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Abstract

The challenge of meeting the UNFCCC CoP21 goal of keeping global warming ‘well below 2 °C and to pursue efforts towards 1.5 °C’ (‘the 2–1.5 °C target’) calls for research efforts to better understand the opportunities and constraints for fundamental transformations in global systems dynamics which currently drive the unsustainable and inequitable use of the Earth's resources. To this end, this research reviews and introduces the notion of positive tipping points as emergent properties of systems–including both human capacities and structural conditions — which would allow the fast deployment of evolutionary-like transformative solutions to successfully tackle the present socio-climate quandary. Our research provides a simple procedural synthesis to help identify and coordinate the required agents’ capacities to implement transformative solutions aligned with such climate goal in different contexts. Our research shows how to identify the required capacities, conditions and potential p

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... Recently, a growing body of literature has (re)discovered the usefulness of the concept of tipping for the social context, and in particular regarding climate change action e.g., [8][9][10][11][12]. These studies introduce the idea that effective climate change mitigation, i.e., activities that prevent or at least delay natural tipping, requires fundamental societal transformation, 2 that is, a social tipping, e.g., a change from a previously high level of CO 2 emissions to a new zero-CO 2 emissions state [10,[13][14][15][16]. Moreover, while in contrast to natural tipping, social tipping is seldom completely irreversible, it still brings the system into a new stable state. ...
... An emerging body of literature has emphasized the need for fast and encompassing societal change, i.e., social tipping, to bring about the necessary changes to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement and to stop or at least decelerate the tipping of the climate system cf. [10,11,15,24]. While the notion "tipping point" has been used in the social sciences before, when Schelling [31] prominently employed it to discuss neighborhood segregation, it was re-introduced to this field and, more precisely, to the discussion on climate change mitigation only in the late 2000s [1,31]. ...
... First, and in contrast to natural tipping, which, in the context of global warming, is most often an unwanted process, social tipping can involve both desirable and undesirable dynamics [18]. Recent studies focus on positive social tipping [26], namely "emergent properties derived from complex systems dynamics that allow rapid transformations in individual and collective practices so as to reach evolutionary-like solutions to the present socio-climate quandary" [ [15], p. 120]. We align with this perspective and focus on (normatively) positive tipping towards effective climate change mitigation, i.e., emphasizing the need within the social and political sciences to better explain and understand the rapid and fundamental change necessary to stay within the planetary boundaries [33]. ...
Article
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In the natural sciences, the concept of “(natural) tipping points” has become a hot topic in climate change research. To better understand and evaluate the possibilities for and the barriers to the fundamental societal transformations necessary for climate change mitigation, we suggest a social tipping dynamics framework. We contrast this framework with previous accounts of stability and change and show that integrating these approaches under the umbrella of a social tipping dynamics framework provides us with a more encompassing and therefore more realistic account for theorizing and empirically analyzing the different (technological, behavioral, and political) paths and related interdependencies to fundamental societal change. Moreover, by emphasizing the agency aspect, we highlight that the type of fundamental change required in effective climate change mitigation is more strongly actor-driven than previous approaches have suggested. In a second step, we apply our framework to the phase-out of chlorofluorocarbons and thereby illustrate its merits. To conclude, we summarize the value of the concept of social tipping dynamics, including its limitations and potential for improving political analysis.
... Many have concluded that it is now time for a new approach 5,6 , which explicitly allows for interactions between natural systems and social systems [7][8][9][10][11][12][13] . Examples of human-natural interactions that have been considered include societal response to perceived climate risks such as providing support for mitigation policies and changing personal behaviours that reduce individual greenhouse gas emissions 7 ; the role of finance and other macroeconomic agents in sustaining economic development and shaping the dynamics of transition to low-carbon energy sources 9 ; the role of positive tipping points in the societal transformation towards stabilizing climate 10 ; negative feedback on the economics of energy production due to climate risks 12 ; and constraints on carbon emission reductions due to legacy technologies 10 and climate change 11 . ...
... Many have concluded that it is now time for a new approach 5,6 , which explicitly allows for interactions between natural systems and social systems [7][8][9][10][11][12][13] . Examples of human-natural interactions that have been considered include societal response to perceived climate risks such as providing support for mitigation policies and changing personal behaviours that reduce individual greenhouse gas emissions 7 ; the role of finance and other macroeconomic agents in sustaining economic development and shaping the dynamics of transition to low-carbon energy sources 9 ; the role of positive tipping points in the societal transformation towards stabilizing climate 10 ; negative feedback on the economics of energy production due to climate risks 12 ; and constraints on carbon emission reductions due to legacy technologies 10 and climate change 11 . Another recent development in coupling human and natural systems is the modelling of the feedbacks between warming, land use and land-cover policy 14,15 , which has paved the way for an integrated Earth system model 16 . ...
... Many have concluded that it is now time for a new approach 5,6 , which explicitly allows for interactions between natural systems and social systems [7][8][9][10][11][12][13] . Examples of human-natural interactions that have been considered include societal response to perceived climate risks such as providing support for mitigation policies and changing personal behaviours that reduce individual greenhouse gas emissions 7 ; the role of finance and other macroeconomic agents in sustaining economic development and shaping the dynamics of transition to low-carbon energy sources 9 ; the role of positive tipping points in the societal transformation towards stabilizing climate 10 ; negative feedback on the economics of energy production due to climate risks 12 ; and constraints on carbon emission reductions due to legacy technologies 10 and climate change 11 . Another recent development in coupling human and natural systems is the modelling of the feedbacks between warming, land use and land-cover policy 14,15 , which has paved the way for an integrated Earth system model 16 . ...
Article
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The redesign of energy and economic systems to stabilize climate change is hindered by the lack of quantitative treatment of the role that human–natural systems interactions play in what society can do to tackle climate change. Here we present an integrated socio–energy–ecologic–climate model framework for understanding the role of human–natural systems interactions in climate change. We focus on constraints on climate stabilization imposed by feedbacks between global warming and societal actions to decarbonize energy use and to scale up atmospheric-carbon extraction. The energy–climate feedbacks are modelled through four warming-dependent response times for societal, policy and technological actions inferred from historical data. We show that a lack of societal response beyond 2030 would result in a warming in excess of 3 °C. Speeding up societal response times and technology diffusion times by a factor of two along with a dramatic boost in start-up investment in renewables and atmospheric-carbon extraction technologies and short-lived climate pollutants mitigation by 2030 can stabilize the warming below 1.5 °C. The model’s analytical framework and the analyses presented here reveal the fundamental importance of factoring in the role of human–natural systems interactions in the transition to zero emissions when formulating and designing robust climate solutions.
... Against this backdrop, there is a growing consensus that avoiding crossing undesired climate tipping points requires rapid transformational social change, which may be propelled (intentionally or unintentionally) by triggering social tipping processes (9, 10) or "sensitive intervention points" (11,12). Examples for such proposed social tipping dynamics include divestment from fossil fuels in financial markets, political mobilization and social norm change, socio-technical innovation (9- 11,13,14). ...
... Against this backdrop, there is a growing consensus that avoiding crossing undesired climate tipping points requires rapid transformational social change, which may be propelled (intentionally or unintentionally) by triggering social tipping processes (9, 10) or "sensitive intervention points" (11,12). Examples for such proposed social tipping dynamics include divestment from fossil fuels in financial markets, political mobilization and social norm change, socio-technical innovation (9- 11,13,14). Equally, if human societies do not act collectively and decisively, climate change could conceivably trigger undesirable social tipping processes, such as international migration bursts, food system collapse or political revolutions (15). Social tipping processes have received recent attention, as they encompass this sort of rapid, transformational system change (9, 10,13,15). ...
... In response to the concept of climate tipping points, social scientists are re-engaging with this concept yet again, creating an additional layer of tipping scholarship with an emphasis on the need for and possibility of deliberate tipping of social systems onto novel development pathways towards sustainability (e.g. 11,47). Scholars argue in particular that the rapid, non-linear change of social tipping dynamics might be necessary to speed up societies' responses to climate change, and to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement. ...
Preprint
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Societal transformations are necessary to address critical global challenges, such as mitigation of anthropogenic climate change and reaching UN sustainable development goals. Recently, social tipping processes have received increased attention, as they present a form of social change whereby a small change can shift a sensitive social system into a qualitatively different state due to strongly self-amplifying (mathematically positive) feedback mechanisms. Social tipping processes have been suggested as key drivers of sustainability transitions emerging in the fields of technological and energy systems, political mobilization, financial markets and sociocultural norms and behaviors. Drawing from expert elicitation and comprehensive literature review, we develop a framework to identify and characterize social tipping processes critical to facilitating rapid social transformations. We find that social tipping processes are distinguishable from those of already more widely studied climate and ecological tipping dynamics. In particular, we identify human agency, social-institutional network structures, different spatial and temporal scales and increased complexity as key distinctive features underlying social tipping processes. Building on these characteristics, we propose a formal definition for social tipping processes and filtering criteria for those processes that could be decisive for future trajectories to global sustainability in the Anthropocene. We illustrate this definition with the European political system as an example of potential social tipping processes, highlighting the potential role of the FridaysForFuture movement. Accordingly, this analytical framework for social tipping processes can be utilized to illuminate mechanisms for necessary transformative climate change mitigation policies and actions.
... Spreading and contagion processes shape the dynamics of diverse complex ecological, societal and technological systems studied in many fields of research [1][2][3]. Examples include biological infections [4,5] such as the spreading of the COVID-19 pandemic [6], cascading failures in interdependent infrastructure systems [7], diffusion of innovations and technologies [8][9][10], social norms [11] and other social, political and technological innovations relevant for sustainability transition and rapid decarbonisation [12][13][14][15], political changes [16], or religious missionary work [17,18]. These spreading processes on complex networks often give rise to nonlinear dynamics and the emergence of macroscopic phenomena, such as phase transitions and tipping points that separate qualitatively different dynamical regimes [19]; for example, a transition between regimes where a local infection or innovation is locally contained, and those where it spreads globally to a large part of the network [1,2,10,20,21]. ...
... Better understanding of such complex spreading processes, based on improved methods for data analysis and modelling, is highly relevant for finding robust approaches to influence, manage, govern or control their dynamics. This way, harmful impacts may be avoided, or desirable outcomes reached, e.g. for containing pandemic outbreaks [6,26,27], preventing cascading failures in power grids [7,28], or fostering the spreading of social-cultural-technological innovations towards a rapid sustainability transformation [12][13][14]19]. ...
Preprint
Full-text available
Spreading or complex contagion processes on networks are an important mechanistic foundation of tipping dynamics and other nonlinear phenomena in complex social, ecological and technological systems. Increasing amounts of temporal network data are now becoming available to study such spreading processes of behaviours, opinions, ideas, diseases, innovations or technologies and to test hypotheses regarding their specific properties. To this end, we here present a methodology based on dose-response functions and hypothesis testing using surrogate data sets. We demonstrate this methodology for synthetic temporal network data generated by the adaptive voter model. Furthermore, we apply it to empirical temporal network data from the Copenhagen Networks Study. This data set provides a physically-close-contact network between university students participating in the study over the course of three months. We study the potential spreading dynamics of the health-related behaviour "regularly going to the fitness studio" on this network. Based on a hierarchy of surrogate data models, we find that the empirical data neither provide significant evidence for an influence of a dose-response-type network spreading process, nor significant evidence for homophily. The empirical dynamics in exercise behaviour are likely better described by individual features such as the disposition towards the behaviour, and the persistence to maintain it, as well as external influences affecting the whole group, and the non-trivial network structure. The proposed methodology is generic and promising also for applications to other data sets and traits of interest.
... Knowledge coproduction and uptake of new technology are examples of different ways through which individuals and institutions at various levels navigate and, often proactively, take advantage of SETS change 1,16 . Climate change can trigger nonlinear positive tipping points from society and technology that, through feedback, create different-ideally improvedsystem states ( Fig. 2) 3,30 . For example, in urban forestry plans, forecasted future climate envelopes can offer an opportunity to redesign planting strategies around species more likely to withstand future temperature and rainfall extremes and replace those likely to struggle or fail 23 . ...
... For example, rebuilding cities struck by wildfires or hurricanes triggered by or exacerbated by climate change (e.g., Paradise, CA; New Orleans, LA) can provide a blank canvas and opportunity to design SETS change with elements known to enhance urban climate change adaptation. In older, more developed cities, on the other hand, smaller SETS changes at an individual or community social level can be further promoted to compound smaller interventions over time, potentially positively stimulating climate change adaptation 16,30 . ...
Article
Full-text available
Urban social–ecological–technological systems (SETS) are dynamic and respond to climate pressures. Change involves alterations to land and resource management, social organization, infrastructure, and design. Research often focuses on how climate change impacts urban SETS or on the characteristics of urban SETS that promote climate resilience. Yet passive approaches to urban climate change adaptation may disregard active SETS change by urban residents, planners, and policymakers that could be opportunities for adaptation. Here, we use evidence of urban social, ecological, and technological change to address how SETS change opens windows of opportunity to improve climate change adaptation.
... However, climate information also has a role to play in transformational adaptation. In fact, recent studies suggest that the generation, exchange, and contextualization of climate information is at the very heart of the transformational adaptation agenda (e.g., Tabara et al. 2018). Whether access to climate information provides opportunities for transformational adaptation as well as incremental change is thus a nontrivial question that merits a closer look. ...
... The distinction between incremental and transformational adaptation emerged as a topic of interest when climate scholars started to highlight the need for a fundamental change in socioeconomic arrangements in order to adapt to climate change (Tabara et al. 2018), and to question whether the measures currently planned and/or being taken are up to the task (Kates et al. 2012). The defining characteristics of transformational adaptation have been described in different ways: as addressing the root causes of climate vulnerability rather than only its symptoms (Wise et al. 2014); fostering long-term adaptive capacity rather than short-term vulnerability reductions (Wamsler et al. 2013); or changing habits and institutions rather than the physical infrastructure (Vine 2018). ...
Article
Full-text available
We explore opportunities for climate adaptation in the context of water governance. We focus on opportunities linked to the provision of climate information, raising the question of whether they are limited to incremental adaptation, or can also bring about transformational adaptation. We address this question through an archetype analysis based on 26 peer-reviewed articles. In each article, opportunities are identified, coded using the social-ecological system framework, and then bundled into archetypes that encompass similar opportunities reappearing across multiple cases. Results suggest that the provision of climate information can constitute an opportunity for adaptation that goes beyond purely incremental adjustments to a changing climate. Specifically, two of the six archetypes identified enable transformational adaptation by bringing long-term implications of current impacts into focus and by addressing the issue of capacity of existing institutions to respond to climate change. However, there is a high degree of heterogeneity in the characterization of opportunities, and the six archetypes only cover about one in three of the opportunities identified. This indicates the need for further research to develop more streamlined conceptualizations. In this respect, the archetypes identified herewith suggest some avenues for further conceptual development. We also explore policy implications, raising questions regarding the current development of climate services.
... a e-mail: donges@pik-potsdam.de (corresponding author) nological innovations relevant for sustainability transition and rapid decarbonisation [15][16][17][18]; political changes [19]; or religious missionary work [20,21]. These spreading processes on complex networks often give rise to non-linear dynamics and the emergence of macroscopic phenomena, such as phase transitions and tipping points that separate qualitatively different dynamical regimes [22]; for example, a transition between regimes where a local infection or innovation is locally contained, and those where it spreads globally to a large part of the network [1,2,10,23,24]. ...
... Better understanding of such complex spreading processes, based on improved methods for data analysis and modelling, is highly relevant for finding robust approaches to identify, analyse, influence or govern their dynamics. This way, harmful impacts may be avoided, or desirable outcomes reached, e.g. for containing pandemic outbreaks [6,29,30], preventing cascading failures in power grids [7,31], or fostering the spreading of social-cultural-technological innovations towards a rapid sustainability transformation [15][16][17]22]. In recent years, temporal network data has become more abundantly available from social media platforms such as Facebook [32] and Twitter [33], or long-term health studies such as the Framingham Heart Study [34] that have been leveraged for studying spreading and contagion processes, e.g. in the dynamics of obesity [35], smoking [36], happiness [37], loneliness [38], alcohol consumption [39], depression [40], divorce [41], emotional contagion [42] and political mobilisation [43]. ...
Article
Full-text available
Spreading dynamics and complex contagion processes on networks are important mechanisms underlying the emergence of critical transitions, tipping points and other non-linear phenomena in complex human and natural systems. Increasing amounts of temporal network data are now becoming available to study such spreading processes of behaviours, opinions, ideas, diseases and innovations to test hypotheses regarding their specific properties. To this end, we here present a methodology based on dose–response functions and hypothesis testing using surrogate data models that randomise most aspects of the empirical data while conserving certain structures relevant to contagion, group or homophily dynamics. We demonstrate this methodology for synthetic temporal network data of spreading processes generated by the adaptive voter model. Furthermore, we apply it to empirical temporal network data from the Copenhagen Networks Study. This data set provides a physically-close-contact network between several hundreds of university students participating in the study over the course of 3 months. We study the potential spreading dynamics of the health-related behaviour “regularly going to the fitness studio” on this network. Based on a hierarchy of surrogate data models, we find that our method neither provides significant evidence for an influence of a dose–response-type network spreading process in this data set, nor significant evidence for homophily. The empirical dynamics in exercise behaviour are likely better described by individual features such as the disposition towards the behaviour, and the persistence to maintain it, as well as external influences affecting the whole group, and the non-trivial network structure. The proposed methodology is generic and promising also for applications to other temporal network data sets and traits of interest.
... However, climate information also has a role to play in transformational adaptation. In fact, recent studies suggest that the generation, exchange, and contextualization of climate information is at the very heart of the transformational adaptation agenda (e.g., Tabara et al. 2018). Whether access to climate information provides opportunities for transformational adaptation as well as incremental change is thus a nontrivial question that merits a closer look. ...
... The distinction between incremental and transformational adaptation emerged as a topic of interest when climate scholars started to highlight the need for a fundamental change in socioeconomic arrangements in order to adapt to climate change (Tabara et al. 2018), and to question whether the measures currently planned and/or being taken are up to the task (Kates et al. 2012). The defining characteristics of transformational adaptation have been described in different ways: as addressing the root causes of climate vulnerability rather than only its symptoms (Wise et al. 2014); fostering long-term adaptive capacity rather than short-term vulnerability reductions (Wamsler et al. 2013); or changing habits and institutions rather than the physical infrastructure (Vine 2018). ...
Article
Full-text available
We explore opportunities for climate adaptation in the context of water governance. We focus on opportunities linked to the provision of climate information, raising the question of whether they are limited to incremental adaptation, or can also bring about transformational adaptation. We address this question through an archetype analysis based on 26 peer-reviewed articles. In each article, opportunities are identified, coded using the social-ecological system framework, and then bundled into archetypes that encompass similar opportunities reappearing across multiple cases. Results suggest that the provision of climate information can constitute an opportunity for adaptation that goes beyond purely incremental adjustments to a changing climate. Specifically, two of the six archetypes identified enable transformational adaptation by bringing long-term implications of current impacts into focus and by addressing the issue of capacity of existing institutions to respond to climate change. However, there is a high degree of heterogeneity in the characterization of opportunities, and the six archetypes only cover about one in three of the opportunities identified. This indicates the need for further research to develop more streamlined conceptualizations. In this respect, the archetypes identified herewith suggest some avenues for further conceptual development. We also explore policy implications, raising questions regarding the current development of climate services.
... These enable adaptive decisionmaking by articulating science-informed pathways that help to manage uncertainty in physical, biological, climate, social, and economic systems against a shifting and non-stationary baseline. Importantly, if tolerance for different types and minimum levels of resilient outcomes can be defined, along with their thresholds, unintended negative tipping points and transformations that lead to positive tipping points can also support the basis for decision-making (e.g., Kopp et al. 2016;Tabara et al. 2018). ...
... Disruptions to both progress on overcoming barriers and realizing innovations can come with climate hazards, elections, and shifts of political trends that can dramatically change resources available, but these events can also open windows of opportunity (e.g., Tabara et al. 2018). Engaging barriers as openings to innovate can be advanced by understanding and mapping the relational aspects of the research approach, process and anticipated resilience outcomes including internal and cross-institutional collaboration and co-production, identifying opportunities for nurturing those cross-sectional/cross-institutional relationships, and leveraging social network analysis or other approaches to understand changes over time. ...
Article
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There is a growing need for integrated approaches that align community priorities with strategies that build resilience to climate hazards, societal shocks, and economic crises to ensure more equitable and sustainable outcomes. We anticipate that adaptive management and resilience learning are central elements for these approaches. In this paper, we describe an approach to build and test a Resilience Learning System to support research and implementation of a resilience strategy developed for the Greater Miami and the Beaches or the Resilient305 Strategy. Elements foundational to the design of this integrated research strategy and replicable Resilience Learning System are: (1) strong partnerships among community members, government and non-government organization leaders, and researchers from multiple academic institutions; (2) contributions of subject matter expertise and local knowledge to identify information and translational gaps, formulate metrics and evaluate outcomes of Resilient305 Strategy actions from the community perspective; and (3) a comprehensive understanding of civic engagement activities, technological tools, and resilience-building capacities, including policy and financial innovations, from which to advance socio-technological, smart and connected regional-to-hyperlocal community translation through co-design/co-production. Initial results on co-produced metrics are provided. This work produces a new, replicable framework for resilience research that includes a comprehensive set of metrics, translation to communities through structured dialogues, a collaborative process involving all stakeholders and researchers, and evaluation of resilience actions to inform new investments and improve understanding and effectiveness over time.
... Overall, we argue that changing mainstream organisations towards organisational forms such as SOHOs have the potential to contribute to the building of the conditions for the emergence of positive tipping points' (Tàbara et al. 2018) in the economy insofar they can tip the economic system toward a sustainability development trajectory. Such possible tipping interventions (Farmer et al. 2019;Otto et al. 2020)-which may emerge in organic ways that is not centrally controlled-cut across the three spheres of transformations outlined by O'Brien and Sygna (2013). ...
... However, interesting research avenues in this domain could investigate whether SOHOs contribute to building transformative capacities in society, such as re-connecting social and natural systems, healthy human agency, and social cohesion (Ziervogel et al. 2016). This is important as these capacities have been identified as vital components in helping bring about sustainability transformations (Tàbara et al. 2018). ...
Article
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Given current limitations of global and national governance arrangements in redirecting economic globalisation towards a climate-safe and sustainable world, it is crucial to understand how organisations that aim to tackle social and environmental problems using market mechanisms can contribute to fostering sustainability transformations. This review identified 60 different terms or concepts for hybrid organisations aiming to solve social and ecological problems through market related activities, reflecting a high degree of discontinuity and inconsistency in the literature. To assess the contribution to societal transformations of this array of innovative ventures, we introduce and operationalise Sustainability-Oriented Hybrid Organisations (SOHOs) as an umbrella concept to carry out a comprehensive review of 126 scientific articles that discuss them. Unlike traditional enterprises who apply one logic (commercial) and social and environmental enterprises who combine two logics (social–commercial or environmental–commercial), SOHOs unite commercial, social, and environmental logics, beliefs, and practices simultaneously—thereby adopting a higher level of organisational hybridity. SOHOs are oriented towards achieving net-positive sustainability and consider future generations and global socio-ecological systems which makes transforming enterprises towards SOHO models a potentially significant intervention point for promoting sustainability transformations. However, the narratives and actions of SOHOs can perpetuate rather than ameliorate the underlying causes and differential impacts of complex problems like climate change, unless the organisations adopt systemic, global, long-term, and socio-ecologically embedded strategies.
... The IMPRESSIONS project aimed to provide robust knowledge about potential solutions to high-end climate change through a new perspective-Transformative Climate Science (Tàbara et al. 2018). Instead of simply increasing awareness of a potential catastrophe, Transformative Climate Science focuses on creating a vision for the future as the main driver of transformation and positive action ( Fig. 8.3). ...
... In particular, we can derive what types of capacities are needed to navigate transformations under high-end climate and socio-economic change towards sustainability and resilience in the long-term (see Hölscher et al.,Chapter 11,this volume). IMPRESSIONS also used the SSPs and pathways to explore how positive social-ecological tipping points could bring about 'rapid sustainablisation' through enabling the required capacities, conditions and potential policy interventions (Tàbara et al. 2018). ...
Chapter
In this chapter, we present how climate action that fosters transformations to sustainability and resilience in European societies can be developed in the context of high-end climate change. The chapter builds from the IMPRESSIONS inter- and transdisciplinary research project work on high-end climate change. It brings a unique perspective on long-term horizons (until 2100) and extreme climate change and socio-economic scenarios and uncertainties, as well as how to co-develop transformative adaptation and mitigation pathways with stakeholders to build capacities for responding to such scenarios. The chapter responds to the very fundamental question: ‘what is high-end climate change and why it is relevant for science and policy?’
... To project sustainable development scenarios need, assumptions on nature-people relationships (Otero et al., 2020;Rosa et al., 2020) and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) . Researchers advocate an increased focus on fundamental global system transformations (David Tàbara et al., 2018), lifestyles, values, institutions (Raskin, 2005(Raskin, , 2000, and (weak) governance (Andrijevic et al., 2020). To guide policymakers, product developers, and consumers, modelers argued in favor of translating emission reductions into consumption levels (Girod et al., 2013). ...
... On the one hand, scenarios need to be less complex and communicated in a simple manner (Pedersen et al., 2022;Schenk and Lensink, 2007). On the other hand, to ensure robust decisionmaking (Workman et al., 2020), they need regular updates (Garnaut et al., 2008;Peters et al., 2013), examining further the diverse regional emission growth (Anderson and Bows, 2011;Pedersen et al., 2020), including state and non-state viewpoints (Weber et al., 2018;Workman et al., 2020), identifying local policy interventions (David Tàbara et al., 2018;Pedersen et al., 2022), and including well-known mitigation benefits (not included in AR5) (Rosen and Guenther, 2016). According to SSP modelers, including the Paris goals and actual policies and their implications might improve low emission pathways (O'Neill et al., 2020). ...
Article
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Long-term global emission scenarios enable the analysis of future climate change, impacts, and response strategies by providing insight into possible future developments and linking these different climate research elements. Such scenarios play a crucial role in the climate change literature informing the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Assessment Reports (ARs) and support policymakers. This article reviews the evolution of emission scenarios, since 1990, by focusing on scenario critiques and responses as published in the literature. We focus on the issues raised in the critiques and the possible impact on scenario development. The critique (280) focuses on four areas: 1) key scenario assumptions (40%), 2) the emissions range covered by the scenarios and missing scenarios (25%), 3) methodological issues (24%), and 4) the policy relevance and handling of uncertainty (11%). Scenario critiques have become increasingly influential since 2000. Some areas of critique have decreased or become less prominent (probability, development process, convergence assumptions, and economic metrics). Other areas have become more dominant over time (e.g., policy relevance & implications of scenarios, transparency, Negative Emissions Technologies (NETs) assumptions, missing scenarios). Several changes have been made in developing scenarios and their content that respond to the critique.
... To investigate how context dependent factors and developments have co-shaped governments' choice of strategy and national infection trajectories over time, we apply the concept of tipping points commonly applied in climate change adaptation research [12][13][14]. Tipping points are boundary conditions under which the prevailing strategy no longer meets the clearly specified objectives, triggering a shift from one strategy to another. As illustrated in Figure 1, due to a risk reduction from R 0 = 4 to R 0 = 3, governments may wish to shift from complete lockdown to partial lockdown, but then readopt its previous strategy, if the observed risk increases (see the dashed arrow from tipping point T 1 to T 3 via T 2 ). ...
Article
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When the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic started to manifest itself across the globe at an unprecedented pace and magnitude, the various emergency response strategies pursued by highly affected countries in Europe raised many questions about their supposed effectiveness. To contain the outbreak, a rapid and adequate emergency response was vital to control emergent public health risks, but emergency management was challenged by large uncertainty due to many unknowns about crucial determinants of the outbreak, determining the effectiveness of the response, which was often derived from uncertain information. This paper aims to draw lessons from the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and it presents a review of strategies for emergency response pursued in eight European countries, including tipping points that triggered strategy shifts in emergency response. The paper shows that: (i) these countries have a culturally determined preference for policy response style (Mediterranean, continental and liberal style) depending on their relative scores on power distance and uncertainty avoidance, which (ii) is reflected in the initially adopted control paradigm and the associated strategy; (iii) Mediterranean countries (Italy, France, Spain) with high levels of power distance and uncertainty avoidance have a tendency to respond to new unknown situations by deploying strong rule-based regulatory systems which offer mental security and social order, whereas continental (Germany and Austria) and liberal countries (the Netherlands, the UK and Sweden) do this to medium and much lower extents.
... The transformative capacities concept is important as it is not possible to predict, if, when, how or where transformations towards sustainability might emerge. However, it is possible to identify, characterise, and appraise what capacities could help the emergence of transformative solutions in different systems at different scales (Tàbara, Frantzeskaki, et al., 2018). In this paper, building on a framework developed by Ziervogel et al. (2016) three foundational transformative capacities are examined, namely: (1) reconnecting social and ecological systems dynamics in ways that are mutually supportive, healthy, and regenerative of life-support systems; (2) fostering healthy individual and political agency; and (3) contributing to building rich community relationships and enhancing social cohesion. ...
Article
Organisations can play a decisive role in steering societies towards sustainable, resilient, and regenerative pathways of development. However, little is known empirically about how they do so. Such knowledge is vital as COVID-19 has laid bare the need for a wide range of systemic transformations. We examine the role of Sustainability-Oriented Hybrid Organisations (SOHOs), which use market related practices to solve social and environmental problems, in building foundational transformative capacities for regenerative sustainability. We further develop an existing framework and operationalise transformative capacities as: (1) reconnecting social and ecological systems dynamics in ways that are mutually supportive, healthy, and regenerative of life-support systems; (2) fostering healthy individual and political agency; and (3) contributing to building rich community relationships and enhancing social cohesion. Through this lens we explore the practices, activities, and strategies of nine SOHOs in and around the Metropolitan Area of Barcelona. We show that SOHOs emerge from and are decisive in further building transformative capacities within communities creating contagious virtuous cycles. However, their strategies and associated actions may also harm the development of these capacities at the urban scale. Broader institutional innovations, enabling environments, and continually adaptive and critical learning approaches are needed to avoid unintended negative consequences.
... • Both collective and individual social actions operate in multiple sociocultural, technological, governance, biophysical, and knowledge systems which interact with many other systems at the same time and many levels. • Tàbara et al. (2018) focused on the complexity of attribution and a reductionist approach about systems thinking and the historical drive to an oversimplified explanation of solutions, drivers of tipping points that could improve the likelihood of limiting global warming to either the 1.5°C or 2°C target. • When social and natural scientists collaborate and integrate their studies, new patterns and previously unforeseen relationships that can accentuate understanding have been achieved. ...
Chapter
Climate adaptation planning requires new ways of thinking and approaching the analysis of risks. Such thinking needs to be systemic in nature and practice/action-oriented while respecting the complexity of the physical and social sciences. Through this chapter on climate tipping points in Botswana, it is proposed that a generic and practice-oriented analysis framework be applied with a mathematical foundation including modeling methods based on complex science. The objective is to promote a framework that privileges a worldview to avoid biased and partial explanations of risks. An Institutional-Socio-Earth-Economical-Technical systems (ISEET) approach is based on a systems science philosophy for risk governance analysis, with particular emphasis on tipping points and emergence which are some of the key elements that can support sound adaptation planning. Through the lens of the biodiversity sector in Botswana, the complex interrelationships of ISEET principles are explained. They provide a new, efficient, and practical framework for moving rapidly from theory to action for planning and implementing climate change adaption projects.
... A number of authors now recognise that better understanding the processes and innovations which generate the cascades of tipping described above is more valuable to policymakers than speculative projections of costs. By taking advantage of the inherent domino effect of rapid, selfamplified and contagious change, policymakers can leverage highly sensitive "tipping interventions" that deliver outsized impact (Schellnhuber et al. 2016;Farmer et al. 2019) which could hasten global decarbonisation (Tàbara et al. 2018) 10 . Rather than focus on predictions based on 'historical futures', information on innovation processes can be gleaned by looking at historical transitions, such as the change from kerosene use to electricity, horse and cart to combustion engines and photographic film and records to digital photos and music . ...
Article
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The natural science in GEO-6 makes clear that a range and variety of unwelcome outcomes for humanity, with potentially very significant impacts for human health, become increasingly likely if societies maintain their current development paths. This paper assesses what is known about the likely economic implications of either current trends or the transformation to a low-carbon and resource-efficient economy in the years to 2050 for which GEO-6 calls. A key conclusion is that no conventional cost–benefit analysis for either scenario is possible. This is because the final cost of meeting various decarbonisation and resource-management pathways depends on decisions made today in changing behaviour and generating innovation. The inadequacies of conventional modelling approaches generally lead to understating the risks from unmitigated climate change and overstating the costs of a low-carbon transition, by missing out the cumulative gains from path-dependent innovation. This leads to a flawed conclusion as to how to respond to the climate emergency, namely that significant reductions in emissions are prohibitively expensive and, therefore, to be avoided until new, cost-effective technologies are developed. We argue that this is inconsistent with the evidence and counterproductive in serving to delay decarbonisation efforts, thereby increasing its costs. Understanding the processes which drive innovation, change social norms and avoid locking in to carbon- and resource-intensive technologies, infrastructure and behaviours, will help decision makers as they ponder how to respond to the increasingly stark warnings of natural scientists about the deteriorating condition of the natural environment.
... These literatures view transformation as a collective action challenge among actors with both common and differing values, interests and capabilities interacting over time with a mix of cooperation and competition (Young, 2017;Dasgupta et al., 2018). Concepts such as radical incremental transformation (Göpel, 2016), direct incrementalism (Grunwald 2007) and progressive incrementalism (Levin et al., 2012) envision strategies in which actors pursue incremental actions in one or more niches that move the current system towards tipping points which, once crossed, will drive the system to a new state (Tàbara et al., 2018). The incremental actions aim to promote learning, remove barriers to change ( Dasgupta et al., 2018;Baresi et al., 2020), create a series of wins that generate momentum and generate positive feedbacks (e.g., by creating constituencies) such that the speed and scale of the climate action grows over time (Levin et al., 2012). ...
Article
Full-text available
The concepts of risk and risk management have become increasingly central to climate change literature, research, practice and decision making (medium confidence). Risk, defined as the potential for adverse consequences for human and ecological systems, recognising the diversity of values and objectives associated with such systems, provides a framework for understanding the increasingly severe, interconnected and often irreversible impacts of climate change; how these impacts differentially affect different regions, sectors and populations; how to allocate resources best to manage the resulting risks and how to evaluate the responses that reduce residual risks for current and future generations, economies and ecosystems. {1.2.1; 1.3.1; 1.4.2} The concepts of adaptation, vulnerability, resilience and risk provide overlapping, alternative entry points for the climate change challenge (high confidence). Vulnerability is a component of risk, but also an important focus independently, improving understanding of the differential impacts of climate change on people of different gender, race, wealth, social status and other attributes. Vulnerability also provides an important link between climate adaptation and disaster risk reduction. Resilience, which can refer to either a process or outcome, encompasses not just the concept of maintaining essential function, identity and structure, but also maintaining a capacity for transformation. Such transformations bring forth questions of justice, power and politics. {1.2.1; 1.4.1}
... However, experts see barriers to establishing a circular economy less on the technical side and rather more on the societal side (Kirchherr et al., 2018). Meanwhile, important 'positive tipping points' (David Tàbara et al., 2018), furthering the acceleration of the transition, might stem from social change (Otto et al., 2020). There is therefore a need to explore societal barriers as well as potentials drivers for establishing and up-scaling the circular bio-economy, such as consumer and citizen perceptions and behaviour. ...
Article
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A sustainable bio-economy requires that by-products and side-streams in agricultural and food production are reinserted into the value cycle, a concept also called valorisation or upcycling. The concept constitutes an important sustainability-oriented innovation practice contributing to waste reduction and efficient resource use. However, while the literature focuses primarily on the technical side, there is little research on societal and economic implications, or the consumer perspective of such value creation. This paper addresses this lack through a systematic review of empirical consumer research on waste-to-value in food and drink from the past ten years, and provides suggestions for further research directions. It is concluded that acceptance of waste-to-value food products among consumers is determined by individual, context and product-related factors. Environmental concern and awareness and communication about environmental benefits and food waste avoidance can improve acceptance and choice. There is a need for a wider variety of methods, theories and research contexts in studying the phenomenon. Stakeholders and researchers should take a broader perspective on the topic in order to accelerate the uptake of circularity in the interrelation of food and other industry domains.
... On the other hand, social tipping and its potential to transform societies, so that the aforementioned (unwanted) natural tipping may be prevented came into research focus recently [19][20][21][22]. Social tipping can for example be observed when a determined minority grows larger than a critical mass and then becomes able to overturn the behaviour or conventions of the majority [23,24]. ...
Article
Full-text available
In the past decades, human activities caused global Earth system changes, e.g., climate change or biodiversity loss. Simultaneously, these associated impacts have increased environmental awareness within societies across the globe, thereby leading to dynamical feedbacks between the social and natural Earth system. Contemporary modelling attempts of Earth system dynamics rarely incorporate such co-evolutions and interactions are mostly studied unidirectionally through direct or remembered past impacts. Acknowledging that societies have the additional capability for foresight, this work proposes a conceptual feedback model of socio-ecological co-evolution with the specific construct of anticipation acting as a mediator between the social and natural system. Our model reproduces results from previous sociological threshold models with bistability if one assumes a static environment. Once the environment changes in response to societal behaviour, the system instead converges towards a globally stable, but not necessarily desired, attractor. Ultimately, we show that anticipation of future ecological states then leads to metastability of the system where desired states can persist for a long time. We thereby demonstrate that foresight and anticipation form an important mechanism which, once its time horizon becomes large enough, fosters social tipping towards behaviour that can stabilise the environment and prevents potential socio-ecological collapse.
... Lastly, despite an increasing emphasis on social and cultural values in ecosystem services assessments in some contexts (e.g. the EU initiative on mapping and assessment of ecosystems and their services; Maes et al., 2018), current decision-making contexts narrowly focus on short-term economic gains, crowding out the diversity of values ascribed to nature and its contributions to well-being (Pascual et al., 2017). In such contexts, shifting perspectives is necessary to foster transformative visions which underpin the necessary cascade of changes reconfiguring sectors and decision-making domains (Tàbara et al., 2018;Wiek & Iwaniec, 2014). The core frame welcomes a plurality of perspectives in decision-making contexts while supporting the need for more integrated socio-cultural valuation approaches in NbS policy, beyond economic valuation, to achieve sustainability alongside economic efficiency (Costanza et al., 2017;Pascual et al., 2017). ...
Article
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Nature‐based Solutions (NbS) have rapidly been gaining traction across the research, policy and practice spheres, advocated as transformative actions to jointly address biodiversity loss and climate change. However, there are multiple, alternative ways to conceptualize NbS across those three spheres. To inform the NbS discourses in research, policy and practice, we critically reflect on the prevailing framing of NbS. Although the concept links environmental health to human well‐being, we argue that its current dominant framing reinforces a dichotomy between people and nature by highlighting one, external nature working for the benefit of society. For the NbS concept to support transformation, we believe it must embody a reframing of human–nature relationships towards regenerative relationships between humans and nature. To support the transformative aspirations of NbS, we propose a novel core framing of NbS making explicit the co‐dependence of people and nature, which underpins human well‐being and environmental health. We highlight how such a framing can support a transformation through influencing beliefs and normative values, and second, through the communication and application of the NbS concept in research, policy and practice. We then elaborate on how such a framing is key to support inclusivity and collaboration between diverse research perspectives, policy objectives across scales and implementation practices to deliver just and successful NbS. A free Plain Language Summary can be found within the Supporting Information of this article. A free Plain Language Summary can be found within the Supporting Information of this article.
... In the recent years, complex systems research has increasingly focused on the matter of tipping points [1][2][3] since they occur in many different systems including ecosystems, over economics, the Earth's climate system and social systems [4][5][6][7][8][9][10]. Tipping points are the critical thresholds of tipping elements, where a small perturbation can be sufficient to invoke a qualitative change of the whole system. ...
Article
Full-text available
Tipping elements occur in various systems such as in socio-economics, ecology and the climate system. In many cases, the individual tipping elements are not independent of each other, but they interact across scales in time and space. To model systems of interacting tipping elements, we here introduce the PyCascades open source software package for studying interacting tipping elements ( 10.5281/zenodo.4153102 ). PyCascades is an object-oriented and easily extendable package written in the programming language Python. It allows for investigating under which conditions potentially dangerous cascades can emerge between interacting dynamical systems, with a focus on tipping elements. With PyCascades it is possible to use different types of tipping elements such as double-fold and Hopf types and interactions between them. PyCascades can be applied to arbitrary complex network structures and has recently been extended to stochastic dynamical systems. This paper provides an overview of the functionality of PyCascades by introducing the basic concepts and the methodology behind it. In the end, three examples are discussed, showing three different applications of the software package. First, the moisture recycling network of the Amazon rainforest is investigated. Second, a model of interacting Earth system tipping elements is discussed. And third, the PyCascades modelling framework is applied to a global trade network.
... A third possibility is that COVID-19 contributes to the crossing of a tipping point in human and natural systems, shifting development pathways to a fundamentally new trajectory 112 . The inequalities highlighted by the pandemic may be a route to such transformational change. ...
Article
Long-term global scenarios have underpinned research and assessment of global environmental change for four decades. Over the past ten years, the climate change research community has developed a scenario framework combining alternative futures of climate and society to facilitate integrated research and consistent assessment to inform policy. Here we assess how well this framework is working and what challenges it faces. We synthesize insights from scenario-based literature, community discussions and recent experience in assessments, concluding that the framework has been widely adopted across research communities and is largely meeting immediate needs. However, some mixed successes and a changing policy and research landscape present key challenges, and we recommend several new directions for the development and use of this framework.
... A third possibility is that COVID-19 contributes to the crossing of a tipping point in human and natural systems, shifting development pathways to a fundamentally new trajectory 112 . The inequalities highlighted by the pandemic may be a route to such transformational change. ...
Article
Long-term global scenarios have underpinned research and assessment of global environmental change for four decades. Over the past ten years, the climate change research community has developed a scenario framework combining alternative futures of climate and society to facilitate integrated research and consistent assessment to inform policy. Here we assess how well this framework is working and what challenges it faces. We synthesize insights from scenario-based literature, community discussions and recent experience in assessments, concluding that the framework has been widely adopted across research communities and is largely meeting immediate needs. However, some mixed successes and a changing policy and research landscape present key challenges, and we recommend several new directions for the development and use of this framework.
... Hybrid work arrangements, which combine the benefits of both telework and office work, are now widely expected to be the dominant model for the future of work [15]. The question is whether telework and hybrid work practices can provide a positive tipping point towards a more sustainable future [8,16]. ...
Article
Full-text available
With increased participation in telework expected to continue, in the aftermath of COVID, it will be important to consider what long-term impact this practice could have on sustainability outcomes. This paper describes a scoping review and identifies connections between telework and sustainability outcomes from previous academic studies. These connections were categorised, and are discussed, based on their contributions to different United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Most research was found to focus on countries classified as having a very high human development index status. The SWOT matrix technique was used to illustrate the strengths and weaknesses identified in the existing literature, and the threats and opportunities for future work. This aims to ensure policy coherence so that strategies to promote one outcome, such as economic productivity improvements, do not undermine another, such as improved health. Practical implications and research opportunities were identified across a range of SDG impact areas, including good health and well-being, gender equality, reduced inequality, climate mitigation, sustainable cities, and resilient communities. Overall, our impression is that increased rates of telework present an important opportunity to improve sustainability outcomes. However, it will be important that integrated and holistic policy is developed that mitigates key risks.
... Different schools of thought have various understandings of how such fundamental change happens. For example, transformation can be sparked by abrupt changes that present tipping points towards fundamentally new systems [34][35][36] , can occur through the accumulation of small wins which add up incrementally to a larger shift 37 , or it can be brought about by alternative 'niche' practices that manage to overthrow the dominance of mainstream 'regime' practices and give shape to a new system 25,38 . Others have conceptualised transformation as processes that build on the diversity of existing, positive and innovative ways forward as a way (also understood as 'seeds' of the future) to 'sustain and amplify' existing initiatives towards transformation 39 . ...
Article
Full-text available
Urban food is a key lever for transformative change towards sustainability. While research reporting on the urban food practices (UFPs) in support of sustainability is increasing, the link towards transformative potential is lacking. This is because research on urban food is often place-based and contextual. This limits the applicability of insights to large-scale sustainability transformations. This paper describes UFPs that aim to contribute to transformative change. We present signposts for potential change based on the types of intended transformative changes as described in the reviewed literature based on the processes and outcomes of the urban food policies and programmes. Secondly, we classify diverse UFPs to elevate them beyond their local, place-based contexts. We find that UFPs carry a lot of potential to facilitate sustainability transformations. Based on that analysis, we provide insights on how urban food research can further contribute to harnessing the transformative potential of UFPs for actionable purposes.
... Hybrid work arrangements, which combine the benefits of both telework and office work, are now widely expected to be the dominant model for the future of work [15]. The question is whether telework and hybrid work practices can provide a positive tipping point towards a more sustainable future [8,16]. ...
Preprint
With increased participation in telework expected to continue, to support emerging hybrid work models in the aftermath of the Covid-19, it is important to consider the long-term impact this practice could have on sustainability outcomes. This paper describes a systematic review of 113 academic journal articles and identifies associations between telework and sustainability, explored by previous researchers. Those associations were categorized and discussed, based on their contributions to different United Nations Social Development Goals. Most of research was found to focus on countries classified as having a very high human development index status, and regions with a low, medium or high human development index, largely ignored. The SWOT matrix technique was used to illustrate the strengths and weaknesses identified in the current literature as well as threats and opportunities for future work. This can help to ensure policy coherence and that strategies to promote one outcome, such as economic productivity improvements, does not undermine another, such as improved health. Practical implications and potential research opportunities were identified across a range of SDG impact areas, including good health and well-being, gender equality, reduced inequality, climate mitigation, sustainable cities and resilient communities. On the whole, our impression is that increased rates of telework present an important opportunity to improve sustainability outcomes, however, it will be important that integrated and holistic policy is developed that mitigates key risks.
... In recent times, the concept of leverage points, as originally formulated by Donella Meadows (1999), has regained a lot of attention within sustainability transformations research and practice (O'Brien 2018; Leventon et al. 2021;FOLU 2021). Related to that, other concepts such as positive tipping points (Tàbara et al. 2018;Lenton 2020), sensitive interventions (Farmer et al. 2019), social tipping points (Otto et al. 2020), or transformational tipping points (van Ginkel et al. 2020;O'Riordan 2013) are being used, especially when dealing with global challenges, such as the need for rapid global decarbonisation. However, this literature is not exempt from notable confusions (Leventon et al. 2021), conflicting interpretations of the same study areas, or even of different realities that refer to the same concept. ...
Article
Full-text available
Notions, such as leverage points, sensitive interventions, social tipping points, transformational tipping points, and positive tipping points, are increasingly attracting attention within sustainability science. However, they are also creating confusion and unresolved questions about how to apply these concepts when dealing with urgent global challenges such as rapid decarbonisation. We propose a relational methodology aimed at helping how to identify and support the emergence of positive ‘Social-Ecological Tipping Points’ (SETPs) that could bring about sustainability transformations. Our approach emphasises the need to pay attention to processes of social construction and to time dynamics. In particular, in a given social-ecological system, three key moments need to be considered: (1) The building of transformative conditions and capacities for systemic change, (2) A tipping event or intervention shifting the system towards a different trajectory or systems’ configuration, and (3) the structural effects derived from such transformation. Furthermore, we argue that the discovery and enactment of positive SETPs require considering multiple ontological, epistemological, and normative questions that affect how researchers and change agents define, approach, and assess their systems of reference. Our insights are derived from examining the implementation of household renewable energy systems at regional level in two rural areas of Indonesia and Bangladesh.
... Two best fit scenarios that marginally align closer than the other two, point to the fact that it's not yet too late for humankind to purposefully change course to significantly alter the trajectory of future data points. The fact that the SW scenario shows the smallest declines, suggests that if we are to bet our future on the possibility of tipping points, rather than just the technological ones, we should also aim for the "social tipping points" (David Tàbara et al., 2018;Otto et al., 2020;Westley et al., 2011): A transformation of societal priorities which, together with technological innovations specifically aimed at furthering these new priorities, can bring humanity back on the path of the SW scenario. ...
Article
In the 1972 bestseller Limits to Growth (LtG), the authors concluded that, if global society kept pursuing economic growth, it would experience a decline in food production, industrial output, and ultimately population, within this century. The LtG authors used a system dynamics model to study interactions between global variables, varying model assumptions to generate different scenarios. Previous empirical‐data comparisons since then by Turner showed closest alignment with a scenario that ended in collapse. This research constitutes a data update to LtG, by examining to what extent empirical data aligned with four LtG scenarios spanning a range of technological, resource, and societal assumptions. The research benefited from improved data availability since the previous updates and included a scenario and two variables that had not been part of previous comparisons. The two scenarios aligning most closely with observed data indicate a halt in welfare, food, and industrial production over the next decade or so, which puts into question the suitability of continuous economic growth as humanity's goal in the twenty‐first century. Both scenarios also indicate subsequent declines in these variables, but only one—where declines are caused by pollution—depicts a collapse. The scenario that aligned most closely in earlier comparisons was not amongst the two closest aligning scenarios in this research. The scenario with the smallest declines aligned least with empirical data; however, absolute differences were often not yet large. The four scenarios diverge significantly more after 2020, suggesting that the window to align with this last scenario is closing.
... They include signposts to monitor changing circumstances and signal when the system nears a tipping point. Tipping points represent both negative (e.g., an environmental disaster) and positive (e.g., a transformative discovery or solution) thresholds 66 where the current actions are no longer effective and new actions are required. 56 As time progresses, and as local actors' knowledge or the surrounding environment changes, an adaptive plan can help them to proactively navigate alternative courses of actions toward achieving long-term sustainability goals. ...
Article
The diversity of local conditions across regions has led to numerous challenges and opportunities for the implementation of global sustainability frameworks such as the Sustainable Development Goals. A grassroots transformative change led by local communities, cities, and businesses can offer a promising approach for achieving sustainability, tailored to the unique conditions of each context. Drawing on a systematic review of scientific and policy experiences, we explore some of the major challenges in local sustainability such as disagreements on local priorities, competing interests among various cohorts of stakeholders, and the risks posed by future uncertainties. We propose a transdisciplinary agenda based on the effective integration of computational approaches with genuine stakeholder engagement to mitigate these challenges. The proposed agenda is crucial for mobilizing collaborative efforts that enhance co-learning between scientists and stakeholders in the pursuit of sustainability across scales.
... In the recent years complex systems research has increasingly focused on the matter of tipping points [1,2,3] since they occur in many different systems including ecosystems, over economics, the Earth's climate system and social systems [4,5,6,7,8,9]. Tipping points are the critical thresholds of tipping elements, where a small perturbation can be sufficient to invoke a qualitative change of the whole system. ...
Preprint
Full-text available
Tipping elements occur in various systems such as in socio-economics, ecology and the climate system. In many cases, the individual tipping elements are not independent from each other, but they interact across scales in time and space. To model systems of interacting tipping elements, we here introduce the PyCascades open source software package for studying interacting tipping elements (doi: 10.5281/zenodo.4153102). PyCascades is an object-oriented and easily extendable package written in the programming language Python. It allows for investigating under which conditions potentially dangerous cascades between interacting dynamical systems, with a focus on tipping elements, can emerge. With PyCascades it is possible to use different types of tipping elements such as double-fold and Hopf types and interactions between them. PyCascades can be applied to arbitrary complex network structures and has recently been extended to stochastic dynamical systems. This paper provides an overview of the functionality of PyCascades by introducing the basic concepts and the methodology behind it. In the end, three examples are discussed, showing three different applications of the software package. First, the moisture recycling network of the Amazon rainforest is investigated. Second, a model of interacting Earth system tipping elements is discussed. And third, the PyCascades modelling framework is applied to a global trade network.
... Networked spreading and contagion processes have been studied in many different scientific subjects, such as epidemics [26], cascading failures [27], and the formation and spreading of social norms, opinions and behaviors [28][29][30]. The spreading of social, political and technological innovations relevant for sustainability transitions and rapid decarbonisation have also been identified as a promising approach for understanding the emergence of social tipping points in this context [3,[31][32][33]. ...
Preprint
Only a fast and global transformation towards decarbonization and sustainability can keep the Earth in a civilization-friendly state. As hotspots for (green) innovation and experimentation, cities could play an important role in this transition. They are also known to profit from each other's ideas, with policy and technology innovations spreading to other cities. In this way, cities can be conceptualized as nodes in a globe-spanning learning network. The dynamics of this process are important for society's response to climate change and other challenges, but remain poorly understood on a macroscopic level. In this contribution, we develop an approach to identify whether network-based complex contagion effects are a feature of sustainability policy adoption by cities, based on dose-response contagion and surrogate data models. We apply this methodology to an example data set, comprising empirical data on the spreading of a public transport innovation (Bus Rapid Transit Systems) and a global inter-city connection network based on scheduled flight routes. We find evidence pointing towards a contagious spreading process which cannot be explained by either the network structure or the increase in global adoption rate alone. This suggests that the actions of a city's abstract "global neighborhood" within the network of cities may be an important factor in which policies and innovations are implemented, with potential connections to the emergence of social tipping processes. The methodology is generic, and can be used to compare the predictive power for innovation spreading of different kinds of inter-city network connections, e.g. via transport links, trade, or co-membership in political networks.
... This gaze also depends on the research context from which this review originated, focusing on enabling tipping points in coal and carbon-intensive regions [51,52], addressing socio-technical, socio-ecological, and socio-institutional change. These involve, for example, the diffusion and adoption of low-carbon technologies, the sustainable use/restoration of natural resources, successful and just phase-out interventions, or the maintenance of stability in energy systems, e.g., the acceptance of coal supportive policies or the intensive exploitation of fossil fuels and natural resources. ...
Article
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This paper provides a systematic overview of the psychosocial contribution to decarbonization studies and critically discusses current trends. Following the PRISMA protocol, we reviewed 404 articles informing how socio-psychological processes affect decarbonization, and vice versa, and highlighting research gaps and biases. Contrary to criticisms about methodological individualism and reductionism of socio-psychological research on sustainability, the review illustrates that the field is equally attentive to psychosocial processes operating at different levels, including the individual (eg, attitudes, stress, environmental concerns), community (eg, collective identity, justice, sense of place), and socio-cultural levels (eg, social norms, values, memory). However, evidence shows some problematic trends in the literature:(i) A bias toward specific agents and geographies, which overlooks mesoscale actors (eg, media, unions, NGOs) and developing and eastern countries;(ii) instrumental and normative views of transitions, which coincide with a prevailing focus on cognitive processes and a selective bias toward technologies, policies, places, and natural resources conceived as instrumental to decarbonization. This also emphasizes how biophysical processes, people–nature relationships, and the role of emotions in understanding the psychology of agents and decarbonization processes are almost absent;(iii) a research gaze normatively oriented toward the future, which risks neglecting continuity–discontinuity dynamics and the timing and pace of transitions.
... These literatures view transformation as a collective action challenge among actors with both common and differing values, interests and capabilities interacting over time with a mix of cooperation and competition (Young, 2017;Dasgupta et al., 2018). Concepts such as radical incremental transformation (Göpel, 2016), direct incrementalism (Grunwald 2007) and progressive incrementalism (Levin et al., 2012) envision strategies in which actors pursue incremental actions in one or more niches that move the current system towards tipping points which, once crossed, will drive the system to a new state (Tàbara et al., 2018). The incremental actions aim to promote learning, remove barriers to change ( Dasgupta et al., 2018;Baresi et al., 2020), create a series of wins that generate momentum and generate positive feedbacks (e.g., by creating constituencies) such that the speed and scale of the climate action grows over time (Levin et al., 2012). ...
Chapter
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Chapter 1: Ara Begum, R., R. Lempert, E. Ali, T.A. Benjaminsen, T. Bernauer, W. Cramer, X. Cui, K. Mach, G. Nagy, N.C. Stenseth, R. Sukumar, and P. Wester, et al. 2022. Point of Depaarture and Key Concepts. In: Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. Contribution of Working Group II to the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [H.-O. Pörtner, D.C. Roberts, M. Tignor, E.S. Poloczanska, K. Mintenbeck, A. Alegría, M. Craig, S. Langsdorf, S. Löschke, V. Möller, A. Okem, B. Rama (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press. In Press. https://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar6/wg2/
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In this viewpoint, I use the sustainability transitions research perspective to identify the lock-ins of the climate governance regime and to explore possible ways through which a transformation of climate governance could take shape. By shifting focus from analysing and addressing negative impacts of an unsustainable economy to supporting possible and potential sustainability transitions in sectors, transformative climate governance can create enabling contexts for positive futures. This requires a better understanding of the dynamics of (desirable) sustainability transitions. But it also requires new sets of governance strategies, instruments and capacities fully dedicated to empowering such positive futures. This would imply a more interdisciplinary approach integrating natural sciences with social and behavioural sciences. But it could also require more action oriented, transdisciplinary, approaches that actually explore in and with practice how to make transitions to positive futures happen in specific contexts.
Chapter
This chapter introduces the robust transition pathways developed in four case studies at different scales in Europe and analyses what capacities they create. Implementing transition pathways to respond to high-end scenarios and contribute to sustainability and resilience transformations requires new agency capacities that are able to deal with complexity, uncertainty, thresholds and lock-ins. We identified key conditions that may enable an overall shift towards an integrated, multi-scale, inclusive and learning-based governance approach. The capacities are enacted by a large diversity of actors—combining a mix of governance models and instruments, including decisive top-down regulation, market-based self-regulation and sustainability accounting, and bottom-up and community-based decision-making, markets and resource management. The agency capacities show ways forward for supporting systemic solutions and innovations with multiple benefits, and how to build social resilience and adaptive institutions.
Chapter
Significant changes of climate governance have to accompany, or, even precede effective climate action. We introduce our transformative perspective on climate change as a new entry point to understand and formulate implications for climate governance, to underscore the transformative role and transformative impact of governance in dealing with drivers and impacts of climate change while contributing to transformations towards sustainability and resilience. We then trace and describe the emergent features of climate governance at the global scale including related challenges and research questions for transforming climate governance. After outlining the key theoretical, methodological and empirical contributions to climate governance research provided by our book, we give an outlook on the chapters enclosed in this book. Our main objective with this book is to contribute to an understanding about what the type of climate governance that addresses the need for sustainability and resilience transformations under climate change could look like‚ and how existing climate governance institutions‚ mechanisms and practices can be strengthened along these lines.
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Agriculture now faces grand challenges, with crucial implications for the global future. These include the need to increase production of nutrient‐dense food, to improve agriculture's effects on soil, water, wildlife, and climate, and to enhance equity and justice in food and agricultural systems. We argue that certain politics of constructive collective action—and integral involvement of agricultural scientists in these politics—is essential for meeting grand challenges and other complex problems facing agriculture in the 21st century. To spur reflection and deliberation about the role of politics in the work of agricultural scientists, we outline these politics of constructive collective action. These serve to organize forceful responses to grand challenges through coordinated and cooperative action taken by multiple sectors of society. In essence, these politics entail (1) building bonds of affinity within a heterogenous network, (2) developing a shared roadmap for collective action, and (3) taking sustained action together. These emerging politics differ markedly from more commonly discussed forms of political activity by scientists, e.g., policy advisory, policy advocacy, and protest. We present key premises for our thesis, and then describe and discuss a politics of constructive collective action, the necessary roles of agricultural scientists, and an agenda for exploring and expanding their engagement in these politics. Meeting agriculture’s grand challenges requires coordinated technical and social innovation Coordinated innovation requires broad, sustained collective action Such efforts can be organized by a new politics of constructive collective action Agricultural scientists must participate actively in these new politics Agricultural scientists can become skilled actors in constructive politics of collective action This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved
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Indigenous knowledge refers to the understandings, skills and philosophies developed by societies with long histories of interaction with their natural surroundings (UNESCO, 2018; IPCC, 2019a). Local knowledge refers to the understandings and skills developed by individuals and populations, specific to the places where they live (UNESCO, 2018; IPCC, 2019a). Indigenous knowledge and local knowledge are inherently valuable but have only recently begun to be appreciated and in western scientific assessment processes in their own right (Ford et al., 2016). In the past these often endangered ways of knowing have been suppressed or attacked (Mustonen, 2014). Yet these knowledge systems represent a range of cultural practices, wisdom, traditions and ways of knowing the world that provide accurate and useful climate change information, observations and solutions (very high confidence) (Table Cross-Chapter Box INDIG.1). Rooted in their own contextual and relative embedded locations, some of these knowledges represent unbroken engagement with the earth, nature and weather for many tens of thousands of years, with an understanding of the ecosystem and climatic changes over longer-term timescales that is held both as knowledge by Indigenous Peoples and local peoples, as well as in the archaeological record (Barnhardt and Angayuqaq, 2005; UNESCO, 2018).
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This Cross-Chapter Box highlights the intersecting issues of gender, climate change adaptation, climate justice and transformative pathways. A gender perspective does not centre only on women or men but examines structures, processes and relationships of power between and among groups of men and women and how gender, particularly in its non-binary form, intersects with other social categories such as race, class, socioeconomic status, nationality or education to create multi-dimensional inequalities
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This chapter has two aims. First, it explores the implications of current and future losses and damages from climate change on public finances. These affect the ability of governments to pursue sustainable development and poverty reduction priorities under a changing climate. Second, it examines the critical roles of finance in reducing and managing the risks of losses and damages, namely in risk reduction, retention and transfer. The chapter also provides insights on the landscape of development finance directly or indirectly supporting these efforts, recognising the important role of humanitarian finance in supporting relief.
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Thesis
With ongoing anthropogenic global warming, some of the most vulnerable components of the Earth system might become unstable and undergo a critical transition. These subsystems are the so-called tipping elements. They are believed to exhibit threshold behaviour and would, if triggered, result in severe consequences for the biosphere and human societies. Furthermore, it has been shown that climate tipping elements are not isolated entities, but interact across the entire Earth system. Therefore, this thesis aims at mapping out the potential for tipping events and feedbacks in the Earth system mainly by the use of complex dynamical systems and network science approaches, but partially also by more detailed process-based models of the Earth system. In the first part of this thesis, the theoretical foundations are laid by the investigation of networks of interacting tipping elements. For this purpose, the conditions for the emergence of global cascades are analysed against the structure of paradigmatic network types such as Erdös-Rényi, Barabási-Albert, Watts-Strogatz and explicitly spatially embedded networks. Furthermore, micro-scale structures are detected that are decisive for the transition of local to global cascades. These so-called motifs link the micro- to the macro-scale in the network of tipping elements. Alongside a model description paper, all these results are entered into the Python software package PyCascades, which is publicly available on github. In the second part of this dissertation, the tipping element framework is first applied to components of the Earth system such as the cryosphere and to parts of the biosphere. Afterwards it is applied to a set of interacting climate tipping elements on a global scale. Using the Earth system Model of Intermediate Complexity (EMIC) CLIMBER-2, the temperature feedbacks are quantified, which would arise if some of the large cryosphere elements disintegrate over a long span of time. The cryosphere components that are investigated are the Arctic summer sea ice, the mountain glaciers, the Greenland and the West Antarctic Ice Sheets. The committed temperature increase, in case the ice masses disintegrate, is on the order of an additional half a degree on a global average (0.39-0.46 °C), while local to regional additional temperature increases can exceed 5 °C. This means that, once tipping has begun, additional reinforcing feedbacks are able to increase global warming and with that the risk of further tipping events. This is also the case in the Amazon rainforest, whose parts are dependent on each other via the so-called moisture-recycling feedback. In this thesis, the importance of drought-induced tipping events in the Amazon rainforest is investigated in detail. Despite the Amazon rainforest is assumed to be adapted to past environmental conditions, it is found that tipping events sharply increase if the drought conditions become too intense in a too short amount of time, outpacing the adaptive capacity of the Amazon rainforest. In these cases, the frequency of tipping cascades also increases to 50% (or above) of all tipping events. In the model that was developed in this study, the southeastern region of the Amazon basin is hit hardest by the simulated drought patterns. This is also the region that already nowadays suffers a lot from extensive human-induced changes due to large-scale deforestation, cattle ranching or infrastructure projects. Moreover, on the larger Earth system wide scale, a network of conceptualised climate tipping elements is constructed in this dissertation making use of a large literature review, expert knowledge and topological properties of the tipping elements. In global warming scenarios, tipping cascades are detected even under modest scenarios of climate change, limiting global warming to 2 °C above pre-industrial levels. In addition, the structural roles of the climate tipping elements in the network are revealed. While the large ice sheets on Greenland and Antarctica are the initiators of tipping cascades, the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) acts as the transmitter of cascades. Furthermore, in our conceptual climate tipping element model, it is found that the ice sheets are of particular importance for the stability of the entire system of investigated climate tipping elements. In the last part of this thesis, the results from the temperature feedback study with the EMIC CLIMBER-2 are combined with the conceptual model of climate tipping elements. There, it is observed that the likelihood of further tipping events slightly increases due to the temperature feedbacks even if no further CO$_2$ would be added to the atmosphere. Although the developed network model is of conceptual nature, it is possible with this work for the first time to quantify the risk of tipping events between interacting components of the Earth system under global warming scenarios, by allowing for dynamic temperature feedbacks at the same time.
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The Earth system and the human system are intrinsically linked. Anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions have led to the climate crisis, which is causing unprecedented extreme events and could trigger Earth system tipping elements. Physical and social forces can lead to tipping points and cascading effects via feedbacks and telecoupling, but the current generation of climate-economy models do not generally take account of these interactions and feedbacks. Here, we show the importance of the interplay between human societies and Earth systems in creating tipping points and cascading effects and the way they in turn affect sustainability and security. The lack of modeling of these links can lead to an underestimation of climate and societal risks as well as how societal tipping points can be harnessed to moderate physical impacts. This calls for the systematic development of models for a better integration and understanding of Earth and human systems at different spatial and temporal scales, specifically those that enable decision-making to reduce the likelihood of crossing local or global tipping points.
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Non-technical summary Transforming towards global sustainability requires a dramatic acceleration of social change. Hence, there is growing interest in finding ‘positive tipping points’ at which small interventions can trigger self-reinforcing feedbacks that accelerate systemic change. Examples have recently been seen in power generation and personal transport, but how can we identify positive tipping points that have yet to occur? We synthesise theory and examples to provide initial guidelines for creating enabling conditions, sensing when a system can be positively tipped, who can trigger it, and how they can trigger it. All of us can play a part in triggering positive tipping points. Technical summary Recent work on positive tipping points towards sustainability has focused on social-technological systems and the agency of policymakers to tip change, whilst earlier work identified social-ecological positive feedbacks triggered by diverse actors. We bring these together to consider positive tipping points across social-technological-ecological systems and the potential for multiple actors and interventions to trigger them. Established theory and examples provide several generic mechanisms for triggering tipping points. From these we identify specific enabling conditions, reinforcing feedbacks, actors and interventions that can contribute to triggering positive tipping points in the adoption of sustainable behaviours and technologies. Actions that can create enabling conditions for positive tipping include targeting smaller populations, altering social network structure, providing relevant information, reducing price, improving performance, desirability and accessibility, and coordinating complementary technologies. Actions that can trigger positive tipping include social, technological and ecological innovations, policy interventions, public investment, private investment, broadcasting public information, and behavioural nudges. Positive tipping points can help counter widespread feelings of disempowerment in the face of global challenges and help unlock ‘paralysis by complexity’. A key research agenda is to consider how different agents and interventions can most effectively work together to create system-wide positive tipping points whilst ensuring a just transformation. Social media summary We identify key actors and actions that can enable and trigger positive tipping points towards global sustainability.
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Book
Soziale Kipp-Punkte sind eine Form des sozialen Wandels, die durch ihren nichtlinearen Verlauf zu einer schnellen Veränderung von Gesellschaftssystemen führen können. In der Klimawandel-Debatte gewinnen sie zunehmend an Bedeutung. Die sozialen Kipp-Punkte weisen unterschiedliche zeitliche und räumliche Skalen auf, was ihre Wirkdynamiken beeinflusst.
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Confronting the urgent challenges posed by accelerated climate change and the fast and irreversible disappearance of life-forms on Earth—vital for ensuring human sustainability in the long term requires—deep transformations in the societal means that shape our present perceptions, sense-making processes and collective actions. This challenge demands a sustainability framing both for science and governance more focused on situated and social-ecologically coupled means and capacities, rather than only on general policy goals. Among the core social mediating mechanisms, Human Information and Knowledge Systems (HIKS) play a central role in positive transformations but only if they can be harnessed by sound ethical principles debated and structured in open democratic ways. Linking climate, life-diversity and sustainability challenges to support a possible Sustainable Climate Development may unleash new opportunity spaces for true regenerative governance narratives which confront the mounting risks of fake sustainabilities.
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The commitment to understanding the implications of a 1.5°C global temperature warming limit has contributed to a growing realisation that transformative adaptation is necessary to avoid catastrophic environmental and social consequences. This is particularly the case in urban settlements where disconnection from the systems that support life is pervasive and injustice and inequality play out daily. This paper argues that in order to transform towards thriving social-ecological systems, transformative capacity needs to be strengthened. The paper builds on the rich literature of adaptive capacity, alongside concepts of transformation that are drawn from resilience theory, organisational change, and developmental psychology. Reconnection to life-support systems, agency, and social cohesion are put forward as three foundational aspects of transformative capacity. A transdisciplinary case study of the FLOW programme in the Bergrivier Municipality, South Africa, is used to explore how transformative capacity has been built in practice. The case study explores an innovative programme that works with unemployed urban youth, alongside the exploration and introduction of a community currency in the informal business sector, and strengthening cross-scalar interaction between the local municipality and youth. The paper suggests that working across sectors and scales in a transdisciplinary manner is a challenging endeavour but necessary for building inclusive, thriving, and regenerative urban settlements.
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The notion of ‘transformations towards sustainability’ takes an increasingly central position in global sustainability research and policy discourse in recent years. Governance and politics are central to understanding and analysing transformations towards sustainability. However, despite receiving growing attention in recent years, the governance and politics aspects of transformations remain arguably under-developed in the global sustainability literature. A variety of conceptual approaches have been developed to understand and analyse societal transition or transformation processes, including: socio-technical transitions, social-ecological systems, sustainability pathways, and transformative adaptation. This paper critically surveys these four approaches, and reflects on them through the lens of the Earth System Governance framework (Biermann et al., 2009). This contributes to appreciating existing insights on transformations, and to identifying key research challenges and opportunities. Overall, the paper brings together diverse perspectives, that have so far remained largely fragmented, in order to strengthen the foundation for future research on transformations towards sustainability.
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The literature on the costs of climate change often draws a link between climatic ‘tipping points’ and large economic shocks, frequently called ‘catastrophes’. The phrase ‘tipping points’ in this context can be misleading. In popular and social scientific discourse, ‘tipping points’ involve abrupt state changes. For some climatic ‘tipping points,’ the commitment to a state change may occur abruptly, but the change itself may be rate-limited and take centuries or longer to realize. Additionally, the connection between climatic ‘tipping points’ and economic losses is tenuous, though emerging empirical and process-model-based tools provide pathways for investigating it. We propose terminology to clarify the distinction between ‘tipping points’ in the popular sense, the critical thresholds exhibited by climatic and social ‘tipping elements,’ and ‘economic shocks’. The last may be associated with tipping elements, gradual climate change, or non-climatic triggers. We illustrate our proposed distinctions by surveying the literature on climatic tipping elements, climatically sensitive social tipping elements, and climate-economic shocks, and we propose a research agenda to advance the integrated assessment of all three.
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Climate change and its interactions with complex socioeconomic dynamics dictate the need for decision makers to move from incremental adaptation toward transformation as societies try to cope with unprecedented and uncertain change. Developing pathways toward transformation is especially difficult in regions with multiple contested resource uses and rights, with diverse decision makers and rules, and where high uncertainty is generated by differences in stakeholders’ values, understanding of climate change, and ways of adapting. Such a region is the Murray-Darling Basin, Australia, from which we provide insights for developing a process to address these constraints. We present criteria for sequencing actions along adaptation pathways: feasibility of the action within the current decision context, its facilitation of other actions, its role in averting exceedance of a critical threshold, its robustness and resilience under diverse and unexpected shocks, its effect on future options, its lead time, and its effects on equity and social cohesion. These criteria could potentially enable development of multiple stakeholder-specific adaptation pathways through a regional collective action process. The actual implementation of these multiple adaptation pathways will be highly uncertain and politically difficult because of fixity of resource-use rights, unequal distribution of power, value conflicts, and the likely redistribution of benefits and costs. We propose that the approach we outline for building resilient pathways to transformation is a flexible and credible way of negotiating these challenges.
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The Paris Agreement marks a milestone in international climate policy. Though, the positive appraisal was not unanimous. This article will argue that the Paris Agreement embraces a new paradigm. Climate change is no longer seen as a clear-cut environmental problem, nor as a developmental issue, but as a challenge to fundamentally transform global societies. While criticism through the lens of the former paradigms is worthwhile, the Paris Agreement should be acknowledged as a pacemaker for the transformation processes that lay ahead of us.
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Since it was first proposed in 2000, the concept of the Anthropocene has evolved in breadth and diversely. The concept encapsulates the new and unprecedented planetary-scale changes resulting from societal transformations and has brought to the fore the social drivers of global change. The concept has revealed tensions between generalized interpretations of humanity’s contribution to global change, and interpretations that are historically, politically and culturally situated. It motivates deep ethical questions about the politics and economics of global change, including diverse interpretations of past causes and future possibilities. As such, more than other concepts, the Anthropocene concept has brought front-and-center epistemological divides between and within the natural and social sciences, and the humanities. It has also brought new opportunities for collaboration. Here we explore the potential and challenges of the concept to encourage integrative understandings of global change and sustainability. Based on bibliometric analysis and literature review, we discuss the now wide acceptance of the term, its interpretive flexibility, the emerging narratives as well as the debates the concept has inspired. We argue that without truly collaborative and integrative research, many of the critical exchanges around the concept are likely to perpetuate fragmented research agendas and to reinforce disciplinary boundaries. This means appreciating the strengths and limitations of different knowledge domains, approaches and perspectives, with the concept of the Anthropocene serving as a bridge, which we encourage researchers and others to cross. This calls for institutional arrangements that facilitate collaborative research, training, and action, yet also depends on more robust and sustained funding for such activities. To illustrate, we briefly discuss three overarching global change problems where novel types of collaborative research could make a difference: (1) Emergent properties of socioecological systems; (2) Urbanization and resource nexus; and (3) Systemic risks and tipping points. Creative tensions around the Anthropocene concept can help the research community to move toward new conceptual syntheses and integrative action-oriented approaches that are needed to producing useful knowledge commensurable with the challenges of global change and sustainability.
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Antarctica attracts tourists who want to explore its unique nature and landscapes. Antarctic tourism has rapidly grown since 1991 and is currently picking up again after the recent global economic downturn. Tourism activities are subject to the rules of the Antarctic Treaty System (ATS) and the decisions made by the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Parties (ATCPs), but within this context, the industry has considerable freedom to self-organise. The industry is self-regulated by a voluntary member-based group, the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO). Researchers and policy-makers express concern about IAATO’s ability to deal with further tourism development and the environmental consequences. This study applies a new approach to understand what affects self-regulation, consisting of a literature review and agent-based modelling (ABM). The review identifies four challenges for self-regulation: operator commitment, tourism growth, operator diversification, and accidents. The ABM simulations help conceptualise the complex concepts and theories surrounding self-regulation. Self-regulation is measured by the capacity of the simulated self-regulatory system to maintain a majority membership at the end of 20 years. The model suggests that a number of the challenges are nonlinear and have tipping points. This approach provides insights that industry officials and policy-makers can use to proactively regulate Antarctic tourism.
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While the concept of the Anthropocene reflects the past and present nature, scale and magnitude of human impacts on the Earth System, its true significance lies in how it can be used to guide attitudes, choices, policies and actions that influence the future. Yet, to date much of the research on the Anthropocene has focused on interpreting past and present changes, while saying little about the future. Likewise, many futures studies have been insufficiently rooted in an understanding of past changes, in particular the long-term co-evolution of bio-physical and human systems. The Anthropocene perspective is one that encapsulates a world of intertwined drivers, complex dynamic structures, emergent phenomena and unintended consequences, manifest across different scales and within interlinked biophysical constraints and social conditions. In this paper we discuss the changing role of science and the theoretical, methodological and analytical challenges in considering futures of the Anthropocene. We present three broad groups of research questions on: (1) societal goals for the future; (2) major trends and dynamics that might favor or hinder them; (3) and factors that might propel or impede transformations towards desirable futures. Tackling these questions requires the development of novel approaches integrating natural and social sciences as well as the humanities beyond what is current today. We present three examples, one from each group of questions, illustrating how science might contribute to the identification of desirable and plausible futures and pave the way for transformations towards them. We argue that it is time for debates on the sustainability of the Anthropocene to focus on opportunities for realizing desirable and plausible futures.
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Most current cost-benefit analyses of climate change policies suggest an optimal global climate policy that is significantly less stringent than the level required to meet the internationally agreed 2 °C target. This is partly because the sum of estimated economic damage of climate change across various sectors, such as energy use and changes in agricultural production, results in only a small economic loss or even a small economic gain in the gross world product under predicted levels of climate change. However, those cost-benefit analyses rarely take account of environmental tipping points leading to abrupt and irreversible impacts on market and nonmarket goods and services, including those provided by the climate and by ecosystems. Here we show that including environmental tipping point impacts in a stochastic dynamic integrated assessment model profoundly alters cost-benefit assessment of global climate policy. The risk of a tipping point, even if it only has nonmarket impacts, could substantially increase the present optimal carbon tax. For example, a risk of only 5% loss in nonmarket goods that occurs with a 5% annual probability at 4 °C increase of the global surface temperature causes an immediate two-thirds increase in optimal carbon tax. If the tipping point also has a 5% impact on market goods, the optimal carbon tax increases by more than a factor of 3. Hence existing cost-benefit assessments of global climate policy may be significantly underestimating the needs for controlling climate change.
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Long-term scenarios play an important role in research on global environmental change. The climate change research community is developing new scenarios integrating future changes in climate and society to investigate climate impacts as well as options for mitigation and adaptation. One component of these new scenarios is a set of alternative futures of societal development known as the shared socioeconomic pathways (SSPs). The conceptual framework for the design and use of the SSPs calls for the development of global pathways describing the future evolution of key aspects of society that would together imply a range of challenges for mitigating and adapting to climate change. Here we present one component of these pathways: the SSP narratives, a set of five qualitative descriptions of future changes in demographics, human development, economy and lifestyle, policies and institutions, technology, and environment and natural resources. We describe the methods used to develop the narratives as well as how these pathways are hypothesized to produce particular combinations of challenges to mitigation and adaptation. Development of the narratives drew on expert opinion to (1) identify key determinants of these challenges that were essential to incorporate in the narratives and (2) combine these elements in the narratives in a manner consistent with scholarship on their inter-relationships. The narratives are intended as a description of plausible future conditions at the level of large world regions that can serve as a basis for integrated scenarios of emissions and land use, as well as climate impact, adaptation and vulnerability analyses.
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The ‘Great Acceleration’ graphs, originally published in 2004 to show socio-economic and Earth System trends from 1750 to 2000, have now been updated to 2010. In the graphs of socio-economic trends, where the data permit, the activity of the wealthy (OECD) countries, those countries with emerging economies, and the rest of the world have now been differentiated. The dominant feature of the socio-economic trends is that the economic activity of the human enterprise continues to grow at a rapid rate. However, the differentiated graphs clearly show that strong equity issues are masked by considering global aggregates only. Most of the population growth since 1950 has been in the non-OECD world but the world’s economy (GDP), and hence consumption, is still strongly dominated by the OECD world. The Earth System indicators, in general, continued their long-term, post-industrial rise, although a few, such as atmospheric methane concentration and stratospheric ozone loss, showed a slowing or apparent stabilisation over the past decade. The post-1950 acceleration in the Earth System indicators remains clear. Only beyond the mid-20th century is there clear evidence for fundamental shifts in the state and functioning of the Earth System that are beyond the range of variability of the Holocene and driven by human activities. Thus, of all the candidates for a start date for the Anthropocene, the beginning of the Great Acceleration is by far the most convincing from an Earth System science perspective.
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Faced with numerous seemingly intractable social and environmental challenges, many scholars and practitioners are increasingly interested in understanding how to actively engage and transform the existing systems holding such problems in place. Although a variety of analytical models have emerged in recent years, most emphasize either the social or ecological elements of such transformations rather than their coupled nature. To address this, first we have presented a definition of the core elements of a social-ecological system (SES) that could potentially be altered in a transformation. Second, we drew on insights about transformation from three branches of literature focused on radical change, i.e., social movements, socio-technical transitions, and social innovation, and gave consideration to the similarities and differences with the current studies by resilience scholars. Drawing on these findings, we have proposed a framework that outlines the process and phases of transformative change in an SES. Future research will be able to utilize the framework as a tool for analyzing the alteration of social-ecological feedbacks, identifying critical barriers and leverage points and assessing the outcome of social-ecological transformations.
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The existence of “tipping points” in human–environmental systems at multiple scales—such as abrupt negative changes in coral reef ecosystems, “runaway” climate change, and interacting nonlinear “planetary boundaries”—is often viewed as a substantial challenge for governance due to their inherent uncertainty, potential for rapid and large system change, and possible cascading effects on human well-being. Despite an increased scholarly and policy interest in the dynamics of these perceived “tipping points,” institutional and governance scholars have yet to make progress on how to analyze in which ways state and non-state actors attempt to anticipate, respond, and prevent the transgression of “tipping points” at large scales. In this article, we use three cases of global network responses to what we denote as global change-induced “tipping points”—ocean acidification, fisheries collapse, and infectious disease outbreaks. Based on the commonalities in several research streams, we develop four working propositions: information processing and early warning, multilevel and multinetwork responses, diversity in response capacity, and the balance between efficiency and legitimacy. We conclude by proposing a simple framework for the analysis of the interplay between perceived global change-induced “tipping points,” global networks, and international institutions.
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This paper explores to what extent moving towards the 30% GHG emission reductions by 2020 with respect to 1990 in the EU can be considered a transformative target. To do so, we first define the concept of transformative targets from a complex systems perspective and show a novel approach and original results using an extended application of the GEM-E3 model. Traditional macroeconomic models cannot easily handle key synergetic system effects derived from green growth and sustainability policies, and thus require additional features. We analyse the role of semi-endogenous growth driven by learning-by-doing and low-carbon investment expectations following a long-term transformative trajectory.
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