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Climate Tipping Points and Safe Pathways to Sustainable Development – an expert review workshop

Date: August 10, 2016

UPDATE: The evening event scheduled for 13 September has changed locations. The new address is: Brännkyrkagatan 16, 118 20 Stockholm, Sverige

Hosts: Stockholm Resilience Centre and Future Earth Secretariat Global Hub, Sweden.


  • Analysis, Integration and Modelling of the Earth System is a strategic international research network, currently repositioning itself within the Future Earth research landscape. The mission of AIMES is to advance the understanding and modelling of the coupled human-environment system, by engendering research collaboration across the physical and social sciences.
  • The World in 2050 (TWI2050) is a global collaborative science-policy initiative coordinated by IIASA, Stockholm Resilience Centre and the Sustainable Development Solutions Network. It brings together integrated assessment analysts to explore avenues to achieve the internationally agreed Sustainable Development Goals, while remaining within Earth’s biophysical “safe operating space."

Defining safe development pathways for the world’s societies over the coming decades requires keeping the human perturbation of Earth system processes within precautionary planetary boundaries (Rockström et al. 2009), and also avoiding potential climate “tipping points” – abrupt and perhaps irreversible change in the coupled land, ocean and atmospheric systems on which human wellbeing depends (Lenton et al., 2008).

Policy-makers need a much better characterization of the critical transitions in Earth’s biophysical system that matter on their decision-making timescales. In this workshop, a key focus will be to account for the importance of rates of change, because climate tipping points can be rate-dependent (Ashwin et al., 2010). As part of the analysis, climate tipping points will be mapped within a phase space defined by atmospheric CO2 concentration, global mean temperature, and the rate of change of global mean temperature.

Workshop participants will combine their expertise on, and apply their insights to to the new global sustainability policy agenda. This expert workshop therefore marks a new policy-oriented phase of AIMES, and is an early milestone in the scientific implementation of TWI2050.

Invited contributors: Johan Rockström (Planetary Boundaries), Nebojsa Nakicenovic (TWI2050, sustainable development pathways), and Tim Lenton (AIMES, climate tipping points), and other AIMES Scientific Steering Committee members including Peter Cox, Sander van der Leeuw, and Victor Brovkin.

Day 1: Review and summarise the current state of knowledge of climate tipping points.

Day 2: Focus on phase-space “danger zone” mapping of the most impactful tipping points (e.g., collapse of thermohaline circulation or monsoons, boreal or amazon forest dieback, large methane releases).

The key outcome of the workshop will be a science synthesis article for input to TWI2050.

If you are interested in participating in the workshop, please contact Duarte Costa ( or Peter Cox (, with a brief explanation of the contributions you could make to the workshop. AIMES has some funds to support the travel and accommodation costs for some additional participants, and would especially welcome female applicants from other Core Projects of Future Earth, and from researchers based in developing economies.