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Volume 13 Issue 1, January 2023

Risks of cascading tipping elements

It has been argued that climate change can cause abrupt transitions in parts of the Earth system, so-called tipping elements. In this issue, we feature two articles, by Liu et al. and Wunderling et al., that use network models to assess how these tipping elements could interact, indicating risks that tipping in one component could lead to further abrupt changes in other regions.

See Liu et al. and Wunderling et al.

Image: Eric Boulanger / EyeEm/EyeEm/Getty. Cover design: Valentina Monaco

Editorial

  • Reducing methane emissions from fossil fuels, agriculture and waste is key to achieving climate goals. Technological advances and scientifically grounded feasibility assessments of mitigation initiatives may illuminate the path to success.

    Editorial

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Correspondence

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Comment

  • A better understanding of the role of language in societies is required — for example, whether adoption of emergency terminology could impact views and practices. For both researchers and communication strategists, a thorough consideration of the interconnections between language and social contexts is crucial.

    • Anabela Carvalho
    Comment
  • Efforts to achieve emissions targets often fall short. Science can help meet the targets by assessing the feasibility of initiatives proposed to reach them, focusing on issues of adoption and implementation and the behavioural plasticity of intended responders.

    • Paul C. Stern
    • Thomas Dietz
    • Michael P. Vandenbergh
    Comment
  • Considering cryosphere and warming uncertainties together implies drastically increased risk of threshold crossing in the cryosphere, even under lower-emission pathways, and underscores the need to halve emissions by 2030 in line with the 1.5 °C limit of the Paris Agreement.

    • Uta Kloenne
    • Alexander Nauels
    • Carl-Friedrich Schleussner
    Comment
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Research Highlights

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News & Views

  • Partisan politics is characterized by pejorative generalizations across opposition groups, but, similar to the groups being derogated, not all partisans are the same. Understanding the nature of partisan opposition to climate policy may help promote bipartisan projects to mitigate climate change.

    • Alexa Spence
    • Charles A. Ogunbode
    News & Views
  • Tipping elements are regions that are vulnerable to climate change and capable of sudden drastic changes. Now research establishes long-distance linkages between tipping elements, with the network analysis offering insights into their interactions on a global scale.

    • Valerie N. Livina
    News & Views
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Policy Brief

  • High uncertainty exists in the projected climate change impacts on the Nile’s economies and water-dependent sectors. Under these uncertainties, managing the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam cooperatively and adaptively can produce economic and water management benefits for Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt.

    • Mohammed Basheer
    • Victor Nechifor
    • Julien J. Harou
    Policy Brief
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Research Briefings

  • A meta-analysis reveals that a steep and immediate uptick in investment in climate-relevant infrastructure is needed to reach net-zero pathways in Europe. The investment needs are further intensified by the ambition to become independent from Russian gas imports and highlight the importance of redirecting finance flows with adequate green financial policies.

    Research Briefing
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Perspectives

  • With the development of carbon emission allowance markets worldwide, concerns that they could attract excessive speculation have also grown. This Perspective discusses the potential scale and impacts of financial trading, as well as approaches to improve carbon market monitoring and oversight.

    • Simon Quemin
    • Michael Pahle
    Perspective
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Articles

  • Partisan polarization plays a key role in shaping climate action in the United States. By identifying positive and negative elements within party identities, the authors expand conceptualizations of Republican-Democrat to explore how partisanship relates to policy support and behavioural intentions.

    • Adam P. Mayer
    • E. Keith Smith
    Article
  • Rapid growth of AI could lead to more inventions and innovations in climate actions, yet evidence of this connection is lacking. The use of large-scale patent data and automated techniques helps elucidate trends in climate-related artificial intelligence inventions for different technology areas.

    • Vilhelm Verendel
    Article Open Access
  • Urgent and targeted financial investments are essential for reaching the net zero target in Europe, while a comprehensive mapping is still missing. This meta-analysis demonstrates the necessity of rapid increase in investments and displays the potential patterns across various sectors.

    • Lena Klaaßen
    • Bjarne Steffen
    Article
  • Teleconnections between tipping elements in the Earth system are unclear. Here the authors use a climate network approach to link the Amazon Rainforest Area and the Tibetan Plateau, and show that current snow cover loss on the Tibetan Plateau is an early warning signal for an approaching tipping point.

    • Teng Liu
    • Dean Chen
    • Hans Joachim Schellnhuber
    Article Open Access
  • Temporarily exceeding temperature targets could increase risk of crossing tipping-element thresholds. This study considers a range of overshoot scenarios in a stylized network model and shows that overshoots increase tipping risks by up to 72% compared with remaining within targets.

    • Nico Wunderling
    • Ricarda Winkelmann
    • Jonathan F. Donges
    Article
  • The authors conduct a national inventory on individual tree carbon stocks in Rwanda using aerial imagery and deep learning. Most mapped trees are located in farmlands; new methods allow partitioning to any landscape categories, effective planning and optimization of carbon sequestration and the economic benefits of trees.

    • Maurice Mugabowindekwe
    • Martin Brandt
    • Rasmus Fensholt
    Article Open Access
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Analysis

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