Can you create a 'snowball effect' to solve the climate crisis?

7th February 2020

Web energy saving istock 501033912 0

Related Topics

Related tags

  • sea ice loss


robert speakman

By Kathryn Manning The University of Oxford in the UK is looking for bright ideas to create what they call a 'runaway solution' to combat global climate change. The best entry will win €1000 and the opportunity to pitch your idea to the team at Oxford. Those interested should submit their idea <a href=>here</a> by 1 March.

The reasoning behind the competition is that, in the face of global-warming, our political systems are moving too slowly and so a new approach is required. The idea is to find 'sensitive intervention points' – small actions that have the potential to tip the system and generate a large reduction in global emissions.

“Solutions to the climate change crisis aren't going to come from the same thinking that got us into this mess. That's why we are taking this competition global,“ said Cameron Hepburn, director of the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment. “We're looking for solutions that are simple but effective – and that bring a new perspective that we haven't thought of before.“ Hepburn's TEDx Talk explaining SIPs and the competition is available here.

A spokesperson from the University of Oxford explains: “In 2019, emissions were 4% higher than when the Paris Agreement was signed in 2015. In the face of national targets being missed, just 1 in 10 energy companies planning for decarbonisation, and growing ecological disasters, it can feel like no individual action can make a difference. But what if a small change could trigger outsized impacts?“

In 2019, researchers proposed a new approach. Based on this research on influencing behaviour they suggest designing climate interventions that take advantage of socio-economic and political tipping points. The paper states: “We focus on research and policies in which an intervention kicks or shifts the system so that the initial change is amplified by feedback effects that deliver outsized impact.“

Potential SIPs identified by the Oxford team include investment in key clean energy technology like solar power, with its dramatically declining costs, and changes to rules around financial disclosure of climate risk for shareholders: “When a system is at a tipping point, a relatively small change can trigger a profound impact. Think about a loud noise setting off an avalanche, or a lone Swedish schoolgirl inspiring climate strikes around the world. Identifying these 'sensitive intervention points' or SIPs, can lead to solutions with runaway positive impacts.“ Now these researchers are looking for ideas from around the world to accelerate the transition towards net-zero carbon emissions and decarbonise the global economy. The ‚Ǩ1000 cash prize will be offered for best new proposed SIP, which will then be pitched to the eminent Oxford advisory board in April 2020.

Conditions are that the SIPs must be able to be triggered in the near future; make use of systems that are “ripe for change“; and have self-reinforcing feedbacks that can generate accelerating change at scale. In other words, they are relatively small actions that might be taken in any aspect of our lives that have the potential to generate a large reduction in global emissions.

To enter, go to their website and send a concise description of your idea in less than 300 words by 1 March. Good luck!


Subscribe to IEMA's newsletters to receive timely articles, expert opinions, event announcements, and much more, directly in your inbox.

Transform articles

A social conscience

With a Taskforce on Inequality and Social-related Financial Disclosures in the pipeline, Beth Knight talks to Chris Seekings about increased recognition of social sustainability

6th June 2024

Read more

Disinformation about the impossibility of averting the climate crisis is part of an alarming turn in denialist tactics, writes David Burrows

6th June 2024

Read more

David Symons, FIEMA, director of sustainability at WSP, and IEMA’s Lesley Wilson, tell Chris Seekings why a growing number of organisations are turning to nature-based solutions to meet their climate goals

6th June 2024

Read more

A system-level review is needed to deliver a large-scale programme of retrofit for existing buildings. Failure to do so will risk missing net-zero targets, argues Amanda Williams

31st May 2024

Read more

Chris Seekings reports from a webinar helping sustainability professionals to use standards effectively

31st May 2024

Read more

Although many organisations focus on scope 1 and 2 emissions, it is vital to factor in scope 3 emissions and use their footprint to drive business change

31st May 2024

Read more

IEMA submits response to the Future Homes Standard consultation

31st May 2024

Read more

What is the role for nature in the Climate Change Act? Sophie Mairesse reports

20th May 2024

Read more

Media enquires

Looking for an expert to speak at an event or comment on an item in the news?

Find an expert

IEMA Cookie Notice

Clicking the ‘Accept all’ button means you are accepting analytics and third-party cookies. Our website uses necessary cookies which are required in order to make our website work. In addition to these, we use analytics and third-party cookies to optimise site functionality and give you the best possible experience. To control which cookies are set, click ‘Settings’. To learn more about cookies, how we use them on our website and how to change your cookie settings please view our cookie policy.

Manage cookie settings

Our use of cookies

You can learn more detailed information in our cookie policy.

Some cookies are essential, but non-essential cookies help us to improve the experience on our site by providing insights into how the site is being used. To maintain privacy management, this relies on cookie identifiers. Resetting or deleting your browser cookies will reset these preferences.

Essential cookies

These are cookies that are required for the operation of our website. They include, for example, cookies that enable you to log into secure areas of our website.

Analytics cookies

These cookies allow us to recognise and count the number of visitors to our website and to see how visitors move around our website when they are using it. This helps us to improve the way our website works.

Advertising cookies

These cookies allow us to tailor advertising to you based on your interests. If you do not accept these cookies, you will still see adverts, but these will be more generic.

Save and close