We explore the risk that self-reinforcing feedbacks could push the Earth System toward a planetary threshold that, if crossed, could prevent stabilization of the climate at intermediate temperature rises and cause continued warming on a “Hothouse Earth” pathway even as human emissions are reduced. Crossing the threshold would lead to a much higher global average temperature than any interglacial in the past 1.2 million years and to sea levels significantly higher than at any time in the Holocene. We examine the evidence that such a threshold might exist and where it might be. If the threshold is crossed, the resulting trajectory would likely cause serious disruptions to ecosystems, society, and economies. Collective human action is required to steer the Earth System away from a potential threshold and stabilize it in a habitable interglacial-like state. Such action entails stewardship of the entire Earth System—biosphere, climate, and societies—and could include decarbonization of the global economy, enhancement of biosphere carbon sinks, behavioral changes, technological innovations, new governance arrangements, and transformed social values.
Research news | 2020-11-24
While hurdles remain, the region can build on the shared history of collaboration to tackle food system challenges together, new insight papers show
Research news | 2020-11-19
Stephan Barthel, Oonsie Biggs, Örjan Bodin, Thomas Elmqvist, Carl Folke, Per Olsson, Garry Peterson and Johan Rockström on exclusive list of world’s most influential researchers
Research news | 2020-11-18
Four ways to understand the complexity of global environmental change sufficiently well to take policy action
Research news | 2020-11-16
On the island of Stora Karlsö, the steel built lab gives researchers access to observe the largest seabird colony in the Baltic Sea
Research news | 2020-11-13
The clothing industry is dominated by a clutch of powerful companies, but interest groups around them are crucial in efforts to make it more sustainable
Research news | 2020-11-12
The pandemic is hitting the seafood industry hard. How can past crises help it survive this one?