Seminar - Interactions between planetary boundaries amplify human impacts on the Earth system

In this seminar Dr Steven Lade discusses ‘Planetary boundaries’, the safe operating space for humanity as a precondition for sustainable development, and the challenges and conflicts it poses.

The planetary boundary framework presents a ‘planetary dashboard’ of humanity’s globally aggregated performance on a set of environmental issues that endanger the Earth system’s capacity to support humanity. While this framework has been highly influential, a critical shortcoming for its application in sustainability governance is that it currently fails to represent how actions targeted at one of the planetary boundaries affect the other planetary boundaries. Here, we surveyed and provisionally quantified interactions between the planetary boundaries and investigated their consequences for sustainability governance. We identified a dense network of interactions between the planetary boundaries. These interactions amplify human impacts on the planetary boundaries and thereby shrink the future “safe operating space” for humanity within the Earth system. Our results show that an integrated understanding of Earth system dynamics is critical to navigating towards a sustainable future.

About the speaker

Dr Steven Lade is a researcher at the Stockholm Resilience Centre at Stockholm University, Sweden. Funded by a young researcher mobility grant from the Swedish Research Council Formas, he is currently on an extended visit to the Fenner School of Environment and Society at the Australian National University. He uses complex systems methods to study problems in resilience and sustainability ranging across fisheries, agricultural poverty traps, and Earth system science.