In the Policy Forum of today’s issue of Science, a research team that includes recent Nobel laureate, Elinor Ostrom, issued a call for innovative interdisciplinary approaches to confronting major environmental challenges:
Tremendous progress has been made in understanding the functioning of the
Earth system and, in particular, the impact of human actions. Although this
knowledge can inform management of specific features of our world in transition, societies need knowledge that will allow them to simultaneously reduce global environmental risks while also meeting economic development goals. For example, how can we advance science and technology, change human behavior, and influence political will to enable societies to meet targets for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions to avoid dangerous climate change? At the same time, how can we meet needs for food, water, improved health and human security, and enhanced energy security? Can this be done while also meeting the United Nations Millennium Development Goals of eradicating extreme poverty and hunger and ensuring ecosystem integrity?
They identified what they call five grand challenges:
(1) Improve the usefulness of forecasts of future environmental conditions and their consequences for people.
(2) Develop, enhance, and integrate observation systems to manage global and regional environmental change.
(3) Determine how to anticipate, avoid, and manage disruptive global environmental change.
(4) Determine institutional, economic, and behavioral changes to enable effective steps toward global sustainability.
(5) Encourage innovation (and mechanisms for evaluation) in technological, policy, and social responses to achieve global sustainability.
And their concluding message resonates with much of what I have been writing about at Global Change (emphasis mine):
These grand challenges provide an overarching research framework to mobilize the international scientific community around a focused decade of research to support sustainable development in the context of global environmental change. … Research dominated by the natural sciences must transition toward research involving the full range of sciences and humanities. A more balanced mix of disciplinary and interdisciplinary research is needed that actively involves stakeholders and decision-makers.
Reid, W., Chen, D., Goldfarb, L., Hackmann, H., Lee, Y., Mokhele, K., Ostrom, E., Raivio, K., Rockstrom, J., Schellnhuber, H., & Whyte, A. (2010). Earth System Science for Global Sustainability: Grand Challenges Science, 330 (6006), 916-917 DOI: 10.1126/science.1196263
From the Environmental Literacy in Higher Education series:
From the Why Don’t People Engage Climate Change? series:
Image credit: woodleywonderworks
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