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Modelling human–natural systems interactions with implications for twenty-first-century warming

Veerabhadran Ramanathan (), Yangyang Xu () and Anthony Versaci
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Veerabhadran Ramanathan: University of California, San Diego
Yangyang Xu: Texas A&M University
Anthony Versaci: University of California, San Diego

Nature Sustainability, 2022, vol. 5, issue 3, 263-271

Abstract: Abstract The redesign of energy and economic systems to stabilize climate change is hindered by the lack of quantitative treatment of the role that human–natural systems interactions play in what society can do to tackle climate change. Here we present an integrated socio–energy–ecologic–climate model framework for understanding the role of human–natural systems interactions in climate change. We focus on constraints on climate stabilization imposed by feedbacks between global warming and societal actions to decarbonize energy use and to scale up atmospheric-carbon extraction. The energy–climate feedbacks are modelled through four warming-dependent response times for societal, policy and technological actions inferred from historical data. We show that a lack of societal response beyond 2030 would result in a warming in excess of 3 °C. Speeding up societal response times and technology diffusion times by a factor of two along with a dramatic boost in start-up investment in renewables and atmospheric-carbon extraction technologies and short-lived climate pollutants mitigation by 2030 can stabilize the warming below 1.5 °C. The model’s analytical framework and the analyses presented here reveal the fundamental importance of factoring in the role of human–natural systems interactions in the transition to zero emissions when formulating and designing robust climate solutions.

Date: 2022
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DOI: 10.1038/s41893-021-00826-z

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