Potsdam and Exeter agree 'tipping points' partnership

03/03/2022 - The University of Exeter and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) have signed an agreement to jointly investigate climate change tipping points.
Potsdam and Exeter agree 'tipping points' partnership

PIK and Exeter's Global Systems Institute (GSI) conduct cutting-edge climate research, and are setting the agenda on identifying positive tipping points to tackle the climate crisis, reverse biodiversity decline and achieve sustainability.  The new partnership will build on both organisations' expertise in the threats posed by climate tipping points and the power of positive tipping points.

"We urgently need to identify positive tipping points if we are going to avoid dangerous climate tipping points," said GSI Director Professor Tim Lenton. "Teaming up with PIK, we can move faster on this vital research agenda."

Professor Lenton and PIK Director Professor Johan Rockström have worked closely together on identifying climate tipping points and planetary boundaries, as well as the Earth Commission’s current work to identify a "safe and just future for people and the planet."

"This is about investigating major risks of destabilising the climate and natural systems," said Professor Rockström. "Tipping processes involve substantial uncertainties, and in the same time substantial consequences for human livelihoods. In social systems, however, non-linear dynamics can advance the much-needed transformation towards sustainability."

The partnership will be based on three key objectives:

  1. Develop and jointly execute integrated research programmes on Earth system tipping points and social tipping points of sustainable change.
  2. Establish a joint educational and research capacity building programme with student exchange and joint supervision of young scholars in collaborative research teams.
  3. Advance a joint science communications platform for wide sharing of research results and development of improved ways of communicating risk and uncertainty, commitment and impact

PIK's work to date on positive tipping points includes research on "social tipping dynamics" that could drive rapid decarbonisation. Exeter's recent work includes a paper that identifies "guidelines for creating enabling conditions, sensing when a system can be positively tipped, who can trigger it, and how they can trigger it".

Professor Lisa Roberts, Vice Chancellor of the University of Exeter, said: "This alliance with PIK Potsdam brings together two of the world's leading centres of climate research. The agreement reflects our collaborative approach, and we will continue working with partners like PIK, and with governments, businesses and communities to tackle the climate crisis."

Link to the University of Exeter's Global Systems Institute (GSI):




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