, we show that when the committed fraction grows beyond a critical value pc ≈ 10%, there is a dramatic decrease in the time, Tc, taken for the entire population to adopt the committed opinion. In particular, for complete graphs we show that when p<pc, Tc exp(α(p)N), while for p > pc, Tc ln N. We conclude with simulation results for Erd˝os-R´enyi random graphs and scale-free networks which show qualitatively similar behavior.”

How Close Are We to Tipping?

The key to triggering a social tipping point lay in mobilizing committed agents. Recent studies by RSA and Yale Center for Climate Change called “6 Americas” reveals a very large demographic group consisting of open-minded but undecided and uncommitted. In “Ostrich and Phoenix”, Professor Kevin Anderson identifies a group of 1-5% responsible for 40 to 60% of carbon emissions.

RSA figure 1


Figure 1: The large undecided group in the UK (Source: A New Agenda on Climate Change – RSA)




Figure 2: 6 groups of identified climate change demographics in the US (Source: 6 Americas – Yale Project on Climate Change Communication)


Figure 3: Effective Rapid Emissions Reduction Strategy (Source: Ostrich or Phoenix, Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research)