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Social tipping dynamics for stabilizing Earth's climate by 2050

2020, Otto, Ilona M., Donges, Jonathan F., Cremades, Roger, Bhowmik, Avit, Hewitt, Richard J., Lucht, Wolfgang, Rockström, Johan, Allerberger, Franziska, McCaffrey, Mark, Doe, Sylvanus S.P., Lenferna, Alex, Morán, Nerea, van Vuuren, Detlef P., Schellnhuber, Hans Joachim

Safely achieving the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement requires a worldwide transformation to carbon-neutral societies within the next 30 y. Accelerated technological progress and policy implementations are required to deliver emissions reductions at rates sufficiently fast to avoid crossing dangerous tipping points in the Earth's climate system. Here, we discuss and evaluate the potential of social tipping interventions (STIs) that can activate contagious processes of rapidly spreading technologies, behaviors, social norms, and structural reorganization within their functional domains that we refer to as social tipping elements (STEs). STEs are subdomains of the planetary socioeconomic system where the required disruptive change may take place and lead to a sufficiently fast reduction in anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. The results are based on online expert elicitation, a subsequent expert workshop, and a literature review. The STIs that could trigger the tipping of STE subsystems include 1) removing fossil-fuel subsidies and incentivizing decentralized energy generation (STE1, energy production and storage systems), 2) building carbon-neutral cities (STE2, human settlements), 3) divesting from assets linked to fossil fuels (STE3, financial markets), 4) revealing the moral implications of fossil fuels (STE4, norms and value systems), 5) strengthening climate education and engagement (STE5, education system), and 6) disclosing information on greenhouse gas emissions (STE6, information feedbacks). Our research reveals important areas of focus for larger-scale empirical and modeling efforts to better understand the potentials of harnessing social tipping dynamics for climate change mitigation.

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Reply to Kelman: The foundations for studying catastrophic climate risks

2022, Kemp, Luke, Xu, Chi, Depledge, Joanna, Ebi, Kristie L., Gibbins, Goodwin, Kohler, Timothy A., Rockström, Johan, Scheffer, Marten, Schellnhuber, Hans Joachim, Steffen, Will, Lenton, Timothy M.

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Communicating sentiment and outlook reverses inaction against collective risks

2020, Wang, Zhen, Jusup, Marko, Guo, Hao, Shi, Lei, Geček, Sunčana, Anand, Madhur, Perc, Matjaž, Bauch, Chris T., Kurths, Jürgen, Boccaletti, Stefano, Schellnhuber, Hans Joachim

Collective risks permeate society, triggering social dilemmas in which working toward a common goal is impeded by selfish interests. One such dilemma is mitigating runaway climate change. To study the social aspects of climate-change mitigation, we organized an experimental game and asked volunteer groups of three different sizes to invest toward a common mitigation goal. If investments reached a preset target, volunteers would avoid all consequences and convert their remaining capital into monetary payouts. In the opposite case, however, volunteers would lose all their capital with 50% probability. The dilemma was, therefore, whether to invest one's own capital or wait for others to step in. We find that communicating sentiment and outlook helps to resolve the dilemma by a fundamental shift in investment patterns. Groups in which communication is allowed invest persistently and hardly ever give up, even when their current investment deficits are substantial. The improved investment patterns are robust to group size, although larger groups are harder to coordinate, as evidenced by their overall lower success frequencies. A clustering algorithm reveals three behavioral types and shows that communication reduces the abundance of the free-riding type. Climate-change mitigation, however, is achieved mainly by cooperator and altruist types stepping up and increasing contributions as the failure looms. Meanwhile, contributions from free riders remain flat throughout the game. This reveals that the mechanisms behind avoiding collective risks depend on an interaction between behavioral type, communication, and timing.

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Reply to Burgess et al: Catastrophic climate risks are neglected, plausible, and safe to study

2022, Kemp, Luke, Xu, Chi, Depledge, Joanna, Ebi, Kristie L., Gibbins, Goodwin, Kohler, Timothy A., Rockström, Johan, Scheffer, Marten, Schellnhuber, Hans Joachim, Steffen, Will, Lenton, Timothy M.