Rethinking Development

Planetary boundaries


In collaboration with partnering research institutions such as Stockholm Resilience Centre, we present novel research on the governance of earth systems and boundaries.

New approaches are needed to help humanity deal with climate change and other global environmental threats that lie ahead in the 21st century.

A group of 28 internationally renowned scientists propose that global biophysical boundaries, identified on the basis of the scientific understanding of the Earth System, can define a ‘safe planetary operating space´ that will allow humanity to continue to develop and thrive for generations to come.

This new approach to sustainable development is outlined in a special feature in the journal Nature, where the scientists made a first attempt to identify and quantify a set of nine planetary boundaries, as well as in Ecology and Society.

“The human pressure on the Earth System has reached a scale where abrupt global environmental change can no longer be excluded”, says lead author Johan Rockström, director of SEI and of the Stockholm Resilience Centre. “To continue to live and operate safely, humanity has to stay away from critical ‘hard-wired´ thresholds in the Earth’s environment, and respect the nature of the planet’s climatic, geophysical, atmospheric and ecological processes.”

The nine boundaries involve climate change, stratospheric ozone, land use change, freshwater use, biological diversity, ocean acidification, nitrogen and phosphorus inputs to the biosphere and oceans, aerosol loading and chemical pollution.

Learn more about planetary boundaries research on the Stockholm Resilience Centre website, watch a video of Johan Rockström explaining the concept at the Planet Under Pressure conference, or watch a video of Johan Rockström’s TED Talk on planetary boundaries at the TED conference in Oxford in July 2010.

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