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 | 2020-04-03
Study shows one third of cases erupt within seven days. Countries with political exclusion, low human development and large populations most vulnerable
Research news | 2020-04-02
Drier dry seasons combined with more degraded forests means regions can easily transform to pasture land, researchers warn
Research news | 2020-04-01
What we can learn from a Samí crafts artist and a fisher from Stockholm about connections between local ecological knowledge, work, technology and sustainability
Research news | 2020-03-31
Marine resources and the benefits from the ocean are not equitably distributed. Ocean economics is in need of a shift, report says
General news | 2020-03-30
We have never before produced so many peer-reviewed papers – and in high-impact journals – as in 2019
Research news | 2020-03-26
Three major innovations helped shape the global food system in the past. How can we learn from them to develop a more sustainable system for the future?