W. Brian Arthur new senior research fellow

The Beijer Institute is delighted to welcome Professor W. Brian Arthur to Stockholm in the Autumn 2018 as a senior research fellow within the new research programme Complexity, Technology and Governance.
W. Brian Arthur will be affiliated to the Beijer Institute as part of the Institute's ambition to advance its research in complexity economics, as well as help the institute develop a new research stream that focuses on exploríng the challenges and opportunities created by rapid technological change, especially artificial intelligence, to the biosphere and the economy as a whole.
W. Brian Arthur is a leading economist and complexity thinker. In the 1980s he led the group at the Santa Fe Institute that developed an alternative, non-equilibrium approach to economics, now called "complexity economics." 
His 2009 book The Nature of Technology “invites comparisons with work by Thomas Kuhn and Joseph Schumpeter” according to the journal Science
Arthur is a member of the Founders Society of the Santa Fe Institute (SFI) and served on its Science Board for 18 years and its Board of Trustees for 10 years, and he is currently External Professor at SFI. Brian Arthur held the Morrison Chair of Economics and Population Studies at Stanford from 1983 to 1996. Among his honors are the International Schumpeter Prize in Economics, the (inaugural) Lagrange Prize in Complexity Science (considered complexity science’s “Nobel Prize”); and honorary doctorates from the National University of Ireland, and the University of Lancaster.

Planet at risk of heading towards "Hothouse Earth" state

Keeping global warming to within 1.5-2°C may be more difficult than previously assessed. An international team of scientists, including Beijer Institute director Carl Folke, has published a study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) showing that even if the carbon emission reductions called for in the Paris Agreement are met, there is a risk of Earth entering what the scientists call “Hothouse Earth” conditions.
A “Hothouse Earth” climate will in the long term stabilize at a global average of 4-5°C higher than pre-industrial temperatures with sea level 10-60 m higher than today, the paper says. The authors conclude it is now urgent to greatly accelerate the transition towards an emission-free world economy.
"Human emissions of greenhouse gas are not the sole determinant of temperature on Earth. Our study suggests that human-induced global warming of 2°C may trigger other Earth system processes, often called “feedbacks”, that can drive further warming - even if we stop emitting greenhouse gases," says lead author and Beijer Fellow Will Steffen from the Australian National University and Stockholm Resilience Centre. "Avoiding this scenario requires a redirection of human actions from exploitation to stewardship of the Earth system.”
Currently, global average temperatures are just over 1°C above pre-industrial and rising at 0.17°C per decade.
Places on Earth will become uninhabitable
The authors of the study consider ten natural feedback processes, some of which are “tipping elements” that lead to abrupt change if a critical threshold is crossed. These feedbacks could turn from being a “friend” that stores carbon to a “foe” that emits it uncontrollably in a warmer world. These feedbacks are: permafrost thaw, loss of methane hydrates from the ocean floor, weakening land and ocean carbon sinks, increasing bacterial respiration in the oceans, Amazon rainforest dieback, boreal forest dieback, reduction of northern hemisphere snow cover, loss of Arctic summer sea ice, and reduction of Antarctic sea ice and polar ice sheets.
"These tipping elements can potentially act like a row of dominoes. Once one is pushed over, it pushes Earth towards another. It may be very difficult or impossible to stop the whole row of dominoes from tumbling over. Places on Earth will become uninhabitable if “Hothouse Earth” becomes the reality," warns co-author Johan Rockström, former executive director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre and incoming co-director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.
According to the article, it is uncertain whether the climate system can be safely 'parked' near 2°C above preindustrial levels, as the Paris Agreement envisages. Or if it will, once pushed so far, slip down the slope towards a hothouse planet. Research must assess this risk as soon as possible, the authors argue.
Cutting greenhouse gases is not enough
Maximizing the chances of avoiding a “Hothouse Earth” requires not only reduction of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions but also enhancement and/or creation of new biological carbon stores, for example, through improved forest, agricultural and soil management; biodiversity conservation; and technologies that remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it underground, the paper says.
Critically, the study emphasizes that these measures must be underpinned by fundamental societal changes that are required to maintain a “Stabilized Earth” where temperatures are ~2°C warmer that the pre-industrial.
"We humans are now impacting the dynamics of the Earth system not only locally and regionally but also at the global level. Such impacts can be shifted into active, conscious stewardship of our relationship with the biosphere and help stabilise the Earth in conditions conducive for a sustainable societal development. This study identifies some of the levers in this direction," concludes co-author, Carl Folke.

Read more

Citation: Steffen, W., Rockström, J., Richardson, K., Lenton, T.M., Folke, C., Liverman, D., Summerhayes, C.P., Barnosky, A.D, Cornell, S.E., Crucifix, M., Donges, J.F., Fetzer, I., Lade, S.J., Scheffer, M., Winkelmann, R., and Schellnhuber, H.J. (2018) Trajectories of the Earth System in the Anthropocene. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (USA), DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1810141115

Media contacts
Stockholm Resilience Centre
Owen Gaffney
Phone: +46 (0) 734604833



Nudging the neighbourhood

New study shows that insights from psychology and behavioural economics can help households improve their food waste habits.
Out of all the food produced in the world approximately one third is lost or wasted which stand for 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions, consume a quarter of all water used by agriculture and generate more than $900 billion in economic losses globally every year. In a study recently published in Frontiers in Psycholgy, Beijer Institute researcher Therese Lindahl together with her former master student at Stockholm Resilience Centre Noah Linder and Sara Borgström from the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, showed that an information campaign guided by insights from psychology and behavioural economics could help promote the recycling of food waste.
Cities stand for a disproportionally large share of global resource use, so trying to make its inhabitants act more environmentally friendly needs to be top priority both for policy and research, the authors argue:
“In cities, small scale changes can reach many people and therefore have large aggregated effects. These are environments in which interventions using psychological insights could prove to be especially effective to promote pro-environmental behaviour.”
Combining new methods
However, just providing information is seldom enough to make people change behaviour, so the researchers decided to see if theories from environmental psychology and behavioural economics could be effective in promoting recycling of food waste in an urban area. The experiment took place in Hökarängen, a suburb of Stockholm. 
Mainly guided by insights from nudging and community-based social marketing, they designed an information leaflet which explained the benefits of separating food waste from normal garbage. The leaflet, which was accompanied by two recycling bags, used descriptive norms urging residents to “join your neighbours, recycle your food waste!” rather than focusing on saving the environment or the saving money. The researchers also included phrases that the residents could relate to in a concrete way: “If all households in Hökarängen would sort their food waste it would be enough biofuel to support 15 garbage trucks for a year.”
Visible effect
To test the efficiency of the leaflet, a so called treatment group of 264 households received the leaflets while 210 households in a control group did not receive them. Measurements in how much food waste was collected took place over the following eight months after they were sent out and this was compared to how much had been collected the previous year.
The result was a statistically significant increase in food waste recycled in the group receiving the leaflets compared to the control group, both in the short- and the long term. Before the intervention the average amount of collected food waste in the treatment group was 19 kg more per station (9 in total) than the control group, while after the intervention it increased to almost 32 kg more. Although the immediate positive effect of the leaflet seems to have attenuated over time, there was still a significant difference between the two household groups, even 8 months after the leaflet was distributed.
Therese Lindahl and her colleagues believe that insights from this study can be used to guide development of similar pro-environmental behaviour interventions for other urban areas in Sweden and abroad, improving chances of reaching environmental policy goals.
Linder, N., Lindahl, T., Borgström, S. 2018. Using Behavioural Insights to Promote Food Waste Recycling in Urban Households—Evidence From a Longitudinal Field Experiment. Front. Psychol., Vol. 9. DOI:

Engaging children and youth as agents for sustainability

Stockholm Seminar with Professor Emerita Louise Chawla, University of Colorado Boulder
About the seminar
In this talk, Louise Chawla will present pivotal experiences in the childhood and youth of people who actively care for the natural world. She will relate the experiences to a “capabilities approach” to human development, an approach which sees affiliation with nature and opportunities for civic participation as essential forhuman flourishing. Chawla will trace the importance of both connection with nature and encounters with environmental injustice, to trigger action for sustainability, with a focus on youth climate activism. She will suggest how educators, staff in environmental organizations and local officials can engage young people in protecting the natural world and building sustainable cities.

About Louise Chawla
Louise Chawla is Professor Emerita in the Environmental Design Program at the University of Colorado Boulder, and a Research Fellow in the Community Engagement, Design and Research Center which she helped establish. With a doctorate in Environmental Psychology and a master’s degree in Education and Child Development, her research areas are children and nature, children in cities, the development of committed action for the environment, and participatory urban design and planning. Her new book, Engaging Children and Youth in the
Planning and Design of Sustainable Cities: A Practical Manual, co-authored with Victoria Derr and Mara Mintzer, will be released by New Village Press in the fall of 2018.

Time and place
Wednesday 21 March, 11.00-11.00, 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. Most of them are filmed and published on the web (see below).
For information on future Stockholm Seminars and videos of past seminars visit 

Carl Folke receives honorary degrees

Within a few months, Beijer Institute director professor Carl Folke has been awarded two honorary doctorates from distinguished universities.

In December 2017 Carl Folke received an honorary doctorate of science by Michigan State University, motivated in the words of its President Lou Anna K. Simon: “In an extraordinary career dedicated to addressing some of the most challenging problems facing the world today, you have displayed a steadfast commitment to our understanding of the environment and to enhancing our abilities to live in a more sustainable manner. Your effective leadership, which has shaped the field of environmental science, is an excellent example for the MSU community of a career dedicated to advancing the common good in uncommon ways.”

“It is very special to receive such a recognition. I am deeply honored and grateful to Professor Jack Liu and colleagues for making it possible. I thoroughly enjoyed learning about and being inspired by the impressive work at MSU and interacting with old and new friends” says Carl Folke.

In connection with the doctorate Carl Folke delivered the 2017 lecture in the The Rachel Carson Distinguished Lecture Series, a platform for prominent scientists and scholars to share their ideas about global challenges and opportunities. Earlier lecturers in this series include Beijer Fellows Elinor Ostrom and Simon Levin. A video of Carl Folke’s lecture with the title Social-ecological systems, resilience thinking, and sustainability: Reconnecting development to the biosphere can be seen here.

To mark its 100-year anniversary in 2018, Wageningen University and Research, at its Dies Natalis celebration 9 March, awarded honorary doctorates to four leading scientists from England, Sweden, the USA and China. These honorary doctorates recognize the researchers' contributions to science and society in core sectors for the University: healthy food and a healthy living environment. Apart from Carl Folke, honorary titles were also awarded to Professors Katrina Brown, Eugene Koonin and Fusuo Zhang.

Beijer Fellow Marten Scheffer, Professor of Aquatic Ecology and Water Quality Management at Wageningen University, was the supervisor of Carl Folke’s honorary doctorate, which was awarded “in recognition of his seminal work on social-ecological systems and resilience”. The motivation continued:  “Prof. Folke has been described as an exceptionally effective and innovative leader. His tireless efforts have helped make 'resilience' and 'ecological footprint' widely renowned themes in both the academic world and wider society. His work bridges the gap between ecology and social sciences”.

“It was a beautiful experience to be in Wageningen with my dear friend Marten Scheffer, meeting with his research group, giving a master class and enjoying the celebrations”, says Carl Folke and continues: ”It is a bit overwhelming to receive such a distinction at the 100 years milestone celebration of Wageningen University. It was a great pleasure to meet with the Rector Magnificus Arthur Mol and President Louise Fresco and truly encouraging to learn about their inspiring vision for Wageningen in the context of the sustainability challenges facing humanity.” 

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.