A feedback loop arises from causal relations within a system and either enhances or limits a change in the system. Feedback loops may be positive or negative in nature. A negative feedback loop reduces the effect of change and helps maintain equilibrium. A positive feedback loop increases the effect of the change and produces instability.
1. In climate change, a feedback loop is something that speeds up or slows down a warming trend.
2. Design and management of infrastructure for resilience should consider feedback loops.
3. Feedback loops are important in learning and decision-making processes, which may be single-loop, double-loop or triple-loop, depending on the type and extent of change.
4. Feedback loops are significant for building the intelligence of a system to respond to future shocks and stresses based on past, current and projected performance for a dynamic risk context.
Modified from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: Global Monitoring Laboratory.
Positive climate feedback loop – Increased carbon emissions to offset higher temperatures contributing to global temperature rise
There has been an unparalleled rise in temperatures globally, much of which is due to a sharp increase in carbon emissions. While some countries have been able to adjust to this rising temperature, some infrastructures have not been able to effectively combat these heatwaves. Warm temperatures cause people to run electrical appliances, like fans, air conditioners, freezers. These electrical appliances are notorious for emitting hydrofluorocarbons, which contribute to global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Additionally, to satisfy this increase in electricity demand, governments are forced to increase the use of fossil fuel-powered power plants. This emits more GHGs, thereby contributing to increasing global temperatures. This feedback loop creates a vicious circle of increased air conditioning use leading to increased electricity consumption and refrigerant production, causing increased emissions of GHG, accelerating global temperature rises, and provoking further increased use of air conditioning, and so on.
Source: Climate Reality. (2020, January 7). How feedback loops are making the climate crisis worse. Climate Reality Project. Retrieved February 14, 2023.