Taking climate change seriously: from adaptation to transformation

Stockholm Seminar with Professor Karen O'Brien, Department of Sociology and Human Geography, University of Oslo

About the seminar
Adaptation has been increasingly promoted as a key strategy for reducing risk and vulnerability to the impacts of climate change. Yet what qualifies as successful adaptation when the impacts are the result of human activities? Who decides the future to which we must adapt?
In this talk, Karen O'Brien distinguish between technical problems and adaptive challenges and discuss why successful adaptation to climate change will only be realized through social transformations. The talk will draw on research from the AdaptationCONNECTS project, which focuses on the role of creativity, collaboration, empowerment and flexibility in realizing adaptation through transformation.
About Karen O'Brien
Karen O’Brien is a Professor in the Department of Sociology and Human Geography at the University of Oslo, Norway. She is interested in integral approaches to understanding and addressing global environmental challenges. Karen’s current research focuses on the relationships between climate change adaptation and transformations to sustainability. She is the co-founder of, an organization that provides perspectives on transformation in a changing climate.
Time and place
Friday 16 March, 14.00-15.00, Linné Hall, The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences
Lilla Frescativägen 4A, Stockholm
Stockholm Seminars – frontiers in sustainability science
The Stockholm Seminars cover a broad range of sustainability science perspectives with a focus on the dynamics and stewardship of social-ecological systems. The seminars are organised by the Beijer Institute of Ecological Economics at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in collaboration with Albaeco, Future Earth and Stockholm Resilience Centre. The seminars are hosted at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and popular among scientists, students, media and policy makers.
The lectures are open to the public and free of charge.
For information on past and future Stockholm Seminars visit 




Symposium video: Scenarios for a warmer Arctic

Thursday 15 February 2018, 13.30-17.00
The Beijer Hall, The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences

Climate change has dramatic impacts in the Arctic, with greater temperature increases compared to the Earth as a whole and rapidly melting summer sea ice. These changes are expected to substantially influence the Arctic environment as well as socio-economic activities.

At this symposium at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences 15 February 2018 new research was presented and discussed, concerning the direct results of global warming such as future sea ice conditions, impacts on live marine resources and on the provision of ecosystem services. Furthermore, what impacts these changes have on fishing, oil extraction, aquaculture and other economic activities and how they in turn affect the environment and the lives of people in local communities.

The presentations were based on results from the transdisciplinary EU-project Arctic Climate Change Economy and Society (ACCESS), published in a special issue of the journal Ambio (December 2017).
Within ACCESS, a framework to support management in the region was also developed, which takes into account complex interactions between society and nature, possible abrupt change and considerable uncertainty.
Introduction - The Arctic in a broader context and facets of Arctic change
Professor Jean-Claude Gascard, University Pierre and Marie Curie, LOCEAN and CNRS
Sea ice and weather forecasts
Dr. Michael Karcher, Alfred Wegener Institute
Seafood from a changing Arctic
Dr. John Isaksen, Norwegian Institute of Food, Fisheries and Aquaculture Research, NOFIMA
The risks of Arctic oil spills and the response capacity
Jeremy Wilkinson, British Antarctic Survey
Sources and impacts of Arctic air pollution
Dr. Kathy Law, University Pierre and Marie Curie, LATMOS
A holistic approach to Arctic management
Associate Professor Anne-Sophie Crépin, Beijer Institute of Ecological Economics
Panel discussion led by Miriam Huitric, Stockholm Resilience Centre with Jean-Claude Gascard, Anne-Sophie Crépin and Dr Wendy Broadgate, Future Earth.



How university campuses can promote sustainable development

In an article recently published in the journal Sustainability Beijer Institute researcher Johan Colding, also affiliated with Stockholm resilience Centre (SRC) together with SRC colleague Stephan Barthel have looked at the potential for making university campuses more integrated in a global sustainability agenda. They believe campuses have an untapped potential in reconnecting humans to the biosphere.

“Universities and campus areas can shield, nurture and empower sustainability innovations strong enough to compete even under the tough selection pressure of the free market,” Colding and Barthel argue.

Read the article

A new role for universities

This thinking is part of the idea of the “entrepreneurial university”, a term used to explain how public services provided by universities are increasingly exposed and open to demands.

“Entrepreneurial universities are important actors in promoting sustainable development goals since they provide expertise, knowhow and contribute to regional development,” the authors say. Universities therefore play a role to make these goals possible in education, research, policy formation and information exchange.

Meagre track record 

Yet despite the potential, universities are still lagging in helping societies become more sustainable. Between 1999 and 2011, only 15 out of 14,000 universities had published sustainability reports. Universities engaged in attempts to identify sustainability goals and best practices are still focused on limited indicators such as how to become more energy efficient.

To speed up on their ambitions, Colding and Barthel suggest a variety of recommendations for universities to become ambassadors for sustainable development. University campuses often cover large tracts of land, providing excellent starting points for authentic learning about nature and biodiversity. That means campuses can restore an emotional affinity to nature.

7 points to improve

Specifically, Colding and Barthel suggest the following recommendations:

  • Get students and staff to become stewards of campus open space and natural areas
  • Establish sustainability rating systems on how these spaces and areas are managed
  • Document effects of efforts to improve the sustainability on the campus
  • Turn the campus into a site showcasing examples of sustainability, such as organic food production, consumption and climate smart technologies
  • Clarify ecological strengths and shortcomings of the campus area and beyond
  • In cases where campus land is limited, encourage students (and staff) to become actively involved in managing surrounding natural areas
  • Combine all these ideas to increase access to higher education for economically and socially disadvantaged groups

"Universities have a moral responsibility to educate future generations about the pivotal role that the natural systems have for sustaining human well-being and societal development," Colding and Barthel concludes.

Read more

Colding, J., S. Barthel. 2017. The Role of University Campuses in Reconnecting Humans to the Biosphere. Sustainability 9, no. 12: 2349

Seminar video: The Global Ocean and the Future of Humanity

“We need the oceans more than the oceans need us.” This was a message from Economics Professor Rashid Sumaila, at a half day seminar at the Academy highlighting threats and opportunities for the future of the global oceans.  The speakers explored pathways to ensure that the ocean can continue to provide for humanity, while also protecting its intrinsic values and the structure and function of ecosystems. Furthermore, how protection and use of the ocean can provide benefits from these global commons, in a fair way, to citizens of all nations.
Professor Rashid Sumaila is one of the world’s most innovative researchers on the future of the oceans, integrating the social and economic dimensions with ecology, law, fisheries science and traditional knowledge to build novel pathways towards sustainable fisheries. His work has challenged today’s approaches to marine governance and generated exciting new ways of thinking about our relationship to the marine biosphere, such as protecting the high seas as a ‘fish bank’ for the world and using ‘intergeneration discount rates’ for natural resource projects.
"Fair sharing of the global ocean: climate change, subsidies, and large-scale protection"
Professor Rashid Sumaila, Institute for the ocean and fisheries, University of British Columbia
"International cooperation and leadership for a fair and sustainable ocean"
Maria van Berlekom, Lead Policy Specialist, Environment and Climate Change, Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, Sida
"Complex supply chains, novel financial mechanisms and sustainable seafood"
Associate Professor Beatrice Crona, Global Economic Dynamics and the Biosphere Program, Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences
Music by Perro del Mar
"Global Development on an intertwined planet"
Professor Carl Folke, Stockholm Resiience Centre and the Beijer Institute for Ecological Economics
Panel Discussion moderated by Associate professor Henrik Österblom, Stockholm Resilience Centre
Music by Perro del Mar
This seminar was arranged at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences 28 November 2017 by the Beijer Institute, the Global Economic Dynamics and the Bioshere program, Stockholm Resilience Centre and the Volvo Environment Prize foundation


Special issue on scenarios for a warmer Arctic

Impacts of climate change are exceptionally dramatic in the Arctic, with greater temperature increases compared to the Earth as a whole. Climate change is expected to transform the Arctic Ocean from a year round frozen sea with multiyear ice to a sea with open waters in summer and annual ice in the winter similar to the Antarctic Ocean. Such dramatic change will have sizeable impacts on marine ecosystems, economic activities and alter living conditions for indigenous and local peoples in the region. 
The Arctic Ocean provides essential global climate regulation and substantial ecosystem services and benefits to humanity also outside of the region—all of these aspects may be affected. Furthermore, Arctic resources such as stocks of marine seafood, oil, gas, and minerals raise global interests, especially when resource stocks in the rest of the world deteriorate, while population is growing.
A special issue in the journal Ambio, co-edited by Beijer deputy director Anne-Sophie Crépin and with contributions by several other Beijer researchers, addresses major key challenges and issues related to Arctic climate change and development of human activities in the Arctic. It specifically focus on the Arctic Ocean, with the aim to provide some solutions and options. The special issue was based on the transdisciplinary EU-project Arctic Climate Change Economy and Society (ACCESS). In an introductory paper led by Anne-Sophie Crépin the results are synthesised as answers to eight questions:
How do we expect sea ice to change in the Arctic over the next three decades?
What are the expected impacts of climate change on live marine Arctic resources?
How does climate change influence the provision of ecosystem services supporting fisheries and aquaculture?
What economic activities are likely to expand in the Arctic due to climate change?
What environmental impacts are Arctic economic activities likely to generate?
What are the expected impacts of climate change on indigenous peoples?
What constraints does a changing climate impose on Arctic governance and infrastructure?
What kind of management support would help understand and address the complex dynamics triggered by climate change?
Seafood from a changing arctic
In an article led by the Beijer Institute, the authors concludes that Arctic fisheries already experience high variability and that climate change will further amplify these. Species targeted in capture fisheries are expected to move into new water and change existing species dynamics. This is bad news for many species but the Barents sea cod, which is better equipped to deal with the temperature change, could benefit.
“It is likely that a moderate warming will improve the conditions for the most important fish stocks in the Arctic, like cod and herring,” says lead author Max Troell. 
However, he warns that warming will also contribute to a very different species composition in some ecosystems - including changes at all trophic levels, which will have implications for the governance of Arctic Fisheries.
As for aquaculture, there are challenges ahead too. Changes in water temperature, sea level, water current and salinity are some of the drivers most likely to alter today’s aquaculture, forcing the aquaculture industry to adapt to the new reality.
An holistic approach to management
In another article, Beijer Institute researchers Anne-Sophie Crépin, Åsa Gren, Gustav Engström and Daniel Ospina propose a framework to support management in the region, which accounts for complex interactions between society and nature, possible abrupt change, and substantial uncertainties. Their article illustrates the framework’s application for two policy-relevant climate change scenarios: a shift in zooplankton composition and a crab invasion.
"Our holistic approach can help managers identify looming problems arising from complex system interactions and prioritise among problems and solutions, even when available data are limited", says lead author Anne-Sophie Cépin.
The framework called Integrated Ecosystem-Based Management (IEBM) takes into account the crucial role of ecosystems to provide goods, services and other relevant activities that contribute directly or indirectly to human well-being and Arctic sustainable development.
The ACCESS project convened around 100 researchers from 27 different partner institutions in ten different European countries. Researchers’ disciplinary backgrounds covered a wide range of natural and social sciences, including economics, social anthropology, systems ecology, marine biology, climatology and law; they came from universities, national research centres and small and medium enterprises. Stakeholders from local and indigenous populations, industry and non-governmental organizations were also involved.

Eight ways to rewire the world's food systems

Over the last decades, major changes in what people eat and to food production systems all around the world have impacted human health and the state of the environment. Although more food is now produced to feed a growing population, our plates are filled unequally and the nutrition and safety is not always guaranteed. That has led to a strain on our planet and a growing number of people suffering overweight, obesity and micronutrients deficiency. Food production is the single largest driver of environmental degradation and a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.

In a recent study published in Environmental Research Letters, Beijer researchers together with colleagues at the Global Economic Dynamics and the Biosphere programme (GEDB), Stockholm Resilience Centre (SRC), University of Gävle and the WorldFish Center in Malaysia, teamed up to identify ways the global food system can be ‘rewired’. To do that they looked at how food production has influenced human health and the biosphere since the 1960’s until today.

Read the article

Implications for human and environmental health

In their study, led by Line Gordon, SRC, the authors look at how the total volume of food production has changed along with the nutritional value of the food. They also looked at safety aspects of food production and how farming and fishing have affected crucial earth system processes. The latter part of the study uses the planetary boundaries framework.

The authors argue that the overall increase in the volume of food production has mixed implications for human and environmental health. Less people are undernourished today than in the 1960’s and more varied and convenient food choices are available, but the proportion of overweight and obese people has increased. At the same time, four out of the six planetary boundaries have crossed a safe operating space.

Moreover, a more globalised food system has disconnected consumers from the producers of food. This in turn has reduced the transparency of how food is produced.

"Throughout the past decades, supply chains have become consolidated to a few actors that exert disproportionate power over the production methods and the supply of food at a large scale, constraining individual food choices at the local scale," says co-author Beatrice Crona, GEDB Executive director.

Eight action points

Gordon and her co-authors identify eight “entry points” for a more healthy and sustainable food system:

1. Create nutrient-rich landscapes: This includes selecting crop varieties, fish and livestock based on their nutritional content.

2. Cut waste and change diets: Solutions such as cutting post-harvest losses and shifting dietary patterns can reduce pressure on natural resources..

3. Reduce antimicrobial use: Intensification is a general trend in animal farming and it is urgent to find means that limit excessive use within the animal food production sector.

4. Strengthen biodiversity and multifuntional landscapes: We should better acknowledge and account for the many ecosystem services and social benefits that food producing systems deliver beyond food itself, such as pollination, water filtration, and recreation.

5. Reconnect people to the biosphere: Initiatives that can reconnect individuals and communities to food can facilitate a broader engagement with food systems in healthy and sustainable ways.

6. Enhance transparency between producers and consumers: There is a need to improve our capacity to trace the impacts of food production across the supply chain.

7. Influence consumer decisions: Better knowledge is needed about what enables people to adopt healthy and sustainable dietary patterns.

8. Mobilize key actors to become biosphere stewards

Based on these action points, the authors conclude:

“We need to rewire different parts of food systems, to enhance information flows between consumers and producers at different scales, influence food-system decision makers, foster the biosphere stewardship of key actors in food systems, and re-connect people to the biosphere through the culture of food.”

Read more

Gordon, L., V. Bignet, V. Crona, P. Henriksson, T. Van Holt, M. Jonell, T. Lindahl, M. Troell, S. Barthel, L. Deutsch, C. Folke, J. Haider, J. Rockstroem and JC. Queiroz. 2017. Rewiring food systems to enhance human health and biosphere stewardship. Environmental Research Letters 12:100201. DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/aa81dc

Call for applications for the Mäler Scholarship

2018 and 2019 Mäler Scholarship in Environmental Economics

The Beijer Institute  is pleased to announce a new round of the Mäler Scholar competition. The institute created the Mäler Scholarship in 2009, in honor of Professor Karl-Göran Mäler’s long-standing contributions to environmental economics around the world.  The scholarship allows researchers to spend up to 6 months at the institute developing new projects in collaboration with Beijer researchers.  The institute is based at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in Stockholm, Sweden and has a small staff of researchers who work on a variety of ecological-economics issues. The research focus of the applicant during the stay should relate closely to at least one of the Beijer Institute’s research programs.

The Beijer Institute’s major objectives are to carry out research and stimulate cooperation to promote a deeper understanding of the interplay between ecological systems and social and economic development. The overall perspective is that humanity is embedded in the biosphere and shapes it from local to global scales, from the past to the future. At the same time humanity fundamentally depends on the capacity of the biosphere to sustain development.

We welcome candidates who can collaborate on research relevant to at least one of the Institute’s in-house researchers and that can be applied to their home country. Methods and topics of interest include for example: quasi experimental research designs to study causal impacts of policies or economic activities on the environment; and experimental approaches to study human behaviour in relation to environmental change or use of natural resources.

The scholarship covers travel costs to and from Stockholm and provides a monthly allowance for lodging and meals. It is intended for early-career researchers in environmental economics from developing regions of the world who already have a PhD or are currently enrolled in a PhD program and will finish within 1-2 years.  Preference is given to researchers affiliated with four regional environmental economics networks—CEEPA, EEPSEA, LACEEP, and SANDEE—and the EfD centers. Others are welcome to apply. Read here about former Mäler Scholars.

The institute is now accepting applications from researchers who are interested in spending up to 6 months at the institute in 2018 or 2019 during the periods January– June or August – December.  Applicants should e-mail a document containing the following information to Christina Leijonhufvud (Beijer administrator: by December 13, 2017.

For more information on how to apply read here

The 2017 Gunnerus Award in Sustainability Science to Carl Folke

Beijer Institute director Professor Carl Folke has been awarded the 2017 Gunnerus Award in Sustainability Science for his outstanding scientific work to promote sustainable development globally.


The Royal Norwegian Society of Sciences and Letters (DKNVS) and Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) established the international Gunnerus Sustainability Award, which confers a prize of NOK 1 million (approximately USD 190,000), plus a gold medal and diploma.The award honours outstanding scientific work for sustainable development globally and aims to promote research and strengthen the scientific basis of sustainability. It will be presented during NTNU’s sustainability conference on 19 October.


”I feel very happy and greatly honoured to be chosen as the recipient of the Gunnerus Award 2017”, says Carl Folke who is also science director and co-founder of Stockholm Resilience Centre, and explains why he thinks the award is important also for a wider research community:


”The establishment of the Gunners Award with its focus on sustainability science has a great significance for strengthening vulnerable transdisciplinary research environments around the world.”


The press release gives the motivation for giving Carl Folke the award:


Carl Folke’s research quality and quantity is outstanding. He has made substantial contributions to sustainability science and internationally viewed as one of the most important individuals in forming this new field of research. In particular, he has been extremely influential in stimulating research into complex social-ecological systems and a pioneer in bringing social sciences, economics and natural science into a fruitful dialogue and interaction addressing the important sustainability challenges facing society.


Folke’s initiative has opened new perspectives in understanding the dynamic interaction between human beings and nature, the features and services of ecosystems, as well as how socioeconomic conditions help to manage and maintain ecosystems' ability to cope with changes – their so-called resilience.


Folke’s research stresses the importance of living systems at different levels of community development. It shows how we can strive for resilience in the ways we direct and administrate systems where society and nature interact. His work illustrates – in superb fashion – how social progress, prosperity and well-being depend on developments in the biosphere.”


At the Gunners Award website it is also noted that Carl Folke is among the world’s most cited researchers with an h-index of 110, where a score of 60 is often considered to be reserved for truly unique researchers.


Read the full press release here

A week for global sustainability – two conferences in Stockholm

For one week, Stockholm is the capital of global sustainability. Over 1000 experts are meeting for two major conferences. Stockholm Resilience Centre (SRC), The Beijer institute and Resilience Alliance are organisers of the conference Resilience 2017 – Resilience Frontiers for Global Sustainability 21-23 August.  The conferences focus on plausible positive futures for people and planet. It will look back on the scientific progress made since the previous conference in 2014 and set out exciting future directions for research. 
Resilience science is one of the most rapidly expanding areas of research and the Stockholm Resilience Centre, of which the Beijer Institute is a founding member, has become a global hub of knowledge, ten years from its inauguration.
Back to back the 7th International Conference on Sustainability Science takes place in Stockholm 24-27 August will take place, organised by Future Earth, SRC and IR3S. It focuses on the research agenda of Future Earth, a major international research programme to advance global sustainability science.  
Conference highlights include:
Positive futures for the planet: researchers will present new ways for envisioning the future and understanding how societies can transform sustainably using computer modelling, scenarios, games and narratives.  
A three-decade analysis of the links between armed conflicts globally, existing ethnic tensions within countries, and droughts and heatwaves and other climate factors. The researchers say, “about 23% of conflict outbreaks in ethnically highly fractionalized countries robustly coincide with climatic calamities.” (Jonathan Donges, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Potsdam, Germany and Stockholm Resilience Centre.)
Cold Turkey: after decades of overuse, dangerous bacteria are evolving to beat our strongest antibiotics. This is one of the most severe global threats facing our species. Stricter regulations on antibiotic use plus global awareness campaigns are essential to protect this essential global commons, say researchers. (Peter Søgaard Jørgensen, GEDB and Stockholm Resilience Centre )
Future climate-proofing New York. In 2012, Hurricane Sandy devastated parts of New York City. About 130 square kilometres of the city went under water affecting 443,000 New Yorkers and killing 44.  Five years on, what have we learnt about how a mega city responds to a climate catastrophe? And will the new strategy be enough to increase resilience and reduce future risk? (Timon McPhearson, New School, NY and Stockholm Resilience Centre.)
Can warm-water corals reefs survive in the 21st century? This is an open question. Researchers are exploring the safe limits of the world’s reefs and how to make them more resilient to the combined threats of rising temperatures, ocean acidification, pollution and overfishing. (Albert Norström, Stockholm Resilience Centre)
SDG Labs. On 24 August, the outcomes of a series of Sustainable Development Goals Labs will be presented. The labs aim to solve a particular challenge, for example sustainable consumption and production, new financial systems for a sustainable planet, and how design influences behaviour. (Owen Gaffney, Stockholm Resilience Centre and Future Earth.)

Factors limiting the expansion of ocean marine aquaculture

In a comment in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution Beijer Institute researchers elaborate on the potential for future marine aquaculture development. They comment on research findings by Gentry et al., (published in same volume) that shows the existence of vast ocean areas suitable for aquacultureand that appropriation of only a small fraction of this space could potentially solve the world’s food challenge, at least partially.
“The modelling work by Gentry et al. is comprehensive and indicate what species that are possible to farm and where in coastal off-shore waters” says the lead author Max Troell. “However, the reason that the level of aquaculture production in such waters currently is low, is not due to space limitation, an expansion will be constrained by other factors.”
Troell and colleaugues explain that feed availability and feed costs will prevent further expansions of mariculture long before any ocean space limitations are reached. Current aquaculture production of fish from off-shore ocean systems is still insignificant but is dominated by species such as salmon, groupers, barramundi and cobia, which all require high-quality protein feeds based on fish resources and increasingly agriculture crops, such as soy. The potential for marine aquaculture is also affected by climate change both by temperature increases and ocean acidification, among other things. Considering existing and emerging challenges facing food production on land the incentives for expansion of food production into the oceans is large. However, it is important to acknowledge that aquaculture production through resource needs is connected to both aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems, they claim.
“The big challenges facing near-term expansion of the aquaculture sector lie in the development of sustainable feeds, and in better understanding how large-scale ocean farming systems interact with ecosystems and human well-being” says co-author Malin Jonell, Stockholm Resilience Centre. 
“Seafood can play a particularly important role for the future food portfolio, not only because its health benefits but also because many aquaculture species and systems can generate smaller environmental footprint compared to land animal farming” adds Beijer Institute co-author Patrik Henriksson.
reference: Troell, M., M. Jonell and P. Henriksson. 2017. Ocean space for seafood. Nature Ecology and Evolution. DOI: 10.1038/s41559-017-0304-6