Previous Fora / 2011


Executive Director, Stockholm Environment Institute

Johan Rockström is a Professor in natural resource management at Stockholm University, and the Executive Director of the Stockholm Environment Institute and the Stockholm Resilience Centre.

He is an internationally recognized scientist on global sustainability issues, where he, e.g., led the recent development of the new Planetary Boundaries framework for human development in the current era of rapid global change.

He is a leading scientist on global water resources, and strategies to build resilience in water scarce regions of the world, with more than 15 years experience from applied water research in tropical regions, and more than 100 research publications in fields ranging from applied land and water management to global sustainability.

He serves on several scientific committees and boards, e.g., as the vice-chair of the science advisory board of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact research (PIK) and he chairs the visioning process on global environmental change of ICSU, the International Council for Science.

Rockström was awarded the title “Swede of the Year" in 2009 for his work on bridging science on climate change to policy and society. He was ranked the 2nd most influential person on environmental issues in Sweden 2010, and was recently, in August 2010, given the “Social Capitalist Award" by Veckans Affärer.




10:00-11:40 17 NOVEMBER

Science for Global Sustainability in the Anthropocene

The major advancements in Earth system science over the past 30 years have provided overwhelming evidence and deep insights of a recent turning point in humanity’s relationship with planet Earth. We may have entered a new geological Epoch, the Anthropocene, where the human enterprise constitutes a geological force of change at the planetary scale. The implications are profound. It suggests that global sustainability today is a prerequisite for human wellbeing at the local to regional scales. A particular challenge for science is the growing evidence that social-ecological interactions across scales can generate regime shifts where profound and abrupt changes can occur in systems ranging from local ecosystems (such as lakes) to large biomes (such as the Arctic); from local communities (such as farming systems) to regional economic sectors (e.g., global fisheries). This requires new integrated science that links research on Earth system dynamics and global environmental change, with research on social-ecological systems and resilience. A scientific framework in support of global sustainability, emerging from Earth system science and resilience research, is the recent concept of Planetary Boundaries (Rockström et al., 2009). It attempts to define the earth system processes that humanity needs to be active stewards of in order to avoid deleterious or even catastrophic tipping points in critical Earth systems. This integrated scientific framework provides a challenge for integrated Earth system research, which in turn can provide a guide for global sustainability in the Anthropocene. The international science on global environmental change, which has provided the insights we have today on the functioning of the Earth system and impacts on human societies of anthropogenic change, has triggered a concerted global effort, integrating the ICSU/ISSC Visioning process on the Grand Challenges for Earth system research for global sustainability with the Belmont Forum challenge (a coalition of major donors of global environmental change research), to define the future integrated science agenda on Earth system research for global sustainability. This initiative, today led by an Alliance, including science, donors, sponsors and users, is a unique co-design effort to organize and define the science on global environmental change over the coming decades.