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Type: Journal Article
Author(s): Henry P. Huntington; Eban Goodstein; Eugénie S. Euskirchen
Publication Date: 2012

Climate change incurs costs, but government adaptation budgets are limited. Beyond a certain point, individuals must bear the costs or adapt to new circumstances, creating political-economic tipping points that we explore in three examples. First, many Alaska Native villages are threatened by erosion, but relocation is expensive. To date, critically threatened villages have not yet been relocated, suggesting that we may already have reached a political-economic tipping point. Second, forest fires shape landscape and ecological characteristics in interior Alaska. Climate-driven changes in fire regime require increased fire-fighting resources to maintain current patterns of vegetation and land use, but these resources appear to be less and less available, indicating an approaching tipping point. Third, rapid sea level rise, for example from accelerated melting of the Greenland ice sheet, will create a choice between protection and abandonment for coastal regions throughout the world, a potential global tipping point comparable to those now faced by Arctic communities. The examples illustrate the basic idea that if costs of response increase more quickly than available resources, then society has fewer and fewer options as time passes. © Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences 2012.

Citation: Huntington, H. P., E. Goodstein, and E. Euskirchen. 2012. Towards a tipping point in responding to change: rising costs, fewer options for Arctic and global societies. Ambio, v. 41, no. 1, p. 66-74. 10.1007/s13280-011-0226-5.

Cataloging Information

  • Arctic
  • black spruce
  • boreal forests
  • climate change
  • climate change costs
  • coniferous forests
  • fire frequency
  • fire intensity
  • fire management
  • forest fires
  • forest management
  • Picea mariana
  • politics
  • response
  • sea level rise
  • succession
  • village relocation
  • wildfires
Tall Timbers Record Number: 28239Location Status: Not in fileCall Number: AvailableAbstract Status: Fair use, Okay, Reproduced by permission
Record Last Modified:
Record Maintained By: FRAMES Staff (
FRAMES Record Number: 51387

This bibliographic record was either created or modified by Tall Timbers and is provided without charge to promote research and education in Fire Ecology. The E.V. Komarek Fire Ecology Database is the intellectual property of Tall Timbers.