Center for Behavior, Institutions and the Environment / CBIE Working Papers / The Topology of Non-Linear Global Carbon Dynamics: From Tipping Points to Planetary Boundaries

The Topology of Non-Linear Global Carbon Dynamics: From Tipping Points to Planetary Boundaries

CBIE_WP-2012-009

Abstract

This paper develops a minimal model of land use and carbon cycle dynamics and explores the relationship between nonlinear dynamics and planetary boundaries. Only the most basic interactions between land cover, terrestrial carbon stocks and atmospheric carbon stocks are considered. The goal is not to predict global carbon dynamics as it occurs in the actual earth system, but rather, to construct a conceptually reasonable representation of a feedback system between different carbon stores like that of the actual earth system and use it to explore the topology of the boundaries of what can be called a "safe operating space" for humans. The analysis of the model illustrates the potential complexity of planetary boundaries and highlights some challenges associated with navigating them.

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Published August 20, 2012

J. Marty Anderies, Arizona State University, School of Sustainability/School of Human Evolution and Social Change

Stephen R. Carpenter, University of Wisconsin

Will Steffen, Australian National University

Johan Rockstrom, Stockholm Resilience Centre