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Marlene Kretschmer wins Köppen-Preis for her outstanding dissertation on polar vortex

24.01.2019 - Marlene Kretschmer from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), has been awarded the 2018 Wladimir Peter Köppen Prize for her remarkable dissertation completed at PIK and the University of Potsdam. Its “importance for climate research, in terms of its innovativeness and relevance, is outstanding”, the jury of the Hamburg-based Cluster of Excellence CliSAP praised the work.
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International Green Week: Agriculture expert Lotze-Campen speaks at several events

22/01/2019 - From agriculture and biodiversity to digital technologies in the agricultural sector to climate change and food: During and before the International Green Week (18-21 Jan), agricultural economist Hermann Lotze-Campen, head of research department "Climate Resilience - Climate Impacts and Adaptation" at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, was invited as speaker at several events of various federal ministries in Berlin.
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Call for Abstracts: Conference on Socio-Economic Metabolism organized by PIK

21/01/2019 - This year's Conference of the Socio-Economic Metabolism Section (SEM) of the International Society for Industrial Ecology (ISIE), founded by the New York Academy of Sciences, is organized by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. Chaired by Helga Weisz, head of PIK’s future lab “Social Metabolism and Impacts”, and Peter-Paul Pichler from research domain “Complexity Science”, the meeting will be held in Berlin 13-15 May 2019. The conference aims to share ideas and knowledge of the current and cutting edge socio-economic metabolism research among researchers, academics, and industry experts. The call for abstracts is still open, until January 30.
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Lancet report: Healthy lives and a liveable planet for all require major changes in what we eat and how we produce it

17.01.2019 - Feeding a growing population of 10 billion by 2050 is possible if we shift towards a planetary health diet, a major new report by the EAT Lancet commission shows. International experts worked with the leading medical journal to develop the first comprehensive and detailed science based targets for improving our food system in a way that ensures healthy lives and a liveable planet for all. This includes doubling the amount of vegetables in what we eat every day, and halving red meat and sugar. Current diets are one of today's greatest causes for ill-health worldwide and in the same time threaten climate stability. Leading planetary boundaries researcher Johan Rockström, Director Designate of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and former Director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre, is one of the report's lead authors.
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Ranking: the climate papers most featured in online media

12/01/2019 - Scientific publications from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research scored well in online and social media. The UK online news outlet Carbon Brief just published an interesting ranking based on Altmetric that - while it is certainly not comprehensive since the data base is not comprehensive - gives some indications which papers in 2018 have been most referred to in the public. Of course, the list most prominently features the "Trajectories of the Earth System in the Anthropocene" (or 'Hothouse Earth') paper by, amongst others, PIK's Johan Rockström, Jonathan Donges, Ricarda Winkelmann, and Hans Joachim Schellnhuber published in PNAS. Carbon Brief calls it the climate science paper that scored top in media. Looking at all scientific publications in 2018 - hence beyond the field of climate research - it still is the fifth most talked-about of all journal papers, which is enormous.
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Connecting the dots between risks and solutions: Policy design for the Anthropocene

10/01/2019 - From climate change to biodiversity, land-system changes or altered biogechemical cycles – to prevent the world from overstepping critical planetary boundaries and to tackle global, long-run, and interconnected environmental risks, a comprehensive policy framework is needed. An international team of researchers now combines insights of natural and social sciences in a perspective piece just published in Nature Sustainability, one of the outlets of the leading scientific journal. They analyze guiding principles for such a policy design to keep Earth within biophysical limits favorable to human life. Among the authors are Earth System researcher Johan Rockström and climate economist Ottmar Edenhofer, who form the new joint - and interdisciplinary - leadership of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK).
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UN climate summit agrees on rulebook – yet more ambition is needed: PIK leaders at COP24 in „Heißzeit“ times

17.12.2018 - The Katowice UN climate summit’s results are “a relief” with regard to the agreed rulebook, according to the Directors of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK). However, the close to 200 states at COP24 failed to scale up ambitions for greenhouse gas emission reductions, say Johan Rockström and Ottmar Edenhofer. Concrete measures are urgently needed though since governments are steering Earth into a “Heißzeit”. This “hot age” has been investigated in scientific publications from PIK leaders, including Director Emeritus John Schellnhuber. The term “Heißzeit” has now been elected “word of the year 2018” in Germany.
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Science to COP25: Must Knows for Climate Negotiators

06/12/2019 – The pace of contemporary rise in greenhouse gas concentrations is unprecedented in climate history over the past 66 million years and weather extremes are the “new normal,” according to some of the latest findings in climate science compiled in an easy-to-read guide for negotiators, policymakers, and media for the COP25 world climate summit. PIK Director Johan Rockström and colleagues from Future Earth and the Earth League today presented the “10 New Insights in Climate Science” report to UNFCCC’s Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa at the meeting in the Spanish capital Madrid.
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President of the Indian Academy of Sciences at PIK: EPICC builds on international cooperation

20.12.2018 - From the Indian Academy of Sciences, its president Ramakrishna Ramaswamy, senior professor of the Indian Jawaharlal Nehru University, visited the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK). His short research stay was aiming to strengthen international science cooperation with the PIK lead project EPICC, which aims to build up climate capacities also in India. He also invited the EPICC project to have its 2019 Indian workshop in the facilities of the Indian Academy of Sciences.
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Planetary Waves drive South America’s Monsoon rains

12/20/2018 - Monsoon rainfall in South America is to a large extent driven by huge airstreams high up in the atmosphere, a new study finds. Using innovative methods to explore teleconnections between different parts of the world, the scientists found evidence that the so-called Rossby waves – airstreams swinging from the tropics to Antarctica and back while circling the globe – are key for the variability in regional precipitation especially in parts of Brazil and Argentina. This has been assumed before but, to the knowledge of the authors, never been properly conceptualized and detected in actual data.
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Global warming didn’t pause - researchers disentangle “hiatus” confusion

19.12.2018 - The reality of ongoing climate warming might seem plainly obvious today, after the four warmest years on record and a summer of weather extremes in the whole northern hemisphere. A few years back however, some media and some experts were entangled in debates about an alleged pause in global warming – even though there never has been statistical evidence of any “hiatus”, as new research now confirms. In two recent studies, a group of international scientists joined forces to thoroughly disentangle any possible “hiatus” confusion, affirming that there was no evidence for a significant pause or even slowdown of global warming in the first place.
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Climate plan for Germany and Europe: Economists propose CO2 price reform

03.12.2018 - A few days ago the UN Environment Agency advocated an international green tax reform - now economists have presented a new concept for a CO2 price reform in Germany and Europe right before the start of the climate summit in Katowice, Poland. SPIEGEL magazine was reporting on this issue in advance this weekend. Christoph Schmidt, Chair of the German Council of Economic Experts from RWI Essen, Leibniz Institute for Economic Research, and Ottmar Edenhofer, Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) and the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change (MCC), have jointly drafted the cornerstones for a market-based way out of coal. Climate-damaging CO2-emissions would need to become more expensive, while at the same time the electricity tax could be lowered. A socially just and efficient transition to a sustainable economy is possible, according to the professors, who both belong to the Leibniz Association. If, on the other hand, greenhouse gas emissions were not reduced, there would be the risk of economic climate damage of unprecedented proportions.
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Kira Vinke appointed co-chair of new Advisory Board for Civilian Crisis Prevention

14.12.2018 - Kira Vinke from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) has been appointed to the new Advisory Council on Civilian Crisis Prevention and Peacebuilding of the German Federal Government. The new Advisory Board is composed of renowned experts from for instance academia, foundations and non-governmental organisations and comes together this week for the first time. The focus of the Advisory Board is to pool civil society and technical expertise on crisis prevention and peacebuilding and thus to inform the work of the Federal Ministries.
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Record-wet and record-dry months increased in regions worldwide: climate change drives rainfall extremes

12.12.2018 - More and more rainfall extremes are observed in regions around the globe – triggering both wet and dry records, a new study shows. Yet there are big differences between regions: The central and Eastern US, northern Europe and northern Asia have experienced heavy rainfall events that have led to severe floods in recent past. In contrast, most African regions have seen an increased frequency of months with a lack of rain. The study is the first to systematically analyze and quantify changes in record-breaking monthly rainfall events from all over the globe, based on data from roughly 50,000 weather stations worldwide. Climate change from fossil fuel greenhouse gases has long been expected to disturb rainfall patterns.
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Planetary Boundaries and Global Commons - managing risks and solutions

11.12.2018 - Weather extremes, food security, migration: people's livelihoods depend on climate stabilization. The joint side event of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) and the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change (MCC) at the UN climate summit COP24 highlighted how a safe operating space for humanity within Planetary Boundaries and the sustainable use of Global Commons like the atmosphere are key concepts combining natural and social sciences to safeguard our future. Based on these fundamental concepts, sound options for managing risks and solutions were explored by the new joint PIK leadership Johan Rockström and Ottmar Edenhofer.
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Joint call for swift and just climate action: the Katowice Memorandum

10/12/2018 - Researchers, intellectuals and spiritual leaders jointly call for swift and just climate action. Together, they formulate the Katowice Memorandum at a symposium co-organized by the Polish Academy of Sciences, the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) during the 24th UN Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 24) in Katowice, Poland.
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A Greentech Race towards Climate Stabilization: European Expert Group Publishes Landmark Innovation Report

28.11.2018 - Zero-carbon solutions, i.e. technologies and lifestyles completely free of fossil-fuel use, must be the foci of European investments into research and innovation. Conventional low-emission options have very limited potential to contribute in time to avoiding dangerous global warming, an independent group of eminent experts concludes. By way of contrast, ambitious innovation programs can kick-start a greentech race to the top, while boosting the competitiveness of the European economies and securing our prosperity. The “High-Level Panel on Decarbonization Pathways” report is published today, together with the European Commission Communication Strategy for long-term EU greenhouse gas emission reductions, in the run-up to the UN climate summit (COP24) in Katowice, Poland.
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Winter weather extremes in the US and Europe: messing with giant airstreams in the stratosphere

22/11/2018 - Over Thanksgiving, arctic air masses are predicted to bring record-cold temperatures and frigid winds to the Northeast of the United States. Driver for such winter weather extremes is often the stratospheric polar vortex, a band of fast moving winds 30 kilometers above the ground. In winter, when the polar vortex is disturbed by upward-blowing air masses, this can bring cold spells over Northeastern America or Eurasia, a new study now shows. And paradox as it might seem, climate change might further disrupt the complex dynamics in the atmosphere – bringing us not only more hot extremes in summer but potentially also cold spells in winter.
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Extreme weather will likely become more frequent due to stalling of giant waves in the atmosphere

01/11/2018 - Computer simulations predict a strong increase of events in which the undulations of the jet stream in the atmosphere stop moving along and grow very large. This can favor more frequent extreme weather events on the ground: the westerly winds stop pushing forward weather systems which hence become more persistent – a few sunny days grow into heatwaves, extended rains lead to floods. An international team of scientists links this to human-caused warming specifically in the Arctic.
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Overcoming barriers for climate policy: Short-term policies can bring long-term targets in reach

15.10.2018 - To make climate policy more stringent, a smart sequencing of measures is a promising option. An international team of researchers now proposes a framework for doing so using policy sequencing – experiences from Germany and California serve as examples. Specific policy options at early stages enable more ambitious policies at later stages by removing or relaxing barriers that prevented their implementation. This might be a usefull approach for for the design of long term policies such as the currently debated German coal phase out.
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Sustainable and healthy food to feed the world in 2050: Nature study

10/10/2018 - “Feeding a world population of 10 billion people is possible - yet only if we change the way we eat, and the way we produce food, our research shows. Greening the food sector or eating up our planet: this is what is on the menu today,” says Johan Rockström, Director Designate of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. He’s one of the authors of a new study now published by an international team of scientists in the journal Nature.
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Planet at risk of heading towards irreversible “Hothouse Earth” state

06/08/2018 - Keeping global warming to within 1.5-2°C may be more difficult than previously assessed. An international team of scientists has published a study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) showing that even if the carbon emission reductions called for in the Paris Agreement are met, there is a risk of the planet entering what the scientists call “Hothouse Earth” conditions. A “Hothouse Earth” climate will in the long term stabilize at a global average of 4-5°C higher than pre-industrial temperatures with sea level 10-60 m higher than today, the paper says. The authors conclude it is now urgent to greatly accelerate the transition towards an emission-free world economy.
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Nice sunny days can grow into heat waves – and wildfires: summer weather is stalling

20/08/2018 - Be it heavy downpours or super-hot spells, summer weather becomes more persistent in North America, Europe and parts of Asia. When those conditions stall for several days or weeks, they can turn into extremes: heatwaves resulting in droughts, health risks and wildfires; or relentless rainfall resulting in floods. A team of scientists now presents the first comprehensive review of research on summer weather stalling focusing on the influence of the disproportionally strong warming of the Arctic as caused by greenhouse-gas emissions from burning fossil fuels. Evidence is mounting, they show, that we likely meddle with circulation patterns high up in the sky. These are affecting, in turn, regional and local weather patterns – with sometimes disastrous effects on the ground. This has been the case with the 2016 wildfire in Canada, another team of scientists show in a second study.
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Flipping the switch: making use of carbon price dollars for health and education

07/16/2018 - While health systems, clean water and education are a plain given in many parts of the world, millions of people still do not have sufficient access to these basic public goods. In fact, carbon prices could make substantial financial resources available for succeeding with the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set by the United Nations, a team of scientists now finds. At the same time, carbon pricing could be a central contribution to meet global climate targets and limit global warming to well below 2°C until the end of the century.
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What saved the West Antarctic Ice Sheet 10,000 years ago will not save it today

06/14/2018 - The retreat of the West Antarctic ice masses after the last Ice Age was reversed surprisingly about 10,000 years ago, scientists found. This is in stark contrast to previous assumptions. In fact, it was the shrinking itself that stopped the shrinking: relieved from the weight of the ice, the Earth crust lifted and triggered the re-advance of the ice sheet. However, this mechanism is much too slow to prevent dangerous sea-level rise caused by West Antarctica’s ice-loss in the present and near future. Only rapid greenhouse-gas emission reductions can.
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Clean power is not enough: More climate action in industry, transport and building sectors needed to meet Paris climate targets

06/25/2018 - Coal power versus wind and solar energy – debates about the Paris climate targets often centre around electricity supply. Yet, even in a world of stringent climate policies and a clean power generation, the remaining use of fossil fuels in industry, transport and heating in buildings could still cause enough CO2 emissions to endanger the climate targets agreed on by the international community, an international team of researchers finds. Published in Nature Climate Change, their elaborate study is the first to focus specifically on the residual fossil fuel emissions from sectors that are not as easily decarbonized as power generation.
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Spacefood for cows: Industrial microbes could feed cattle, pigs and chicken with less damage to the environment

06/20/2018 - Deforestation, greenhouse gas emissions, biodiversity loss, nitrogen pollution – today’s agricultural feed cultivation for cattle, pigs and chicken comes with tremendous impacts for the environment and climate. Cultivating feed in industrial facilities instead of on croplands might help to alleviate the critical implications in the agricultural food supply chain. Protein-rich microbes, produced in large-scale industrial facilities, are likely to increasingly replace traditional crop-based feed. A new study now published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology for the first time estimates the economic and environmental potential of feeding microbial protein to pigs, cattle and chicken on a global scale. The researchers find that by replacing only 2 percent of livestock feed by protein-rich microbes, more than 5 percent of agricultural greenhouse gas emissions, global cropland area and global nitrogen losses could each be decreased.
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Mix it: Policy combination needed to achieve climate targets along with sustainable development goals

06/20/2018 - A broad combination of policies might be best suited to help achieve both climate stabilization targets as well as most of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. These policies reach from straightforward CO2 pricing to regulation of water and forest protection, to lifestyle changes such as eating less meat, a new study shows. The scientists highlight the complex interplay between the different targets. A policy focused only on CO2 pricing would cost the least, they show, but would likely trigger substantial land-use changes.
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Better be safe than sorry: economic optimization risks tipping of important Earth system elements

06/15/2018 - Optimizing economic welfare without constraints might put human well-being at risk, a new climate study argues. While being successful in bringing down costs of greenhouse gas reductions for instance, the concept of profit maximization alone does not suffice to avoid the tipping of critical elements in the Earth system which could lead to dramatic changes of our livelihood. The scientists use mathematical experiments to compare economic optimization to the governance concepts of sustainability and the more recent approach of a safe operating space for humanity. All of these turn out to have their benefits and deficits, yet the profit-maximizing approach shows the greatest likelihood of producing outcomes that harm people or the environment.
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Stronger evidence for a weaker Atlantic overturning

04/11/2018. The Atlantic overturning – one of Earth’s most important heat transport systems, pumping warm water northwards and cold water southwards – is weaker today than any time before in more than 1000 years. Sea surface temperature data analysis provides new evidence that this major ocean circulation has slowed down by roughly 15 percent since the middle of the 20th century, according to a study published in the highly renowned journal Nature by an international team of scientists. Human-made climate change is a prime suspect for these worrying observations.
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