University of Canberra
CURF climate change and sustainability theme leader Professor Will Steffen was the lead author of two recent climate change research papers
Posted 5 December 2014 2:53pm

The first paper, titled "Planetary boundaries: guiding human development on a changing planet" can be accessed here.


The planetary boundaries framework defines a safe operating space for humanity based on the intrinsic biophysical processes that regulate the stability of the Earth System. Here, we revise and update the planetary boundaries framework, with a focus on the underpinning biophysical science, based on targeted input from expert research communities and on more general scientific advances over the past 5 years. Several of the boundaries now have a two-tier approach, reflecting the importance of cross-scale interactions and the regional-level heterogeneity of the processes that underpin the boundaries. Two core boundaries—climate change and biosphere integrity—have been identified, each of which has the potential on its own to drive the Earth System into a new state should they be substantially and persistently transgressed.


The second paper, titled "The Trajectory of the Anthropocene: The Great Acceleration can be accessed here


The ‘Great Acceleration’ graphs, originally published in 2004 to show socio-economic and
Earth System trends from 1750 to 2000, have now been updated to 2010. In the graphs
of socio-economic trends, where the data permit, the activity of the wealthy (OECD)
countries, those countries with emerging economies, and the rest of the world have now
been differentiated. The dominant feature of the socio-economic trends is that the economic
activity of the human enterprise continues to grow at a rapid rate. However, the differentiated
graphs clearly show that strong equity issues are masked by considering global aggregates only.
Most of the population growth since 1950 has been in the non-OECD world but the world’s
economy (GDP), and hence consumption, is still strongly dominated by the OECD world. The
Earth System indicators, in general, continued their long-term, post-industrial rise, although
a few, such as atmospheric methane concentration and stratospheric ozone loss, showed a
slowing or apparent stabilisation over the past decade. The post-1950 acceleration in the Earth
System indicators remains clear. Only beyond the mid-20th century is there clear evidence for
fundamental shifts in the state and functioning of the Earth System that are beyond the range
of variability of the Holocene and driven by human activities. Thus, of all the candidates for a
start date for the Anthropocene, the beginning of the Great Acceleration is by far the most
convincing from an Earth System science perspective.

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