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Anticipation-induced social tipping: can the environment be stabilised by social dynamics?

Müller, Paul Manuel; Heitzig, Jobst; Kurths, Jürgen; Lüdge, Kathy; Wiedermann, Marc

In the past decades, human activities caused global Earth system changes, e.g., climate change or biodiversity loss. Simultaneously, these associated impacts have increased environmental awareness within societies across the globe, thereby leading to dynamical feedbacks between the social and natural Earth system. Contemporary modelling attempts of Earth system dynamics rarely incorporate such co-evolutions and interactions are mostly studied unidirectionally through direct or remembered past impacts. Acknowledging that societies have the additional capability for foresight, this work proposes a conceptual feedback model of socio-ecological co-evolution with the specific construct of anticipation acting as a mediator between the social and natural system. Our model reproduces results from previous sociological threshold models with bistability if one assumes a static environment. Once the environment changes in response to societal behaviour, the system instead converges towards a globally stable, but not necessarily desired, attractor. Ultimately, we show that anticipation of future ecological states then leads to metastability of the system where desired states can persist for a long time. We thereby demonstrate that foresight and anticipation form an important mechanism which, once its time horizon becomes large enough, fosters social tipping towards behaviour that can stabilise the environment and prevents potential socio-ecological collapse.
Published in: The European Physical Journal Special Topics, 10.1140/epjs/s11734-021-00011-5, Springer Nature