Weather, Extremes & Atmosphere
Research Topic 1/7
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Ice, Oceans & Sea Level Rise
Research Topic 2/7
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Land Use, Food, Water & Ecosystems
Research Topic 3/7
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Climate Policy, Economics & Energy
Research Topic 4/7
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Health, Security & Development
Research Topic 5/7
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Complex Networks, Machine Learning & Decision Theory
Research Topic 6/7
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Planetary Boundaries, Tipping Elements & Global Commons
Research Topic 7/7
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From natural science to social science, from risks to solutions, from identifying Planetary Boundaries to managing Global Commons: The Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) is advancing the frontier of integrated research for global sustainability, and for a safe and just climate future. A member of the Leibniz Association, the institute is based in Potsdam, Brandenburg and connected with the global scientific community. Drawing on excellent research, PIK provides relevant scientific advice for policy decision-making. The institute’s international staff of more than 300 is led by a committed interdisciplinary team of Directors. This is science – for a safe tomorrow.

Numbers

<2°
<2°

Limiting human-made global warming in this century to 1.5°C, if possible, but in any case to less than 2°C (about 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial temperature levels: this goal was ratified under international law in Article 2 of the Paris Agreement of 2015. Nearly all countries of the world agreed on this target, as a warming of over 2°C would have drastic consequences: heat waves would increase significantly and put pressure on global agriculture. In the long term, sea levels would rise significantly, which could threaten coastal regions. In short: the risks would increase.

3 Million Years
3 Million Years

Ocean floor deposits and model calculations have confirmed that in the past 3 million years, the global mean temperature has never been more than two degrees above pre-industrial levels, with fluctuating CO2 levels in the atmosphere. Since the beginning of industrialization, more CO2 has accumulated in the atmosphere through the burning of coal, oil and gas than probably ever before in the past 3 million years. Thus, in our current century, there is real threat that without effective climate policy the 2-degree limit of global warming will be breached for the first time – with far-reaching consequences.

24%
24%

Around a quarter of the greenhouse gases emitted worldwide are from agriculture and forestry including, for example, deforestation. This makes land use one of the biggest sources of emissions, like especially methane and CO2, and thus a driver of climate change. However, it is also itself strongly affected by climate impacts, because, for example, there are more frequent regional crop failures due to droughts or heavy rainfall. Land use is therefore an important part of the solution to the climate problem. Better land use management – for example through more efficient use of fertilizers, reforestation or the renaturation of peatland soils – as well as a reduced demand for animal products can help to stabilize our climate.

Questions

Does our Climate benefit from Corona?
Does our Climate benefit from Corona?

People around the world are being hit hard by Corona - nothing about this tragedy is positive. The emission of CO2 has decreased because in many places airplanes and factories have stood still. However, the amount of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere is not decreasing because so much CO2 has already accumulated there; it will last and stay there for thousands of years. Also, the stabilization of our climate cannot under any circumstances be achieved by a socially devastating reduction of our economy, as we can now observe in some places due to the pandemic. Rather, the solution must be a targeted transformation of our economy – towards clean technologies.

What are Climate Models?
What are Climate Models?

Researchers use computers to solve large multidimensional equations and thus simulate processes in the Earth system. These climate models contain our knowledge of the physics of the planet. Whether they reliably reproduce temperature curves in past cold and warm periods can be checked using data from measurements or from natural climate archives such as ice drill cores. Models can then be used to calculate future developments - always based on certain assumptions, for example about the increase in CO2 emissions. The result are projections: not predictions, but complex if-then statements.

What are Tipping Elements?
What are Tipping Elements?

Some parts of the earth system show a threshold behavior: If they are stressed beyond their respective critical limits by human-made climate change, strong and sometimes unstoppable and irreversible changes can occur – they topple over, to put it simply. Among the tipping elements in the climate system are the ice sheets on Greenland and in Antarctica, the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation, and the permafrost soils. Even the crossing of individual tipping points would have environmental impacts endangering the livelihoods of many people. There is also the risk of a domino-like chain reaction – such a "tipping cascade" would affect the overall stability of our Earth system.

PIK in the Media

Tauender Permafrost, brennende Wälder : Das sind die weltweiten Hotspots der Klimakrise
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Klimaneutrales Berlin bis 2050: „Eine Frage des Tempos“
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Antarktis-Eisschmelze hat weltweit dramatische Folgen
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Die Antarktis hebt die Meere mit jedem Erwärmungsgrad um Meter an: Study, Europe News & Top Stories
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