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Selection: Lenton:TM [7 articles] 

Publications by author Lenton:TM.

Trajectories of the Earth system in the Anthropocene

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (06 August 2018), 201810141,


We explore the risk that self-reinforcing feedbacks could push the Earth System toward a planetary threshold that, if crossed, could prevent stabilization of the climate at intermediate temperature rises and cause continued warming on a “Hothouse Earth” pathway even as human emissions are reduced. Crossing the threshold would lead to a much higher global average temperature than any interglacial in the past 1.2 million years and to sea levels significantly higher than at any time in the Holocene. We examine the ...


Risk of multiple interacting tipping points should encourage rapid CO2 emission reduction

Nature Climate Change, Vol. 6, No. 5. (21 March 2016), pp. 520-525,


Evidence suggests that several elements of the climate system could be tipped into a different state by global warming, causing irreversible economic damages. To address their policy implications, we incorporated five interacting climate tipping points into a stochastic-dynamic integrated assessment model, calibrating their likelihoods and interactions on results from an existing expert elicitation. Here we show that combining realistic assumptions about policymakers’ preferences under uncertainty, with the prospect of multiple future interacting climate tipping points, increases the present social cost of ...


Environmental tipping points significantly affect the cost−benefit assessment of climate policies

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Vol. 112, No. 15. (14 April 2015), pp. 4606-4611,


[Significance] Most current cost−benefit analyses of climate change suggest global climate policy should be relatively weak. However, relatively few studies account for the market or nonmarket impacts of passing environmental tipping points that cause abrupt and irreversible damages. We use a stochastic dynamic model of the climate and economy to quantify the effect of tipping points on climate change policy. We show that environmental tipping points can profoundly alter cost−benefit analysis, justifying a much more stringent climate policy, which takes the form ...


Integrating tipping points into climate impact assessments

Climatic Change In Climatic Change, Vol. 117, No. 3. (29 August 2013), pp. 585-597,


There is currently a huge gulf between natural scientists’ understanding of climate tipping points and economists’ representations of climate catastrophes in integrated assessment models (IAMs). In particular, there are multiple potential tipping points and they are not all low-probability events; at least one has a significant probability of being passed this century under mid-range (2–4 °C) global warming, and they cannot all be ruled out at low (<2 °C) warming. In contrast, the dominant framing of climate catastrophes in IAMs, and in critiques ...


No increase in global temperature variability despite changing regional patterns

Nature, Vol. 500, No. 7462. (24 July 2013), pp. 327-330,


Evidence from Greenland ice cores shows that year-to-year temperature variability was probably higher in some past cold periods1, but there is considerable interest in determining whether global warming is increasing climate variability at present2, 3, 4, 5, 6. This interest is motivated by an understanding that increased variability and resulting extreme weather conditions may be more difficult for society to adapt to than altered mean conditions3. So far, however, in spite of suggestions of increased variability2, there is considerable uncertainty as ...


On the origin of planetary-scale tipping points

Trends in Ecology & Evolution, Vol. 28, No. 7. (1 July 2013), pp. 380-382,


Tipping points are recognised in many systems, including ecosystems and elements of the climate system. But can the biosphere as a whole tip and, if so, how? Past global tipping points were rare and occurred in the coupled planetary-scale dynamics of the Earth system, not in the local-scale dynamics of its weakly interacting component ecosystems. Yet, evolutionary innovations have triggered past global transformations, suggesting that tipping point theory needs to go beyond bifurcations and networks to include evolution. ...


Tipping elements in the Earth's climate system

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Vol. 105, No. 6. (12 February 2008), pp. 1786-1793,


The term “tipping point” commonly refers to a critical threshold at which a tiny perturbation can qualitatively alter the state or development of a system. Here we introduce the term “tipping element” to describe large-scale components of the Earth system that may pass a tipping point. We critically evaluate potential policy-relevant tipping elements in the climate system under anthropogenic forcing, drawing on the pertinent literature and a recent international workshop to compile a short list, and we assess where their tipping ...

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