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Climate-ABC: Contexts – Planetary Boundaries, ‘The Great Acceleration’.

There are several models that describe the interrelationships of ecological and socio-economic dynamics.

In Anthropocene research, there is a model called “The Great Acceleration”. It is based on the results of the research program “The International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme” (IGBP) published in 2015, which evaluated data on socio-economic and ecological change from the period 1750-2000. It showed that these dynamics can be described by an increasing exponential curve since 1950 – hence the name of the model. It proves that human behavior is causing partly irreversible ecological changes that can endanger human existence on Earth in the long term.
Another concept is that of “Planetary Guardrails” or “Planetary Boundaries”. Johan Rockstöm et al. (2009) present a framework within which sustainable human action must operate. They refer to this space as “safe operating space for humanity” (Rockström 2009: 427). This is oriented around 9 ecological processes, each of which the researchers have defined a boundary that humanity cannot cross without causing dramatic consequences. As can be seen from the chart, anthropogenic changes have already caused the limits to be exceeded for three processes: Climate change, biodiversity loss, and the nitrogen cycle.

Rockström, Johan. “A safe operating space for humanity.” nature, 24 09 2009: 472-475.