Wikipedia describes hysteresis as "systems which have memory; the effects of the current input (or stimulus) to the system are not all felt at the same instant." This happens in some electrical or magnetic systems where if force or current is applied, the resulting effects won't be observed until after a certain lag time. After the system has reached a breaking point, the final push will have a result that is cumulative of all the previous inputs.
Sometimes, since I don't see the effects day to day, I fear that Climate change will result in this kind of disaster. Like we will go about our lives perfectly fine in breathable crisp air until one final hydrocarbon molecule escapes the tailpipe of my Oldsmobile. Suddenly that one microscopic particle of pollution will spread like a virus, filling our entire atmosphere with black carbon monoxide smoke. We'll all pass out instantly as all heat is completely blocked inside our atmosphere and our flesh sizzles as we fall unconscious to scalding sidewalks.
A friend recently pointed out to me that most relationships end in hysteresis. Things seem fine until little complaints have added to the point that the whole thing is instantly irreparable.
In my mind Al Gore is as proactive about prolonging his marriage as he is about saving the environment. He presents his wife with quarterly line graph evaluations of the exponential rise in the atmospheric toxins due to bickering. "Tipper, if we don't act now, our marriage could reach the point of no return by next August." Every time he leaves his socks littered on the floor instead of placing them in the hamper he places a dollar in the jar labelled, "zero hostility footprint tax" Every time she nags him about it she puts in a buck. At the end of the month they spill the resulting cash into their pockets and share sundaes at Baskin Robbins.