It has become clear in the AR4 that the impacts of climate change are most damaging when they occur in the context of multiple stresses arising from the effects, for example, of globalisation, poverty, poor governance and settlement of low-lying coasts. Considerable progress has been made towards understanding which people and which locations may expect to be disproportionately impacted by the negative aspects of climate change. It is important to understand what characteristics enhance vulnerability, what characteristics strengthen the adaptive capacity of some people and places, and what characteristics predispose physical, biological and human systems to irreversible changes as a result of exposure to climate and other stresses [7.1, B7.4, 9.1, 9.ES]. How can systems be managed to minimise the risk of irreversible changes? How close are we to tipping points/thresholds for natural ecosystems such as the Amazon rain forest? What positive feedbacks would emerge if such a tipping point is reached?
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