As soon as a certain global temperature increase is exceeded, the complete melting of the ice sheet can no longer be prevented. This is one of the so-called tipping points of the planet’s climate system, which can be read in an article by Deutscher Wetterdienst (German Weather Service) dating from 2019.
While it is realistic to assume that this tipping point has not yet been reached – which of course does not mean that efforts to prevent this catastrophe may be reduced – various tipping points may occur this year in terms of both geopolitics and industrial policy. In addition to the potential threat of an attack by China on Taiwan and the associated global economic and military consequences, there is the very probable scenario that we will have to deal with a second term of Donald Trump as US President.
Should we be confronted with either (or both) of those developments in the course of 2024 and beyond, it is probably no exaggeration to write that this could be a tipping point for international security and peace. Mind you, we learnt on February 24th, 2022 that peace and security even in Europe cannot be taken for granted anymore.
International merchant shipping is facing several dangerous threats these days: ships have been under severe attack by the Houthi militia from Yemen in the Red Sea. Crews report assaults from rocket fire, as well as armed drones. Despite massive international military pressure, there is no end in sight to the attacks, which were launched in response to Israel’s bombardment of the Gaza Strip following the Hamas’ violent invasion on October 7th. A tipping point has also been reached in the Middle East.
A less tangible and therefore probably more insidious danger is the incidence of GPS jamming in the Baltic Sea. No serious accidents have happened so far as a result of interference with the global navigation satellite system (GNSS), but it could be only a matter of time. Although there are suspicions as to who the attackers might be, there are no firm conclusions.
Whether online or offline, analogue or digital – international freight transport by sea is currently in the midst of the threat of war. Protecting seafarers, the ships and their cargoes is of the utmost importance and can only succeed if nations work together. Global supply chains are facing severe disruption as a result of the world’s biggest shipping companies diverting ships away from the Red Sea.
So what do we do with this knowledge of tipping points and their consequences? In an ideal world, countermeasures would be taken at an early stage, be it with regard to the climate, potential acts of war or federal policy. Unfortunately, politics, economic or religious interests often get in the way.
However, it is still up to politicians and society to recognise tipping points at an early stage and look for solutions. In fact, it is also up to each and every one of us – even if it is not always within our power.
Thus follows a personal but very important note: we are very concerned about the increasingly threatening anti-democratic tendencies from right-wing extremists in Germany in the past months, most recently also against the freedom of the press. We – both as journalists and part of the maritime community – are clearly committed to an open, diverse, free and democratic society and condemn all forms of hatred, discrimination and violence!