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Earth Resilience in the Anthropocene (ERA)Integrating non-linear biophysical and social determinantsof Earth-system stability for global sustainabilitythrough a novel community modelling platform

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - ERA (Earth Resilience in the Anthropocene (ERA)Integrating non-linear biophysical and social determinantsof Earth-system stability for global sustainabilitythrough a novel community modelling platform)

Reporting period: 2017-10-01 to 2019-03-31

The ERC-funded project Earth Resilience in the Anthropocene (ERA) tackles the scientific problem that current global modelling – despite much scientific progress in recent decades and despite its very great influence in global sustainability policy-making – still does not deal well with nonlinear processes and abrupt changes. ERA is filling this gap, by exploring the biophysical and social determinants of Earth’s long-term stability. It is building up a novel community modelling platform to analyse complex social-ecological behaviour, nonlinearity and abrupt shifts. Social responses to sustainable development are currently also incremental, so ERA also works to inform global sustainability policy processes about resilient responses to Earth's new Anthropocene conditions.

The project is investigating whether interactions, feedbacks and tipping points in the biosphere could tip Earth into a new state, committing societies to global warming over 2C even with efforts to reduce fossil fuel use. It seeks to understand how nonlinear societal transformations that aggregate to the global scale can assure long-term stability of the Earth and keep it in a manageable interglacial state. In Task 1 – Earth Resilience, researchers are characterising thresholds and nonlinear dynamics of interactions of climate, land biomes (forests and arid lands) and the hydrological system. In Task 2 – World-Earth Modelling, the global ecosystem model LPJ-mL is the main modelling tool, forming the basis of ERA’s ‘planetary boundaries simulator’ driven by scenarios of social pressure on climate/land/water interactions. Task 3 explores social tipping points for sustainability, starting by modelling how the Planetary Boundaries Framework links with the 2030 Agenda and Sustainable Development Goals. Task 4 is assessing the Holocene-like Safe Operating Space for humanity, taking insights about Earth system tipping points and exploring society’s options for avoiding ‘Hothouse Earth’ conditions and maintaining a Stabilized Earth. Task 5 will translate these scientific insights about the complexity of our planet into learning experiences that engage many different groups in society - through visualisations, online courses and interactive experiences, and even games.

The overall objectives are to:
- Advance an Earth system modelling-based ‘planetary boundaries simulator’
- Develop the ERA community platform for World-Earth modelling
- Quantify boundary levels and map risks of biosphere tipping points for different Earth system trajectories
- Assess the potential of global sustainability transformation through social tipping points for maintaining Earth in a manageable interglacial
- Produce scenarios and Earth resilience indicators for a world within Earth's safe operating space
- Provide timely inputs of science to key EU and international stakeholder platforms for global sustainability policy and business action
- Embed ERA science in society through engagement in young generation platforms

The ERA project is important for wider society because the recognition that global environmental problems are already urgent. Climate change, biodiversity loss, land and water use, and the systemic effects of pollution and perturbed nutrient element flows are interacting in complex ways that may undermine the world's best efforts to achieve sustainability. Global sustainable development goals that only look ahead 10-15 years may not be enough to provide resilience to the world's societies and ecosystems out to 2050 and beyond. ERA's emphasis on new ways to link current understanding of the human World and the biophysical Earth is exploring sustainable pathways into the future, and informing the scientific basis for setting targets for action by decision-makers in business, policy and civil society.
The full project team has now successfully been recruited, and a formal collaborative partnership established between SRC (the Host Institute) and PIK (where the PI is now co-director). Other key institutional links have been formed with Australian National University (Anthropocene dynamics); Arizona State University and Utrecht University (coupled/integrated modelling) and Exeter, Princeton and Wageningen Universities (complex systems, Earth system analysis, natural resources). These provide ERA with additional methodological diversity and multi-model capability, enabled through ERA’s program of workshops, research visits and (in the case of Wageningen) a synergistic dual appointment of a researcher. Two annual project meetings and four other research workshops have been convened, with members of ERA’s scientific advisory group taking part. ERA Science Meetings held in December 2017 and November 2018 provided initial synthesis of biosphere feedbacks in the Anthropocene, feeding into Task 2. Biophysical modelling is advancing with ecoGENIE for analysis of climate interactions with biogeochemical dynamics, the Madingley model for macro ecosystem shifts including land/ocean interactions, LPJ-mL as the main tool for climate/land/water/ecosystem interactions, and various stylized models for exploration of specific Earth system interactions. Work on COPAN:core is the main focus for coupled/coevolutionary social-ecological systems modelling.

The research is being internationally disseminated, with team members contributing 7 presentations at the 2019 European Geosciences Union conference and 4 at the Global Land Programme’s OSM 2019 (details listed below). Four peer-reviewed ERA articles and three ERA-related articles have been published so far including in Science and PNAS. The article on Earth System trajectories in the Anthropocene (Steffen et al 2018) has already been cited over 70 times. Several other ERA publications are currently in press and in review (listed below).

The main results achieved so far include the preliminary assessment of biophysical tipping points determining Anthropocene stability (Steffen et al 2018), and indications of what societal responses can contribute to maintaining Earth resilience (Steffen et al 2018, Springmann et al 2018, Mace et al 2018, Gerten et al, in press). Articles on social tipping points, including results from the first expert elicitation mapping of candidate global transitions are in review (Otto et al PNAS, Bhowmik et al Nature Comms). The first systematic modelled assessment of what it takes to achieve the 17 SDGs within the 9 Planetary Boundaries has been made (Randers et al 2018, Collste et al 2018), presented at the 2018 UN High-Level Political Forum and published as a popular science report.

Earth resilience science insights are being provided to key stakeholder platforms, notably in the context of the new Future Earth-convened Earth Commission, the Science Based Targets Network and the Global Commons Alliance, which engage actively with global sustainable business platforms (notably We Mean Business, WEF, and WBCSD). ERA’s high visibility outreach communications include presentations to world business and policy leaders at the Davos World Economic Forum, recent UNFCCC Conferences of the Parties, the High-Level Political Forum for the 2030 Agenda (with the Club of Rome and The World in 2050), and an invited science-policy-business engagement tour in New Zealand. These events have all led to new opportunities for applying the planetary boundaries framework and Earth Resilience assessment ideas at national and sectoral levels.

ERA publications in press and in review:
- Gerten, D., Fetzer, I., Lucht, W., Rockström, J. (in press 2019) Feeding ten billion people is narrowly possible within terrestrial Planetary Boundaries, Science 2
- Piemontese, L., Fetzer, I., Rockström, J., Jaramillo, F. (in press 2019) Hydroclimatic challenges and opportunities for Africa: B
"ERA is developing and applying a novel conceptualisation of Earth Resilience at the interface between Earth system science and social-ecological systems resilience, taking robust theoretical foundations from both fields. Developments of methods for characterising Earth resilience and mapping biosphere tipping points have been published and are being taken up for deeper use in the integrated assessment modelling, climate/land/water/ecosystems (""nexus"") and biodiversity research communities. These concepts are informing debates about science-based targets for cities and business actors, to support deep decarbonisation and transformative sustainability decision-making. The first outline scenario narrative for a world future within planetary boundaries ""Transformations to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals"" has been designed to guide backcasting integrated assessment model-based scenarios. This has been developed and published through ERA engagement with SDSN/TWI2050 - http://www.iiasa.ac.at/web/home/research/twi/Report2018.html) and was an input to the UN High Level Political Forum for SDGs.

Forthcoming activities (PIK FutureLab Earth Resilience in the Anthropocene participation highlighted - PIK-ERA):
- 30 Sept - 2 Oct 2019 - ERA writing workshop at SRC (all ERA project team members + PIK-ERA members Donges & Winkelmann)
- 25-28 July 2019, INQUA (International Union for Quaternary Research) 2019, Dublin, Ireland - presentation (oral) of joint ERA-Exeter work: “Quantifying climate-induced changes in ecosystem resilience using remote sensing and modelling” (ARMSTRONG MCKAY, Buxton, Boulton, Lenton)
- 29-31 July 2019, Lovelock Centenary: The Future of Global Systems Thinking, Exeter, UK - poster: ”Does ‘ecological memory’ provide a mechanism for ecosystem and Earth system resilience?” (ARMSTRONG MCKAY, Dyke, Lenton); CORNELL, Donges (PIK-ERA), and Winkelmann (PIK-ERA, invited speaker) also attending
- 25-30 August 2019, World Water Week, Stockholm, Sweden – Showcase: “Launching a roadmap for a revised freshwater planetary boundary” (WANG-ERLANDSSON, Gerten (PIK-ERA) and others)
- 2020 - Nobel Prize Symposium on Global Sustainability, Washington DC


Expected results:
Task 1 Earth system tipping points:
Improved quantification of boundary levels and risks of biosphere tipping points for different Earth system trajectories;
First subglobal mapping of biosphere tipping points, drawing on a comprehensive synthesis of non-linear biosphere dynamics

Task 2 Tipping points in World- Earth Modelling
ERA community platform for World-Earth modelling based on POEM, with a methodology for integrating non-linearity in global modelling.
First attempt to run fully coupled network ERA modelling, investigating if biosphere feedbacks can tip Earth out of a 'manageable interglacial' state

Task 3 Social tipping points for global sustainability
Assessment of disruptive transformations for world pathways to a future Earth within a manageable interglacial
Science-Business-Policy Dialogues on disruptive business transformations, deep decarbonisation and deep transitions

Task 4 Scenarios for a world within Earth's safe operating space
First attempt to test global policy agreements (Paris, Agenda 2030, CBD post-2020 targets) on pathways to sustainable development against Earth system science insights about the dynamic social and biophysical safe operating space.
Science-Policy co-generation of knowledge through continued inputs to the UN High Level Political Forum for SDGs, and the EAT Forum's focus on food, environment and health.

Task 5 Earth resilience - Learning and Games
Synthesis of the state-of-the-art on potential of digital learning/gaming for acceleration of behaviour shifts.
The role of digital games, virtual reality, and digital learning for reconnecting world development to the biosphere"
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