The topology of non-linear global carbon dynamics: From tipping points to planetary boundaries

J. M. Anderies, S. R. Carpenter, Will Steffen, Johan Rockström

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    48 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    We present a minimal model of land use and carbon cycle dynamics and use it to explore the relationship between non-linear dynamics and planetary boundaries. Only the most basic interactions between land cover and terrestrial, atmospheric, and marine carbon stocks are considered in the model. Our goal is not to predict global carbon dynamics as it occurs in the actual Earth System. Rather, we construct a conceptually reasonable heuristic model of a feedback system between different carbon stocks that captures the qualitative features of the actual Earth System and use it to explore the topology of the boundaries of what can be called a 'safe operating space' for humans. The model analysis illustrates the existence of dynamic, non-linear tipping points in carbon cycle dynamics and the potential complexity of planetary boundaries. Finally, we use the model to illustrate some challenges associated with navigating planetary boundaries.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number044048
    JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
    Volume8
    Issue number4
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2013

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