11 Dec 2023
 | 11 Dec 2023
Status: this preprint is open for discussion.

Cautionary Remarks on the Planetary Boundary Visualisation

Miguel D. Mahecha and Guido Kraemer

Abstract. The Planetary Boundary (PB) concept has captured attention across academia and the public alike. Its unique visual representation has been key to the development of the concept and its dissemination. In this commentary, we outline three areas of concern to facilitate further enhancement in the PB concept’s visualisation. Firstly, the radial bar plot leads to a quadratic scaling of the effect sizes. Secondly, the colour gradations denoting the risk of each boundary transgression use complex non-linear patterns, which complicates interpretation. Thirdly, the conjunction of quadratic effect scaling and specific colour coding may unintentionally amplify the perception of high-risk areas. We recommend a careful revision of the visual language employed in PB communication, aiming to address these concerns.

Miguel D. Mahecha and Guido Kraemer

Status: open (until 03 Apr 2024)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on egusphere-2023-2760', Anonymous Referee #1, 29 Jan 2024 reply
Miguel D. Mahecha and Guido Kraemer

Model code and software

PlanetaryBoundaryVisuals Miguel D. Mahecha and Guido Kraemer

Miguel D. Mahecha and Guido Kraemer


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Short summary
Our paper examines the influential visual representation of the planetary boundary concept, a widely discussed concept for understanding the limits of the Earth to sustain human societies. We identify three aspects that can lead to misleading interpretations: 1) exaggeration of effect size, 2) complex colour patterns, and 3) combined effects that could potentially overstate certain risks. We suggest revising these visual elements to improve accuracy in communicating this important concept.