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      Social tipping dynamics for stabilizing Earth’s climate by 2050

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          Significance

          Achieving a rapid global decarbonization to stabilize the climate critically depends on activating contagious and fast-spreading processes of social and technological change within the next few years. Drawing on expert elicitation, an expert workshop, and a review of literature, which provides a comprehensive analysis on this topic, we propose concrete interventions to induce positive social tipping dynamics and a rapid global transformation to carbon-neutral societies. These social tipping interventions comprise removing fossil-fuel subsidies and incentivizing decentralized energy generation, building carbon-neutral cities, divesting from assets linked to fossil fuels, revealing the moral implications of fossil fuels, strengthening climate education and engagement, and disclosing greenhouse gas emissions information.

          Abstract

          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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          Most cited references128

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          A new scenario framework for climate change research: the concept of shared socioeconomic pathways

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            Location, Competition, and Economic Development: Local Clusters in a Global Economy

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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A
                Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A
                pnas
                pnas
                PNAS
                Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
                National Academy of Sciences
                0027-8424
                1091-6490
                4 February 2020
                21 January 2020
                21 January 2020
                : 117
                : 5
                : 2354-2365
                Affiliations
                [1] aEarth System Analysis, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research , Member of the Leibniz Association, 14473 Potsdam, Germany;
                [2] bStockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University , 11419 Stockholm, Sweden;
                [3] cClimate Service Center Germany (GERICS) , 20095 Hamburg, Germany;
                [4] dRisk and Environmental Studies, Karlstad University , SE 651 88 Karlstad, Sweden;
                [5] eInformation and Computational Sciences Group, James Hutton Institute , Craigiebuckler, Aberdeen AB15 8QH, Scotland, United Kingdom;
                [6] fObservatorio para una Cultura del Territorio , 28012 Madrid, Spain;
                [7] gDepartment of Geography, Humboldt University , 10099 Berlin, Germany;
                [8] hIntegrative Research Institute on Transformations of Human–Environment Systems, Humboldt University , 10099 Berlin, Germany;
                [9] iDepartment of Geography, University of Innsbruck , 6020 Innsbruck, Austria;
                [10] jUN Climate Change community for Education, Communication and Outreach Stakeholders (ECOS) , 3046 Kisbágyon, Hungary;
                [11] kGeoSustainability Consulting , Adabraka-Accra, Ghana;
                [12] lDepartment of Philosophy, University of Washington , Seattle, WA 98195-3350;
                [13] mGerminando Sociedad Cooperativa Madrid , 28012 Madrid, Spain;
                [14] nForo de Transiciones , 28011 Madrid, Spain;
                [15] oClimate, Air and Energy, PBL Netherlands Environmental Agency , 2594 AV Den Haag, The Netherlands;
                [16] pCopernicus Institute, Utrecht University , 3584 CB Utrecht, The Netherlands;
                [17] qDepartment of Earth System Science, School of Science, Tsinghua University , Haidian District, Beijing 100084, People’s Republic of China
                Author notes

                Contributed by Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, November 15, 2019 (sent for review January 22, 2019; reviewed by J. David Tabara and Jessika E. Trancik)

                Author contributions: I.M.O., J.F.D., R.C., A.B., W.L., J.R., and H.J.S. designed research; I.M.O., J.F.D., R.C., A.B., R.J.H., F.A., M.M., S.S.P.D., A.L., N.M., and D.P.v.V. performed research; I.M.O., J.F.D., W.L., and J.R. contributed new reagents/analytic tools; I.M.O., J.F.D., R.C., A.B., and F.A. analyzed data; and I.M.O., J.F.D., R.C., A.B., R.J.H., W.L., J.R., F.A., M.M., S.S.P.D., A.L., N.M., D.P.v.V., and H.J.S. wrote the paper.

                Reviewers: J.D.T., Autonomous University of Barcelona; and J.E.T., Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

                1I.M.O. and J.F.D. contributed equally to this work.

                Author information
                http://orcid.org/0000-0003-4935-7660
                http://orcid.org/0000-0002-4514-2462
                Article
                201900577
                10.1073/pnas.1900577117
                7007533
                31964839
                036a1804-23e8-4ac1-b22d-e4c05bcc68e6
                Copyright © 2020 the Author(s). Published by PNAS.

                This open access article is distributed under Creative Commons Attribution License 4.0 (CC BY).

                History
                Page count
                Pages: 12
                Funding
                Funded by: Earht League
                Award ID: EarthDoc Program
                Award Recipient : Ilona M. Otto Award Recipient : Jonathan F Donges Award Recipient : Roger Cremades Award Recipient : Avit Bhowmik
                Funded by: Stordalen Foundation
                Award ID: PB.net
                Award Recipient : Ilona M. Otto Award Recipient : Jonathan F Donges Award Recipient : Roger Cremades Award Recipient : Avit Bhowmik
                Funded by: Leibniz-Gemeinschaft (Leibniz Association) 501100001664
                Award ID: DominoES
                Award Recipient : Jonathan F Donges
                Funded by: EC | H2020 | H2020 Priority Excellent Science | H2020 European Research Council (ERC) 100010663
                Award ID: Earth Resilience in the Anthropocene
                Award Recipient : Jonathan F Donges
                Funded by: EC | Horizon 2020 (EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation) 501100007601
                Award ID: 821010
                Award Recipient : Ilona M. Otto
                Categories
                9
                Social Sciences
                Sustainability Science

                climate change,paris agreement,decarbonization,social tipping elements,social tipping interventions

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