Tipping mechanisms could spark profound societal change towards climate stabilization: new study

21/01/2020 - Limiting global warming to well below 2°C requires a decarbonized world by 2050 at the latest and a corresponding global transformation of the energy and land use systems of societies across the world. To achieve this goal of net-zero carbon by 2050 emissions need to be cut by half every decade from now on. An interdisciplinary team of researchers now explored tipping mechanisms that have the potential to spark rapid yet constructive societal changes towards climate stabilization and overall sustainability. These tipping elements and mechanisms could bring about a transition that is fast enough for meeting the targets of the Paris climate agreement. Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) the scientists identify six socio-economic tipping elements and related interventions that could bring such a transition to a deep and rapid global decarbonization on its way.
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Australian bush fires: "What is happening in the southeast of Australia right now is breaking all records"

10/01/2020 - Australia is burning. In a statement, Kirsten Thonicke, expert for fire ecology and forests at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), explains the causes and how the devastating fires are related to man-made climate change.
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Artificial Intelligence: applying ‚Deep Reinforcement Learning‘ for sustainable development

20/12/2019 - For the first time, a specific way of machine learning has been used to find novel pathways for sustainable development. So far, the so-called 'Deep Reinforcement Learning' has mostly been used to make computers excel in certain games, such as AlphaGo, or navigate robots through rough terrain. Now, scientists from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research developed a mathematical framework combining recently developed machine learning techniques with more classical analysis of trajectories in computer simulations of the global climate system and the global economy. The results, published in the interdisciplinary journal on nonlinear phenomena 'Chaos', are promising.
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Planetary boundaries: Interactions in the Earth system amplify human impacts

16/12/2019 - What we do to one part of our Earth system does not just add to what we do to other parts – transgressing one planetary boundary can amplify human impacts on another one. For the first time, an international team of scientists now quantified some of the planetary-scale interactions in the Earth system. These biophysical interactions have in fact almost doubled direct human impacts on the nine planetary boundaries, from climate change to freshwater use. This insight can now be applied in policy design for safeguarding the livelihoods of generations to come.
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Germany likely to ramp up CO2 price path

16/12/2019 - Germany is likely to introduce a more ambitious carbon price path than previously envisioned by the Federal government. The mediation committee of the two legislative bodies agreed on a starting price of 25 Euro per ton CO2 in 2021, gradually rising to 55 Euros in 2025. Previously, the German government's plan was to start with 10 Euro, rising to 35 Euro. The national pricing scheme is supposed to complement the European Union's Emissions Trading System. The Green Deal plans just announced by Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, might also comprise more substantial carbon pricing. On this issue Ottmar Edenhofer, Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) and of the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change (MCC):
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COP25 climate summit: "weak outcome"

15.12.2019 - This weekend, the world climate summit COP25 in Madrid ran overtime to come to much debated decisions. Together, the two Directors of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research issued a statement to comment on the outcome. "This is a minimum compromise," says Earth system scientist Johan Rockström. Climate economist Ottmar Edenhofer adds: "The weak outcome of COP25 is sad but no surprise. It highlights that the next world climate summit in Glasgow really needs to be the turning point it is scheduled to be in the 2015 Paris Agreement timetable."
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Edenhofer: "The European Green Deal is a bold plan"

12/12/2019 - The President of the EU Commision, Ursula von der Leyen, today presented the European Green Deal in Brussels. On Thursday, the European Council will debate it. Furthermore, it will be presented at the world climate summit COP25 in Madrid. On this issue, Ottmar Edenhofer, Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) said in a statement: "The European Green Deal is a bold plan that must now be followed by concrete action."
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Athens: Schellnhuber appointed member of Plato‘s Academy

10/12/2019 – The very word academia derives from a borough in ancient Athens, where Plato gathered his students already in 400 BCE. The heir to Plato’s Academy more than 2,000 years later is Greece’s highest scientific institution, the renowned Academy of Athens. PIK Director Emeritus Hans Joachim Schellnhuber has now been appointed to the honourable circle for his outstanding achievements in climate science.
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COP25: PIK experts in Madrid

02.12.2019 - "Time for Action": About 25,000 delegates from all over the world are expected to attend the UN Climate Conference COP25 from December 2-13 in Madrid, Spain. "We stand at a critical juncture in our collective efforts to limit dangerous global heating", UN General Secretary António Guterres said at the Opening Ceremony of COP25 in the Spanish Capital. "Millions throughout the world – especially young people – are calling on leaders from all sectors to do more, much more, to address the climate emergency we face. They know we need to get on the right path today, not tomorrow. That means important decisions must be made now," he stressed in his remarks.
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Potsdam: Kira Vinke is awarded best PhD Thesis Prize for Work on Climate Migration

29/11/2019 – Kira Vinke from PIK is the first political scientist to receive the Potsdam Young Scientist Award. The prize was awarded to her for her dissertation on "Unsettling Settlements: Cities, Migrants, Climate Change. Rural-Urban Climate Migration as Effective Adaption?" The honor was awarded to her by Lord Mayor Mike Schubert at a ceremony at the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities.
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Award for innovative university teaching

29.11.2019 - Together with the Potsdam University and the Hasso-Plattner-Institute (HPI), the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) has been awarded for their jointly developed university programme. The course "Sustainable and collaborative decision-making in economics and politics - An interdisciplinary and simulation-based course" will be supported with 30,000 euros over the next two years by the Baden-Württemberg foundation and the Stifterverband. The "fellowships for innovation and higher education teaching" award ideas for future-orientated composition and optimisation of university teaching.
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Climate tipping points – too risky to bet against

28/11/2019 - From the Greenland and West-Antarctic ice sheets to coral reefs or the Amazon rainforest – a number of critical elements in the Earth system could be more likely to tip than was previously thought, a group of leading scientists warns in in the highly renowned journal Nature. Evidence is mounting that these events are also more interconnected, which could eventually lead to domino effects. A possible tipping cascade of irreversible changes might put the livelihoods of people around the world at risk and marks a state of planetary emergency, the authors argue in their comment.
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Schlacke and Edenhofer chair steering committee of “Climate Protection Science Platform” of the Federal Government

22.11.2019 - The Federal Government assigns scientific advisors for the Climate Action Plan 2050. A steering committee consisting of representatives of outstanding research institutions control the “Climate Protection Science Platform". These representatives elected Sabine Schlacke, a lawyer from the University of Münster, and economist Ottmar Edenhofer of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and of the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change as its chairs. As the voice of science, the platform will advise the government on the implementation and further development of the German climate strategy and contribute to the achievement of climate goals. The important aspect here is that it is independent and can act on its own initiative.
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Decarbonizing the power sector: renewable energy offers most benefits for health and environment

19/11/2019 - Electricity supply is one of the biggest CO2 emitters globally. To keep global warming well below 2°C, several paths lead to zero emissions in the energy sector, and each has its potential environmental impacts - such as air and water pollution, land-use or water demand. Using a first-time combination of multiple modelling systems, an international team of researchers led by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) has now quantified the actual benefits and downsides of three main roads to decarbonisation. They show that relying mainly on wind and solar would bring most co-benefits for the health of people and planet. Switching to carbon capture and storage in combination with fossil and biomass resources, in turn, is likely to convey significant environmental costs by devouring large areas at the cost of biodiversity, and by releasing pollutants to the environment.
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Lancet Countdown: Forschungsbericht zu Klimawandel und Gesundheit

14.11.2019 - Bis zum Ende dieses Jahrhunderts sind jährlich bis zu fünf zusätzliche Hitzewellen in Norddeutschland und bis zu 30 in Süddeutschland zu erwarten, wenn wir mit dem Ausstoß von Treibhausgasen so weitermachen wie bisher. Damit einhergehender Hitzestress und hohe bodennahe Ozonkonzentrationen können schwerwiegende Folgen für die menschliche Gesundheit haben. Dazu zählen unter anderem Hitzschlag, Herzinfarkt und akutes Nierenversagen aufgrund von Flüssigkeitsmangel. Am stärksten gefährdet sind ältere Menschen, Säuglinge, Patienten mit chronischen Erkrankungen sowie Personen, die schwere körperliche Arbeit im Freien verrichten, etwa Bauarbeiter.
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From Berlin to New York: United in Science

23/09/2019 - Millions of people all around the globe crowded the streets last Friday, demanding rapid action from policy makers to counter climate risks. The Fridays for Future movement calls upon humanity to "unite behind the science". That very same day, the German government adopted a climate policy package relying on carbon pricing expertise provided by PIK Director Ottmar Edenhofer and colleagues. Yet, the policy package is too weak to meet the climate targets, the expert says. Currently, heads of state are meeting at the UN climate summit – German Chancellor Angela Merkel is one of them. Again, science provides the facts needed for sound decisions. Among other input, PIK Director Johan Rockström presented an "Exponential Roadmap" to sustainability in New York with colleagues. Climate stabilization is both necessary and possible, the science shows.
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PIK and MCC deliver detailed assessment of German climate package

14/10/2019 - The climate protection programme adopted by the Federal Government last week, which is intended to limit greenhouse gas emissions especially in the transport and heating sectors, is unlikely to be sufficient to achieve the 2030 climate targets. Policymakers need to make four particular adjustments: first, they need to raise the level of ambition for the carbon price; second, they need to improve social balance; third, they need to develop further its integration with the EU level; and fourth, they need to introduce an effective monitoring process. This is the core message of a detailed assessment of the climate package, presented by the Berlin climate research institute MCC (Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change) and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK).
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"Uncomfortable truths need freedom" - Researcher Winkelmann at Alliance of Science Organisations with Federal President Steinmeier

27/09/2019 - Science should interfere, said Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier at the closing event of the campaign "Freedom is our System". The campaign was led by the Alliance of Science Organisations under the leadership of the Leibniz Association. The physicist Ricarda Winkelmann from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) also spoke at the event in Berlin's Futurium.
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Edenhofer Among 10 Most Influential Economists in Germany

25/09/2019 - Among Germany's most important economic researchers, PIK Director Ottmar Edenhofer is one of the top 10 in the ranking of the daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ), thus once again performing excellently. Compared to last year, Edenhofer, who is also Director of the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change (MCC) and Professor of Climate Economics at the TU Berlin, has risen five places and improved his position to 7th place.
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PIK & MCC STATEMENT: “German Government has not delivered”

20/09/2019 - The German government decided today to initiate carbon pricing in the transport and heating sectors. It is to start at 10 euros and gradually rise to 35 euros in 2025. In 2026, the pricing scheme will be converted into a national emissions trading system with a minimum price of 35 euros and a maximum price of 60 euros; how things will continue thereafter shall be determined in 2025. Ottmar Edenhofer, Director of the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change (MCC) and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), comments:
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Earth League scientists back global climate protests

18/09/2019 - Humanity is tipping the scales of the world, eminent Earth League scientists say in a joint statement. They throw their weight into the balance to support global climate action culminating in this Friday's demonstrations and the UN climate summit next week. The future of life-support systems on Earth is determined by a dual tipping - for better or worse. Either a social tipping towards sustainability happens quickly, or all too soon a tipping of critical parts in the Earth System may threaten the stability of life on our planet. The scientists call upon everyone to demand that political and economic decision makers ensure we do not leave our children to an insecure future.
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Edenhofer speaks at CDU and CSU events

09/09/2019 - The two sister Parties of the German conservatives are seeking the expertise of climate economist Ottmar Edenhofer, Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change. Prior to the Federal Government's decision on the possible introduction of a national CO2 pricing, Edenhofer was invited as an expert to several events by CDU and CSU, just as he had already presented the state of research to other Parties, ministries and associations. Edenhofer with his team from PIK and MCC has contributed the climatic-economic part of the report on CO2 pricing by the German Council of Economic Experts.
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Gunnar Luderer appointed Professor for Global Energy Systems Analysis at TU Berlin

02/09/2019 - Dr Gunnar Luderer, doctor of physics and atmospheric scientist, has been appointed to the newly created Chair of Global Energy Systems Analysis at the Technical University of Berlin. The chair is jointly funded by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) and the Institute for Energy Technology at the Technical University of Berlin. Prof Luderer will work primarily in the field of energy system transformation and the worldwide transformation towards sustainable energy systems.
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PIK and MCC contribute to Climate Policy Special Report for German government

12.07.2019 - The special report, which the German Chancellor received from the “Five Sages” of the German Council of Economic Experts today, is based to a significant extent on a comprehensive analysis by the Berlin climate research institute MCC (Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change) and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK). On Thursday, the so-called Climate Cabinet, with the leaders of the chancellery and six ministries, will discuss a fundamental realignment of climate mitigation measures based on the special report. MCC and PIK Director Ottmar Edenhofer and the Chairman of the Council of Experts, Christoph Schmidt, will present their proposals as scientific advisers at the meeting in the presence of the German Chancellor.
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From avocados to apples: Producing food closer to cities could help reduce climate emissions

29.08.2019 - Millions of tons of groceries from agriculture are transported to our cities all around the globe every day to feed its dwellers. Produced anywhere in the world and transported as cargo on roads, rail or water from the farm gate into cities, this food transport is linked to a huge amount of CO2 emissions. Exploring options to reduce this “food-print”, a team of city researchers from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) now provides the first global analysis of the potential of local food production to feed hungry cities in present and future. As it turns out, a large number of urban residents in many parts of the world could be nourished by local agriculture. However, climate change might take that option off the table, if greenhouse gas emissions are not rapidly reduced.
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What Counts for Our Climate: Carbon Budgets Untangled

18/07/2019 - The more CO2 we emit from burning coal and oil and gas, the more we heat our climate – this sounds simple, and it is. Different analyses have come up with different estimates of how much CO2 humankind can still emit if we want to hold global warming to the internationally agreed 1.5 and well below 2 degrees Celsius limits, but a lack of clarity of the reasons causing these variations has created unnecessary confusion, a new study shows. It identifies the relevant factors that affect estimates of these remaining carbon budgets and thereby untangles the differences to make estimates more easily comparable, which will help decision-makers in using them. From a climate policy perspective, the bottom line remains the same. Even if the remaining carbon budget for limiting warming to 1.5°C would increase by a half, we would have only 10 years more time before emissions have to be brought down to net zero.
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“New Market Design is needed”: lessons to learn from renewable energy regulation in California and Germany

09.07.2019 - Important lessons can be learned from the two global frontrunners in the energy transition, Germany and California, a new report shows. Being the 4th biggest and 5th biggest economies worldwide, both jurisdictions draw more than 30 percent of their electricity from wind and solar and biomass, both have ambitious renewables targets of 80 and 100 percent by mid-century. An international team of scientists from Germany and the US now analyzed Californian and German policy pathways to draw conclusions for the way ahead. They find that market and renewable policy design adjustments in both jurisdictions to integrate the first 30 percent were small compared to the adjustments needed to integrate the second 30 percent. Importantly, strengthening CO2-pricing and policies to foster electrification must be an integral part of this.
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Environment Council presents new special report on the legimitimacy of environmental policy

27.06.2019 - In its new special report, the German Advisory Council on the Environment (SRU) discusses the legitimacy of environmental policy and proposes institutional developments for policy and administration. The 300-page paper is entitled "Democratic governance within ecological boundaries - on the legimitation of environmental policy". Against the background of long-term and systemic environmental problems, the members explain how a the state is not only legitimised to act but also obliged, to preserve people's livelihoods. The report was presented to Federal Environment Minister Svenja Schulze in Berlin.
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Strengthening climate protection "bottom up": Municipal workshop at PIK

27.06.2019 - Mayors and other representatives of municipalities and counties in Germany meet this week in Potsdam to discuss how climate protection can be strengthened "bottom up". Organised by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), the two-day "KliB-up Municipal Workshop" will focus on a climate friendly everyday lifes and the involvement of citizens in active municipal climate protection. Many municipalities and rural districts have been active in this field for years and have set themselves ambitious climate targets, such as the so-called master plan municipalities in Germany. These targets can hardly be achieved without the commitment of private households. How a climate friendly everyday life could look like in practice, more than 100 households in Berlin recently already tested that in the context of the PIK living lab "Klimaneutral leben in Berlin" (KliB). As a result, the participating households were about 33 percent below the German average at the end of the one-year project.
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A game-changing gathering in the Vatican? Big oil and big finance agree on carbon-risk disclosure and CO2 pricing

20.06.2019 - Big Oil and Big Finance, convened by the Pontifical Academy of Science (PAS) for a dialogue on “The Energy Transition and Care for Our Common Home”, agreed to join the efforts of science and society to contain the climate crisis. Pope Francis himself joined the distinguished meeting to address the high-ranking business representatives, referring to his papal Encyclical “Laudato Si” which contributed substantially to achieving the groundbreaking 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. John Schellnhuber, Director Emeritus of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) and member of PAS, was the only climate scientist invited to the dialogue. He gave the opening lecture and played a crucial role in the making of the declarations signed by almost all participants.
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