News

Tipping Points in the Earth System: Potsdam Young Scientist Award for Nico Wunderling

11/25/2022 - Nico Wunderling was awarded the Young Scientist Prize of the state capital Potsdam for his research on tipping points in the Earth system. Mayor Mike Schubert awarded the post-doctoral researcher of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) the prize based on his scientifically and socially relevant work. Wunderling's work on "Nonlinear dynamics and interactions of tipping elements in the Earth system" addresses some of the particularly consequential impacts of human-induced global warming. His findings have been picked up by media around the world - including Guardian, Spiegel and Zeit. Nico Wunderling completed his PhD at the University of Potsdam and at PIK with a position in an international doctoral program and a doctoral fellowship from the German Academic Scholarship Foundation.
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News

Register now for first Leibniz Network Integrated Earth System Research Conference

10/15/2022 - The first 'Integrated Earth System Research' Conference 2022, organized by the Leibniz Research Network carrying that same name, will take place in Potsdam on November 8th and 9th. Registration will close on 28 October. The meeting is dedicated to scientific advances towards a coherent understanding of the increasing human impacts on the Earth system, their societal consequences, and respective governance challenges. It brings together researchers from the natural, engineering, social sciences and the humanities for targeted dialogue and to intensify research collaboration.
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Press Release

Risk of passing multiple climate tipping points escalates above 1.5°C global warming

09/09/2022 - Multiple climate tipping points could be triggered if global temperature rises beyond 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, according to a major new analysis published in the journal Science. Even at current levels of global heating the world is already at risk of passing five dangerous climate tipping points, and risks increase with each tenth of a degree of further warming. An international research team synthesised evidence for tipping points, their temperature thresholds, timescales, and impacts from a comprehensive review of over 200 papers published since 2008, when climate tipping points were first rigorously defined.
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Press Release

Less rain in the forest: Amazon even more vulnerable than previously thought

08/02/2022 - For every three trees dying from drought in the Amazon rainforest, a fourth tree – even though not directly affected – will die, too. In simplified terms, that’s what researchers have now found using network analysis to understand the complex workings of one of Earth’s most valuable and biodiverse carbon sinks. The regions most at risk of turning into savannah are located on the forest’s Southern fringes, where continuous clearing for pasture or soy has already been weakening the forest’s resilience for years.
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Press Release

Considering catastrophe: high-impact, low-probability climate scenarios "dangerously underexplored"

08/02/22 - Researchers call for a new "Climate Endgame" agenda and say far too little work has gone into understanding the mechanisms by which rising temperatures might pose a "catastrophic" risk to society and humanity: For instance if temperature rises are worse than many predict or cause cascades of events we have yet to consider, or indeed both. The world needs to start preparing for the possibility of a "climate endgame", the authors argue in a perspective piece in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences PNAS. Assessing catastrophic risks is necessary in order to have a better chance of preventing them.
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News

Planetary boundaries update: freshwater boundary exceeds safe limits

04/26/2022 - A reassessment of the planetary boundary for freshwater indicates that it has now been transgressed, according to an international team of researchers led by the Stockholm Resilience Centre and including the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. This conclusion is due to the inclusion of “green water” – the water available to plants – into the boundary assessment for the first time.
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Press Release

Amazon rainforest is losing resilience: new evidence from satellite data analysis

03/07/2022 - The Amazon rainforest is likely losing resilience, data analysis from high-resolution satellite images suggests. Resilience loss in pristine parts of the rainforest is mainly due to stress from nearby human activity, such as logging and slash-and-burn. The influence of human-caused climate change is not clearly determinable so far, but will likely matter greatly in the future. For about three quarters of the forest, the ability to recover from perturbation has been decreasing since the early 2000s, which the scientists see as a warning sign. The new evidence is derived from advanced statistical analysis of satellite data of changes in vegetation biomass.
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News

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.
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Press Release

Tipping elements can destabilize each other, leading to climate domino effects

06/03/2021 - Under global warming, tipping elements in the Earth system can destabilize each other and eventually lead to climate domino effects. The ice sheets on Greenland and West Antarctica are potential starting points for tipping cascades, a novel network analysis reveals. The Atlantic overturning circulation would then act as a transmitter, and eventually elements like the Amazon rainforest would be impacted. The consequences for people would reach from sea-level rise to biosphere degradation. Interactions in the network can lower the critical temperature thresholds beyond which individual tipping elements begin destabilizing on the long-run, according to the study – the risk already increases significantly for warming of 1.5°C to 2°C, hence within the temperature range of the Paris Agreement.
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Press Release

Parts of Greenland may be on the verge of tipping: new early-warning signals detected

05/18/2021 - Scientists have detected new early-warning signals indicating that the central-western part of the Greenland Ice Sheet may undergo a critical transition relatively soon. Because of rising temperatures, a new study by researchers from Germany and Norway shows, the destabilization of the ice sheet has begun and the process of melting may escalate already at limited warming levels. A tipping of the ice sheet would substantially increase long-term global sea level rise.
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State of the planet: This decade must bend the curves on emissions and biodiversity loss

03/22/2021 - Humanity is now the dominant force of change on our Earth – and human actions are threatening the resilience and stability of Earth’s biosphere, the wafer-thin veil around Earth where life thrives. This has profound implications for the development of civilizations, says an international group of researchers in a report published for the first Nobel Prize Summit, a digital gathering to be held in April to discuss the state of the planet in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
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“Planetary Boundary Simulator”: New initiative aims to quantify the interactions between key components of the Earth system

02/08/2021 - To gather further insight into the processes that determine Earth's resilience against unprecedented change, the Potsdam-Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) has launched a new pilot project: The Potsdam Earth Model Planetary Boundaries Simulator (POEM-PBSim) will for the first time analyze the impacts of the interaction of planetary boundaries in the Earth System – and simulate the changes it is undergoing.
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Top 10 insights in climate science in 2020

01/27/2021 - Ten of the most important insights within the field of climate science 2020 have been presented today by UNFCCC's Secretary General Patricia Espinosa and an international team of scientists including Johan Rockström, Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. Together, FutureEarth, Earth League and World Climate Research Programme compiled the "must-knows" list based on an ever-growing body of evidence, with annual installments since 2017. 57 scientists from 21 countries synthesized the latest sustainability research for the international science-policy community.
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News

PIK at the Chaos Communication Congress rC3

12/23/2020 - This year everything is different. The legendary Chaos Communication Congress is taking place remotely this year due to Corona - but experts from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research will contribute. The major event of Europe's largest hacker association Chaos Computer Club (CCC) traditionally attracts thousands of people to the exhibition halls in Leipzig over the four days between Christmas and New Year, but this year those interested can attend the Remote Chaos Experience (rC3) from home.
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Event

"System Transformation": #RaceToZero UNFCCC pre-COP26 event

11/04/2020 - The #RaceToZero dialogues on how to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions kick off on Monday, 9th of November, organized by UNFCCC and COP26 world climate summit team. The Club of Rome and Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research are joining forces to host the opening session on “Systems Transformation” - for a new resilience agenda for people, planet, prosperity. With presentations by Johan Rockström (Director of PIK) and Sandrine Dixson-Declève (Co-President of The Club of Rome) as well as a high-level panel discussion, this online event introduces all participants to ten days filled with keynotes, showcases and High-Level Champions all combined for a systemic transformation to reach the climate stabilization goals of the Paris Agreement.
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Press Release

Ice loss due to warming leads to warming due to ice loss: a vicious circle

10/27/2020 - The loss of huge ice masses can contribute to the warming that is causing this loss and further risks. A new study now quantifies this feedback by exploring long-term if-then-scenarios. If the Arctic summer sea-ice were to melt completely, a scenario that is likely to become reality at least temporarily within this century with ongoing greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels, this could eventually add roughly 0.2°C to global warming. This is, however, not in addition to IPCC projections of future warming since these already take the relevant mechanisms into account. Still, the scientists could now separate the effects of the ice loss from other effects and quantify it. The 0.2°C are substantial, given that global mean temperature is currently about one degree higher than in pre-industrial times, and governments worldwide agreed to stop the increase well below two degrees.
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Niklas Boers awarded with EGU Outstanding Early Career Scientist Award

10/26/2020 - One of 2021’s Outstanding Early Career Scientist Awards goes to PIK researcher Niklas Boers. Awarded by the European Geosciences Union (EGU), the prize recognizes Boers’ important contributions in the fields covered by the Nonlinear Processes in Geosciences (NP) Division, which is focused on a series of nonlinear paradigms including deterministic chaos, tipping points, predictability and its limits, as well as extreme events.
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"Climate has reached a global crisis point": PIK Director Joins TED Countdown

10/15/2020 - “We Can Change Climate Change” – this is the slogan of TED Countdown, a year-long initiative by scientists, artists, government officials and activists to collectively develop concrete ideas for a cleaner future. PIK Director Johan Rockström contributed with an engaging and energizing video statement.
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News

Larger part of Amazon rainforest at risk of tipping

10/05/2020 A larger part of the Amazon rainforest than previously thought is at risk of crossing a tipping point where it could become a savanna-type ecosystem, according to a new study. The research, based on computer models and data analysis, is published by a team of scientists including Johan Rockström, Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, in the journal Nature Communications. Rainforests are very sensitive to changes that affect rainfall for extended periods. If rainfall drops below a certain threshold, areas may shift into a savanna state.
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Berlin Climate and Security Conference Kicks Off Major New Risk Assessment

06/23/2020 - Climate destabilization increases risks to peace and security - to address these risks, scientists and policy-makers are teaming up to find solutions. The Berlin Climate and Security Conference (BCSC) is the global meeting place for leaders from governments, international organisations, the scientific community, the private sector and civil society to explore how climate change is impacting peace and security—and what action the international community can take to tackle climate-fragility risks. This year the high-level event, which features statements from over 14 foreign ministers, heads of state, and UN chiefs, explores the steps necessary to ensure we build a climate- and conflict-sensitive post-Covid world. It is organised by the German Federal Foreign Office, in partnership with adelphi and Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK).
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From artificial meat to fine-tuning photosynthesis: Food System Innovation – and how to get there

19/05/2020 - Food production has always shaped the lives of humans and the surface of the Earth. Be it plough or refrigerator, time and again innovations have transformed the ways we grow, process, and consume food over the last millennia. Today, with almost 40 per cent of all land on Earth used for food production, the food system massively impacts climate and environment – from nitrogen flows to water use, from biodiversity to greenhouse gas emissions. In a new study published in the journal NatureFOOD, an international team of researchers has now assessed and categorised key innovations with a potential to transform the food system, from artificial meat or seafood to biofortified crops or improved climate forecasts – and established what is most needed to make them succeed.
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The Climate Crisis and Churches' Options for Action: Ecumenical Learning Journey to PIK

05/03/2020 - 32 representatives from several churches took on a leaning journey about climate change and its consequences in Berlin and Potsdam. At the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Wolfgang Lucht shared some insights on Earth system research. The participants' conclusion: The church can play a major role in bridging the gap between knowledge and action and contribute to a different lifestyle through ecological spirituality.
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Identifiying crises through network connections: Nature Physics publication

27/02/2020 - From a Wuhan market to Europe and the US: A chain of infection enabled the spread of coronavirus. Trade and travel played the deciding role. Events that have been locally confined in the past are today damaging the global economy. When local networks become internationally connected, scientists call this percolation. An international team of researchers now developed a mathematical approach to better predict when percolation arises and disappears. Their findings have been published in the highly renowned journal Nature Physics this month.
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The Antarctica Factor: model uncertainties reveal upcoming sea level risk

Sea level rise due to ice loss in Antarctica could become a major risk for coastal protection even in the near term, scientists say. Within this century already, due to Antarctica alone global sea level might rise up to three times as much as it did in the last century. This is a finding of an exceptionally comprehensive comparison of state-of-the-art computer models from around the world.
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2°C ocean warming has been enough to destabilize Antarctica in the past

12/02/2020 - A melting of the Antarctic ice sheets would have far-reaching consequences for sea-level rise and coastal regions around the world. Based on new data from the Antarctic ice, an international team of scientists now reveals how the ice sheet reacted to rising temperatures in the past. Published in the US Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, their study using data from a blue ice field shows for the first time that the West Antarctic Ice Sheet already proved to be quite unstable during the last warm period 120,000 years ago. The Eemian warm period was the last phase of climate history with global temperatures similar to those that the world is heading towards due to manmade global warming in the coming decades.
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Rockström as one Voice of Science at Davos World Economic Forum

21/01/2020 – After a year of climate change making headlines, the global leaders’ meeting at the World Economic Forum in Davos, too, has climate change written in large letters on its programme. Johan Rockström, Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research is one of the scientists present to make the voice of science heard.
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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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Feeding the world without wrecking the planet is possible

20/01/2020 - Almost half of current food production is harmful to our planet – causing biodiversity loss, ecosystem degradation and water stress. But as world population continues to grow, can that last? A study led by researchers from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) now suggests a comprehensive solution package for feeding 10 billion people within our planet’s environmental boundaries. Supplying a sufficient and healthy diet for every person whilst keeping our biosphere largely intact will require no less than a technological and socio-cultural U-turn. It includes adopting radically different ways of farming, reduction of food waste, and dietary changes. The study's publication coincides with the World Economic Forum in Davos and the International Green Week in Berlin, the world's biggest food and agriculture fair.
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Nature Magazine Editorial: Research decade must focus on climate

13/01/2020 - Helping to limit anthropogenic global warming should be a prime task of science in the 2020s. “The coming decade must focus on climate change”, states a recent editorial of the world-leading scientific journal Nature. The 2010s saw breakthroughs in artificial intelligence via deep-learning technologies, in life sciences through the reprogramming of mature cells into stem cells, in physics with gravitational-wave detection and progress on quantum computing. While this was remarkable, the editors proclaim that “with new knowledge, and a renewed dedication to social and environmental responsibility, the 2020s must be transformational”.
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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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