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If a city is resilient, is it also sustainable?
2019-04-23

Use of concepts like sustainability, resilience and transformation has skyrocketed in recent years, not least in when it comes to urban development, but discussions are plagued by confusion and vagueness on what the concepts mean. The big question is this: is a resilient city a sustainable one?

A study published in Nature Sustainability, led by Thomas Elmqvist, Stockholm Resilience Centre and with Beijer Institute director Carl Folke in the writing team, presents a new framework to resolve this.

Related but not identical concepts

The crux of the issue is that urban resilience and urban sustainability, though related, mean different things, yet the concepts are often positively correlated. The authors point out that cities have proven to be remarkably resilient complex systems, many cities have existed for thousands of years and have grown stronger even after major turmoil. . However, almost no city is truly sustainable – it’s resource use, including energy use, is extremely damaging to the long-term regenerative capacity of the Earth system to remain in a relatively stable state.

“In the next decade, $95 trillion dollars will be spent on new infrastructure to support an expanding urban development. Understanding trade-offs and synergies between resilience and sustainability is key in turning the largest and fastest infrastructure investment in the history of this planet into an opportunity”, says co-author Timon McPhearson, The New School University, New York.

Strengthen a specific pathway

Sustainable cities often focus on designing for maximum efficiency, the researchers argue in the paper. This ignores a key characteristic of resilient systems: redundancy, and this ignorance may lead to increased vulnerability.

For example, high-density housing is very efficient, but if a natural disaster strikes more people can be harmed. Or, take a city’s transport system and road network. Designing for efficiency can lead to gridlock if just one or two junctions or roads are blocked. Designing for resilience is less efficient but the system still functions after a shock.

The paper offers a view on how the three concepts  relate to each other in a way that could support policy and practice and also be suitable for addressing new and pressing challenges. With this view, any given city will have many different ways it could develop in future from “business as usual” to radical transformations and resilience is understood as the capacity to adhere to, or simply strengthen, a specific pathway. For example, resilience must be reduced to allow for breaking free from lock-ins of undesired resilience such as urban poverty, while in other situations, strengthening (social) innovations to take hold of desired resilience.

Read more

Link to article

Reference: Elmqvist, T., E. Andersson, N. Frantzeskaki, T. McPhearson. P. Olsson, O.Gaffney, K. Takeuchi and C. Folke..2019. Sustainability and resilience for transformation in the urban century. Nature Sustainability  2: 267–273

 

Framework for equitable mariculture development in the Western Indian Ocean
2019-04-23

Mariculture, a type of aquaculture where marine organisms are cultivated in open ocean or brackish waters, is thought to contribute to “blue growth” for the sustainable development of island and coastal states in the West Indian Ocean. Small-scale community-based mariculture projects have increasingly gained popularity and attention from governments, the private sector, social entrepreneurs, as well as conservation and development agencies.

While mariculture has had a positive impact when it comes to supporting local livelihoods, many questions still remain when it comes to its development impact and scalability. A new report outlines a diagnostic framework that is designed to assist decision-making for assessment and planning around sustainable and equitable mariculture.

”This report draws on lessons from decades of mariculture initiatives to support and guide an industry with practice that better aligns with national stakeholder aspirations for equitable growth and the Sustainable Development Goals”, says Beijer Institute researcher Max Troell, also affiliated with Stockholm Resilience Centre.

Download report here

The diagnostic framework

To help decide if a potential mariculture operation would be equitable and sustainable, the authors developed a diagnostic framework that outlines aspirational outcomes – a benchmark of what each mariculture initiative should aim to achieve.

The framework is broken down into six outcomes:

1. Space – mariculture area will be located maintains environment and supports livelihoods

2. Habitats – use coastal habitats that support ecosystem services

3. Biosecurity – functional integrity of ecosystem is not compromised

4. Incomes and livelihoods – livelihood opportunities and benefits for community residents

5. Economic growth – financially viable and promotes socially responsible national growth

6. Gender and youth – equitable access to opportunities and benefits

Under each outcome there is a diagnostic question, and criteria to answer that question, which tests if a potential mariculture operation would be able to achieve the outcome. If the answer is no, then the framework also provides guidance on what actions should be taken to achieve the outcome.

While this tool can help decide if mariculture is the right option in that area, Troell warns that it is not failsafe. “It is important to note that this diagnostic framework will not solve all the potential problems or capture all the opportunities that may come with mariculture development, but it will help guide and structure how to carry out assessments of such activities.”


Reference: Eriksson H., Troell M., Brugere C., Chadag M., Phillips M., and Andrew, N. 2018. A diagnostic framework for equitable mariculture development in the Western Indian Ocean. Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research: Canberra, ACT. 36 pp.

 

Seminar video: Water as the bloodstream of the Biosphere
2019-04-10

On this year’s World Water Day 22 March and celebrating the 200th Stockholm Seminar, three generations of water resilience researchers shared their research and reflections on the multiple ways that freshwater sustain the biosphere and human development. the seminar was held at the Royal Swedish Academyof Sciences.

See seminar video here

Water is essential for life on Earth and the prosperity of human civilization. As it flows through rivers and streams, rests in lakes and oceans, circulate through the roots and leaves of plants and falls as rain or snow, water serves as the bloodstream of the biosphere.

If the pressure on the water cycle at local, regional or the global scale becomes too great it can lead to unpredictable and potentially irreversible changes. In recent years the functions and importance of “green” water, the soil moisture from precipitation, used by plants via transpiration, is becoming increasingly understood. And studies how the water “bloodstream” is globally connected, shows that local land-uses changes can be connected to rainfall modifications in faraway areas.

This included the Blue Planet Prize 2018 awardee Prof. Malin Falkenmark’s lifework of articulating water’s fundamental role for Earth’s life support system, innovating the understanding of water scarcity, and propelling the recognition of green water as a valuable and manageable resource; centre director Dr. Line Gordon’s decade long research unravelling the critical roles of “invisible” water for social-ecological resilience; and Dr. Lan Wang-Erlandsson’s account of the newest advancements towards a revised freshwater planetary boundary that acknowledges all facets of water for supporting a stable and habitable Earth.

Programme details

13.00
Welcome

By Carl Folke Folke, Director of the Beijer Institute of Ecological Economics of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and Science Director Stockholm Resilience Centre at Stockholm University

13.15
Water - Bloodstream of the Biosphere

Malin Falkenmark, professor Stockholm Resilience Centre at Stockholm University and SIWI, Awardee of the Blue Planet Prize 2018

14.00 Music
Echo, written and performed by Rosa Kvartetten: Daina Mateikaite (violin); Brita Pettersson(violin); Anna Manell (viola) and Jessie Langhard (cello)

14.10 Coffee break

14.40
The role of invisible water in sustaining ecosystem resilience and human development

Line Gordon, director and associate professor, Stockholm Resilience Centre at Stockholm University.

Towards a new water planetary boundary for Earth resilience

Lan Wang-Erlandsson, PhD, Stockholm Resilience Centre at Stockholm University.

15.20 Questions/discussion

Moderator: Louise Hård af Segerstad

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 held at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and organised by the Beijer Institute of Ecological Economics at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, Albaeco, Future Earth and Stockholm Resilience Centre.

Since its start in 2000 more than 200 of the world’s leading scientists and experts have taken part in this seminar series, including Nobel Laureates.

The Stockholm Seminars are open and free of charge.

 

 

 

Design students visualise our dependency on nature’s services
2019-03-26

In the exhibition In My Backyard at the design store Svenskt Tenn in Stockholm, students in Visual Communication at Beckmans School of Design interpret the research carried out by the Beijer Institute on ecosystem services and their crucial role for sustainable social development.

Research more easily accessible through visual communication

A common aim for the students was to create a broader understanding of ecosystem services and why they are key both for own well-being and the planet's.

"By providing new entrypoints to current research, visual communication can create an understanding of complex issues and create empathy and commitment in a way that for instance news stories cannot convey. In this course, the students have transformed complex information into independent artistic projects that can make all of us reflect on our dependence on nature", says João Doria, associate professor at the Visual Communication program.

The exhibition shows 16 works that is rooted in the Beijer Institute's research on ecosystem services, a concept that includes all the positive things that nature provides us with and that make visible that nature's services cannot be taken for granted. Nature's diversity of ecosystems and organisms is a prerequisite for our well-being, both at the individual and at society level. The Beijer Institute's research shows, among other things, why green areas, trees and wetlands are cost-effective investments in sustainable urban development, but also what happens if these are neglected.

 An updated herbarium, a tree golf course and a digital ecosystem

Researchers from the Beijer Institute and Stockholm Resilience Centre gave introductory lectures and provided background readings and tuition to the students throughout a five week course. The result is 16 very diverse artistic interpretations.

"Meeting and discussing with these young, talented and engaged students was truly inspiring", says Åsa Gren one of the researchers. "It provided me with surprisingly novel lenses for viewing my research. The students’ ability to grasp complex scientific issues and turn them into engaging, thought provoking and fun art was astonishing."

Among the works is an audiovisual herbarium where rustling and whispers from flowers can create pleasure and calm for stressed city dwellers lacking access to green spaces. Another student has explored whether the peace that nature gives can be replaced by a digital park that can be experienced through the phone? Design icon Josef Frank's colorful, nature pattern has inspired a pattern that visualizes how Swedish nature may appear in the wake of increased global warming. And one student has invented tree golf - a combined forest walk and tree inventory where a round consists of 18 hole trees where the tape measure is the club and the perimeter circumference beaten.

Read more about the individual works here (in Swedish) 

The exhibition is a joint project by the Beijer Institute, Beckmans College of Design and the Swedish design store Svenskt Tenn in Stockholm, where the exhibition is shown until 29 January. Via the Kjell and Märta Beijer Foundation, Svenskt Tenn’s profit support research at the Beijer Institute. 

 The exhibition is open until 7 April at Svenskt Tenn, Strandvägen 2, Stockholm

Launch of the EAT Lancet report on Food, Planet and Health
2019-01-16

The report Our Food in The Anthropocene: the EAT-Lancet Commission on Healthy Diets From Sustainable Food Systems, brings together more than 30 world-leading scientists from across the globe to reach a scientific consensus that defines a healthy and sustainable diet.

Download the report

The Commission is delivering the first full scientific review of what constitutes a healthy diet from a sustainable food system, and which actions can support and speed up food system transformation. The results will be presented in The Lancet in mid-January 2019, and the report is co-authored by Beijer Institute researchers Therese Lindahl and Max Troell. Read more about the report here.

Friday, January 18, the Eat Lancet Report will be launched for a Swedish audience in an event organised by Stockholm Resilience Center in collaboration with the Beijer Institute and the Global Economic Dynamics and Biosphere programme at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and EAT.
The launch, which is mainly in Swedish, is recorded and can be seen here. For program see below.

The EAT Lancet report report is the first of its kind that quantifies, at a global level, how large a conversion is needed for the food system to be both good for human health and sustainable for the planet.

The report deals with a variety of topics, such as health, diet, climate, environment, fishing and agriculture. Here are some important conclusions:

• Providing a growing population of 10 billion in 2050 with food that is both healthy and sustainable requires that we change our diet, improve food production and reduce food waste. Achieving the report's scientifically based goals for a healthy diet within the limits of the planet will require significant changes, but is within reach.

• The dietary advice presented in the report include about 35% of calories from whole grains and root vegetables, protein mainly from plants - but also about 14 g of red meat per day and 500 g per day of vegetables and fruit. For each of these components there is great flexibility, depending on the availability of food and cultural and personal preferences.

• Making this major transition will require decreasing the consumption of foods such as red meat and sugar by about 50%, while more than doubling the consumption of nuts, fruits, vegetables and legumes.

• Such a global diet change can lead to major health benefits, potentially averting 10.9-11.6 million premature deaths annually, according to the report.

Download the report


Time and place for Swedish Launch
Fredag 18 januari 2019, 09:15-12:00
Beijersalen, Kungl. Vetenskapsakademien
Program
09:15 Introduktion
Line Gordon, Executive Director Stockholm Resilience Centre vid Stockholms universitet, medförfattare till EAT Lancet rapporten och Gunhild Stordalen, Founder och Executive Chair, EAT.
09:30 Presentation av rapporten “Our Food In The Anthropocene: The EAT-Lancet Commission on Healthy Diets from Sustainable Food Systems”
Johan Rockström, Commission Co-Chair för EAT Lancet rapporten, Stockholm Resilience Centre, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research och Brent Loken, Director of Science Translation EAT, Stockholm Resilience Centre, medförfattare till EAT Lancet rapporten (in English)
10:10 Kaffepaus
10:30 Perspektiv
Health benefits. Marco Springmann, Oxford universitet, Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food, medförfattare till EAT Lancet rapporten (in English)
Klimatgränsen i relation till kött. Elin Röös, Sveriges Lantbruksuniversitet, Institutionen för energi och teknik
Betydelsen av en blå transformation för att stanna inom planetens gränser. Max Troell, Beijerinstitutet för Ekologisk Ekonomi vid Kungl. Vetenskapsakademien, medförfattare till EAT-Lancet rapporten
Regional analysis – the EAT-Lancet report in the Nordic context. Amanda Wood, Stockholm Resilience Centre, medförfattare till EAT-Lancet rapporten (in English)
Forskning för transformation. Beatrice Crona, Kungl. Vetenskapsakademien, Stockholm Resilience Centre vid Stockholms universitet, medförfattare till EAT Lancet rapporten; och Line Gordon
11:20 Frågor
12:00 Avslutning

Solutions that provide synergies
2019-01-11

Environmental Policy Instruments must be used to deal with global environmental problems
Global environmental problems can be addressed by means of policy instruments such as carbon dioxide taxes, building and technology standards and support for new technology, but the issues are complex and several environmental problems must be addressed simultaneously in order to achieve optimal effect. Therefore, different research areas must work together to find solutions. This is evident from an article published in the journal Nature Sustainability, co-authored by several Beijer Institute researchers and Fellows.

Recognise the need for new economic policies
The major environmental problems are global, long-term and uncertain. They are also interconnected with each other and must therefore be analyzed together in order to find solutions that provide synergies and in order to avoid “solutions” that solve one problem but worsen others.

“It is not sustainable if you aggravate problems related to loss of biodiversity or the vital cycles for water or nutrients when you are trying to solve, for example, the climate problem, perhaps through a poorly conceived forest policy,” says Thomas Sterner, professor of environmental economics at the School of Business, Economics and Law at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, and lead author of the article.

“Science is clear that we are at risk of destabilising the entire planet. The grand challenge is to recognise the need for new economic policies when faced with risks of irreversible changes at the global scale that would determine the future of all generations of humans on Earth,” says Johan Rockström, Professor of Environmental Sciences at Stockholm University and Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany. He is one of the co-authors of the study.

“Biologists, physicists and other natural scientists see and analyze the changes, and are usually the ones who write about planetary boundaries and the Anthropocene. Social scientists are experts on how society and the economy work, and both skills are indispensable when analyzing social causes and proposing solutions that are effective and politically feasible. Therefore, collaboration between economists, social scientists and natural scientists is urgently needed to discuss solutions,” says Sterner.

Greenhouse gases must imply a significant cost.

The Earth is in the "Anthropocene" – an era when many crucial variables for the planet are controlled by man, and our activities and consumption patterns risk exceeding the planetary boundaries. This leads to changed climate, acidification of the oceans, loss of biodiversity and many other global environmental problems.Finding effective solutions is of course important, but the income distributional effects of policy measures and their perceived fairness are vital determinants of the political feasibility and thus also aspects that must be considered very carefully when policy instruments are selected and designed.

“The Anthropocene is a whole new era in human and planetary development. It is extremely important to adjust policy instruments and combine them in new ways. They must be adapted to phenomena that are becoming increasingly common now, for example the risk of collapse of certain natural resources, so-called "tipping points", or that human activities may have delayed influence on the environment,” says Anne-Sophie Crépin at the Beijer Institute and one of the co-authors of the article.

“The aim of our research is to contribute to a better policy throughout the world to deal with the major environmental problems. A first step could be a global agreement that all emissions of greenhouse gases must imply a significant cost for the persons or companies causing the emissions,” says Sterner.

About the article
In December 2017, Thomas Sterner gathered 25 international environmental researchers at the Gothenburg School of Economics for the workshop "Policies for Planetary Boundaries". Two key participants were Johan Rockström and Will Steffen, both attached to the Stockholm Resilience Center and lead authors of several major articles on Planetary Boundaries. The questions the researchers posed were "what economic and political measures do we need to cope with the global environmental challenges?" and "what can natural scientists learn from economists and vice versa?". The result was the article "Policy design for the Anthropocene" [link] which has now been published in Nature Sustainability.

Reference: Sterner, T., Barbier, E.B., Bateman, I., et. al. 2019. Policy design for the Anthropocene. Nature Sustainability volume 2, pages14–21

Human-Machine-Ecology: A Workshop on the Emerging Risks, Opportunities, and Governance of Artificial Intelligence
2019-01-09

The Beijer Institute, its partner Stockholm Resilience Centre, and the PIIRS GRS Research group at Princeton University have teamed up to organize a seminar and workshop 11-12 january 2019 at Princeton University,to adress growing concerns in the world of artificial intelligence. The central focus will be on the way emerging AI-systems shape the way we perceive and respond to environmental change, and how it could fundamentally alter the ways in which humans modify ecosystems around the world and impact human wellbeing. With the goal of fostering fruitful discussion and eventually a published work, this multidisciplinary workshop will bring together scholars from computer sciences, ecology, political science (amongst others), and actors from the IT-sector where these systems are currently being developed and tested on the ground. This is an initiative within the recently founded Beijer Institute research programme Complexity, Technology and Governance, led by Victor Galaz.

Background

It is becoming increasingly clear that rapid advances in algorithmic systems associated with artificial intelligence (such as machine learning, intelligent infrastructure, the Internet of Things) are likely to pose difficult challenges to governance and policy in multiple sectors such as medicine, finance, policing, urban planning, transport, and energy systems. In practically all modern domains, such technologies increasingly serve to impose order, hierarchize needs, allocate resources, and impact the distribution of wealth and opportunity. Algorithmic systems presently interact so closely with human decisions and behavior that these systems now influence many aspects of modern life in almost invisible ways. Questions such as who is policed, where it is lit, how much funding a community receives, and how jobs are allocated, are all becoming subject to the hidden hand of algorithms. Yet, much like Goethe’s (and Disney’s) sorcerer's apprentice, we may not be able to control or even understand the tools that shape our contemporary life. We may not even know the location or extent of failures caused by AI until damage has cascaded into catastrophe.

One often ignored fact is that algorithmic systems of different degrees of sophistication are already important today in the environmental and ecological domain. This includes social media mediated filtering of environmental information online, environmental monitoring systems, climate change modeling, energy distribution, and urban and landscape planning, just to mention a few. Advanced algorithmic systems and robotics are also making rapid progress in the agricultural sector, for example through “precision agriculture” investments in Europe and in Asia, and in technologies for marine exploration and exploitation. It would be a mistake to assume that these applications will remain flawless in an environment of rapidly changing ecological circumstances.

This means that not only our monitoring of the present, but also our forecasting of the future is controlled by mechanisms whose collective behavior we do not understand. The possibility of a disastrous accident in agriculture is a critical issue in a world where we remain “three meals away from chaos.” Moreover, as we come to depend on constant monitoring of the environment and subsequent policy choices, the very means by which we make the world legible need to be better understood.

Preliminary list of Participants:

Miguel Centeno, PIIRS GSR (Workshop Co-Organizer)
Victor Galaz, SRC (Workshop Co-Organizer)
Brian Arthur, Santa Fe Institute
Chloé Bakalar, Princeton CITP
Solon Barocas, Cornell Information Science
Seth Baum, Global Catastrophic Risk Institute
Irina Brass, University College London
Sarah Brayne, UTAustin Sociology
Joanna Bryson, University of Bath CS
Darryl Farber, Penn State Engineering Design
Ed Felten, Princeton CS
Danit Gal, Keio University
David Garcia, CSH Vienna
Brian King, CGIAR
Paul Larcey, Cambridge University
Karen Levy, Cornell Information Science
Arvind Narayanan, Princeton CS
Jen Rexford, Princeton CS
Jonathan Tannen, Facebook Research
Michael Veale, University College London
Ben Zevenbergen, Princeton & Oxford Internet Institute

 

Contagious collapses
2019-01-08

New study reveals hidden links and potential domino effects between tipping points in climate, ecosystems and societies

Sometimes ecosystems change in so dramatic and substantial ways that they cross a “tipping point”. Scientists call such largely irreversible changes “regime shifts”. One example is how a rainforest can shift abruptly to dry savannah due to the combined effect of deforestation and climate change.

Now a group of researchers from Stockholm Resilience Centre and the Beijer Institute has teamed up with Beijer Fellow and Princeton University ecologist Simon Levin to study how such regime shifts can be better managed and prepared for. Their results, published in Science, suggest that more attention should be paid to how regime shifts are connected and how those connections could be managed.

"Regime shifts pose challenges to ecological management and governance because they are difficult to predict and reverse and substantially alter the availability of benefits that people receive from nature," explains Juan Rocha lead author of the new study.

The group of researchers, has specifically studied the potential for some regime shifts to trigger or increase the risk of other regime shifts occurring, so called “cascading” regime shifts. One such example is the connection between Arctic ice sheets and boreal forests, which amplifies each other. When the ice sheets melt, the reflection of the sun’s heat diminishes so the temperature of the planet rises. This increases the risks of forest fires, which discharge carbon into the air that adds to the greenhouse effect, melting more ice.

Hundreds of case studies

The study is based on a systematic network analysis of more than 300 case studies and 30 types of regime shifts, which have previously been collected in the Regime Shifts Database.

The researchers divided the regime shifts into two different types of cascading effects “domino effects” and “hidden feedbacks”. The first type is rather straight forward and occurs when one regime shift gives rise to subsequent regime shifts in a nearby or distant ecosystem, whereas the other “hidden” type is the result of two-way interactions that cannot be identified by studying one regime shift at the time.

When regime shifts are interconnected over large distances, whoever makes decisions on management is not necessarily the one that has to deal with the impacts. This is for example the case for mechanisms that connect far away ecosystems through climate change, fire, nutrient inputs, or trade.

Moisture recycling is another interesting example. It is both a key underlying factor for the regime shift from rainforest to savannah in the Amazon, but also has the potential to cascade far beyond the forest that depend on moisture recycling as an important water source. In this way, changes in moisture recycling can affect mountain forests in the Andes, nutrient cycling in the ocean by affecting sea surface temperature, and therefore regime shifts in marine food webs.

Avoiding regime shifts

For managers it is of key importance to avoid regime shifts as they can have substantial impacts on human economies and societies and are often difficult and costly to reverse. Developing early warning signals that also take coupled regime shifts into account is therefore urgently required.

Another important aspect put forward in the new study is the need to identify common drivers for several different regime shifts. This could result in management strategies that target specific “bundles of drivers”, increasing the chances to avoid several regime shifts simultaneously.

Read more

Reference: Rocha, JC, Peterson, G, Bodin, Ö, and Levin, S. 2018. Cascading regime shifts within and across scales. Science 362 (6421), 1379-1383. DOI: 10.1126/science.aat7850

Funding for three new research projects
2018-12-06

The Beijer Institute has recently been granted funding for three projects by from the Swedish Research Council for sustainable development, Formas, and more specifically, Beijer researcher Caroline Schill who is project leader for all three projects.

Understanding a new reality for small-scale fisheries

Caroline Schill and Therese Lindahl, together with colleagues Nanda Wijermans and Maja Schlüter at Stockholm Resilience Centre has received a grant for a project that will identify critical multi-level processes for sustainable small-scale fisheries. These fisheries are often referred to as traditional, artisanal, low-tech, labour intensive, low capital operations that contribute about 50% to the global fish catch and jobs for millions of people. They are vulnerable to climate change effects, e.g. changes in abundance, variability and predictability of fish stocks.

The ability of fishers to deal with this new situation will crucially depend on the capacity of fishers to adapt individually and collectively, which in turn is affected by how fishers perceive this new situation individually and collectively.

However, little is known about the interplay between cooperation and sustainable resource use in this new situation. To study these interactions holistically, the research team will use agent-based modelling to represent, simulate and analyse the role and effect of individual and situational heterogeneity on multiple levels.

The new normal in the Arctic

Together with Simon West at the Resilience Centre, Caroline Schill also recieved funding for a project called 'Living with the 'new normal': exploring human responses to abrupt environmental change in the Arctic using behavioural and interpretive social science'.

The project brings together behavioural and interpretive social science to explore, together with Alaskan Inuit communities, their responses to a changing Arctic. Schill and West will first use participatory photography to enable participants to identify the environmental changes that matter most to them.

"Building on that knowledge, we will design behavioural economic experiments to study the effects of different scenarios of change on actual behaviour. Through this approach, we aim to empower communities to reflect, share experiences and devise strategies to live with change and uncertainty," they explain.

Also involved in this project is Tracie Curry, University of Alaska Fairbanks, like Caroline Schill a member of the second Beijer Young Scholars group.

Inequality of the Biosphere

This second Beijer Young Scholars group was given a SEK 2 million planning grant, to continue their exploratoion of the linkages between social inequality and changes in the environment, read more here. Starting in December 2018It will allow them in the upcoming 12 months to work towards a long-term research agenda around trade-offs, synergies and interactions between the SDGs Reduced Inequalities, Zero Hunger, Climate Action, and Life Below Water and on Land (SDGs 10, 2, 13, 14, and 15). In particular, with the help of a set of pre-studies (building on some of the pathways discovered in the paper) and stakeholder workshops, the group will characterise synergies and trade-offs and identify research questions to inform a large future research proposal. 

Moreover, Beijer Institute partners Stockholm Resilience Centre and Global Economic and Dynamics and the Biosphere (GEDB), at the same time received several major research grants, read more about the projects here.

The economics of resilience
2018-12-06

The economics of resilience has been studied for the past few decades. Now, a review paper co-authored by Beijer researchers Li Chuan-Zhong (professor at Uppsala university), Anne-Sophie Crépin and Carl Folke, offers a summary of this body of work.

More specifically, the paper, published in the International Review of Environmental Resource Economics, looks at resilience and economic models, theories, and cases, with special reference to social-ecological systems and regime shifts, the latter referring to large, abrupt, persistent changes to a system.

Crépin explains, “We address the basic sciences of regime shifts and resilience in different settings linked to empirical cases, and review the related economic models. In particular, we discuss models to assess market outcomes when thresholds exist and are known and particular characteristics of such systems when they are optimally managed.”

Models of interest

The paper starts off with a review of three categories of economic models related to resilience thinking.

The first category reviewed were deterministic models of central and cooperative decisions. Deterministic models do not account for any randomness in the system, and will always produce the same output if initiating from the same starting point. In economics and resilience literature, these models focused on optimization. An example is whether it would be better for a community to have a clear lake providing more fisheries amenities by restricting agricultural activities on the shore or promote agriculture but accept that the lake would undergo a regime shift.

The second category focused on situations with multiple independent resource users. In such situation each resource user faces strategic uncertainty because they do not know what other users will do. This could either lead to more or less exploitation depending on users’ strategies.

The third type of models was stochastic, or models that account for random variability in the resource itself. The authors say that while these types of models have been used in economics and resilience literature as in reality, end results are often unpredictable no matter how much information is known at the start.

In the review, the authors highlight that, “economic theory has substantially advanced the deterministic and stochastic models of regime shifts linked to resilience.” For example, fishers can influence the risk of a regime shift by acting precautionary. Such behavior could hinder the system from undergoing a shift to a permanently much lower capacity to grow a fish stock. However, model recommendations about whether or not to act precautionary seem extremely sensitive to the assumptions made and more research is needed on that topic.

However, Carl Folke notes that urgent unsolved problems remain. “These involve situations when crossing thresholds imply life-threatening situations at the global scale. In particular, the great acceleration and the risks this has brought for the global environmental security should be better studied.”

Valuing resilience

The review also demonstrates three different aspects of resilience in different systems.

First, biodiversity has been demonstrated to play a role in ecosystem resilience. As Crépin elaborates, “In the environmental and resource economics literature several approaches have been used to measure and value biodiversity.”

From rainfall models to measuring biodiversity levels, biodiversity has been shown to be valuable when it comes to ecosystem resilience.

Second, resilience is known to act as insurance against a shock, such as a natural disaster or civil upheaving, in the economics-resilience literature. However, this was not always the case.

As Folke explains, “Although resilience services and their value as insurance are known to be positively correlated, the exact relationship between them remained less obvious in the earlier literature.”

Finally, the authors reviewed resilience as a “stock.” What the authors mean by this is that resilience is the characteristic of a system to withstand change, such as a regime shift. However, across economic- resilience literature, although resilience has become a popular concept in the literature, few attempts have been made for quantitative measurement.

Putting it into practice

Finally, the authors examine how all of this knowledge generated is applicable in real world. Specifically, they turn to resilience assessments, and how these have informed the management of resilience and sustainability analyses.

While the authors draw a number of links between resilience and economic theory, as well as highlight a number of cases with this focus, they argue that links between these two fields have not been systematically established.

As Crépin explains, “There is substantial potential for economic theory to learn from resilience thinking and vice versa. For example, there is substantial potential for economic theory to provide novel insights to resilience thinking by focusing on the impacts of individual incentives, collective action, and economic policies in a more applied resilience context. This in turn can help resilience thinking better understand how economic processes work in a resilience context.”

Furthermore, Crépin adds, “Advances in resilience measurement and valuation studies, could be useful for improved cost–benefit analysis, dynamic welfare analysis, and practical policymaking.”

In other words, advancements in economics-resilience literature could help us improve policy tools. It could also help us improve our understanding of how resilience can help us in the real world overall.

Li, C.Z., Crépin, A.S. and Folke, C., 2018. The Economics of Resilience. International Review of Environmental and Resource Economics, 11(4), pp.309-353.

 

Connecting the dots between social inequalities and environmental change
2018-11-22

Rising inequalities and accelerating environmental change are two of the most significant challenges of the twenty-first century. But how are they linked? 
 
A new study in the journal Annual Review of Environment and Resources presents a literature review of the linkages between social inequality and changes in the environment. It is an outcome of the Beijer Young Scholars programme which consists of a interdisciplinary group of 19 early career scholars from around the world, including researchers at the Beijer Institute and its partner Stockholm Resilience Centre.
 
 
Their study shows that most research is one-directional, i.e. focusing on the specific effects of a social inequality on the environment, and fails to take into account a more complex understanding of how inequality and the biosphere interact with each other. 
 
"Previous analyses have mainly focused on economic inequality and its effect on a specific environmental variable such as resource degradation or pollution, often using national-level data," explains lead author Maike Hamann, University of Minnesota.
 
“However, inequality is much more than financial differences between the rich and the poor, it includes the whole spectrum of society, highlighting differences between individuals or groups of people in relation to gender,  or ethnicity for instance”, says co-author Caroline Schill, the Beijer Institute. “Moreover, this study also looks at the way drastic and gradual changes in the environment affect inequality in different ways”, she adds.
 
Interactions between inequality and the biosphere in social-ecological systems.
The biosphere is naturally unequal. Not all places on Earth are equally endowed with access to energy resources, freshwater reserves or appropriate conditions for large-scale agricultural production. That has led to an inequality of opportunities for societal development and economic expansion in different parts of the globe. However, natural disasters such as storms, floods, droughts and epidemics tend to hit low-income communities the hardest, wherever they are, as exemplified by the hurricane Katrina 2005 and the 2014-15 West Africa Ebola epidemic. 
 
More gradual environmental change can also have a strong impact. Take fisheries, for example. Many of the world’s least developed countries that are most vulnerable to impacts of climate change are also heavily reliant on seafood and marine resources. In these countries, climate change is likely to reinforce economic hardship and hamper development and poverty alleviation. It may also exacerbate inequalities on a local level.
 
How inequality affects the environment
The authors of the study argue that “subjective inequality”, an individual’s perception of existing inequalities and beliefs about what is just and fair, can be a significant driver for how someone behaves towards the environment. For example, perceptions of inequality, fairness and even jealousy have played an important role in the success or failure of marine protected areas. If people feel they have been treated unfair in getting access to a marine protected area, jealousy may lead some to encroach or even sabotage it, even if they were positive to creating it in the first place.
 
In many parts of the world, aspirations to achieve a higher living standard and status lead to behavioural changes, such as an increase in meat consumption. This, in turn, has significant impacts on land use and the conversion of natural habitat to pastures for livestock.
 
Collaboration and collective action are one of the ways in which shared natural resources can be sustainably managed. But if there is inequality within the group that is managing a shared resource, this may lead to an erosion of trust, less cooperation, and the unsustainable use of the resource.
 
Finally, market concentration can cause inequality which could benefit or harm a natural resource. The global seafood industry, where a small number of actors has a disproportionally strong influence on the management of the resources, is a fitting example. 
 
New funding for more research
With their study, the authors show that environmental change and inequality must be looked at in more depth.
 
Together with her co-authors, Caroline Schill calls for more research into these feedbacks, calling their work a “first step toward a more systemic, cross-scale and multidimensional understanding” of the interactions between inequality and the environment.
 
And to the great delight of the BYS group and the Beijer Institute, they have been awarded a SEK 2 million planning grant from the Swedish Research Council for sustainable development (Formas). With this grant they will be able to continue and deepen their fruitful inter-disciplinary collaborations with a specific focus on inequality and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Starting already in December 2018, it will allow them in the upcoming 12 months to work towards a long-term research agenda around trade-offs, synergies and interactions between the SDGs Reduced Inequalities, Zero Hunger, Climate Action, and Life Below Water and on Land (SDGs 10, 2, 13, 14, and 15). In particular, with the help of a set of pre-studies (building on some of the pathways discovered in the paper) and stakeholder workshops, the group will characterise synergies and trade-offs and identify research questions to inform a large future research proposal. 
 
The Beijer Young Scholars
The interdisciplinary group of authors is the second generation in the Beijer Young Scholars programme (BYS), established with the aim of creating an international network of young researchers and stimulating the emergence of new research pathways and modes of cooperation across disciplines to address global challenges. 
 
Throughout the three years of support from the Beijer Institute, the 19 PhD candidates and early career researchers in the BYS group embarked on an exploration of the potential links between inequality and the biosphere, in a series of three workshops held at the Academy and in the Stockholm Archipelago. Together they also organised a session at the Resilience 2017 conference in Stockholm, and the discussions with the audience were very valuable to the development of the study.
 
Conducting collaborative, integrative and interdisciplinary research is a time-consuming endeavor that is not always well recognized in the academic incentives system, but is crucial to advance science into deeper research questions. One important aim of the BYS programme is to facilitate and provide the space for such research.
 
 “Having the privilege to be part of the BYS program has been an inspiring and transformative experience, to not only broaden my research horizontally towards becoming an interdisciplinary scientist, but also distil deeper understanding of how different fields such as ecology, economics, geography, and political sciences are inherently connected. It has also reinforced my aspirations for continuing interdisciplinary collaborations that are essential for addressing contemporary wicked social environmental problems”, said Jiangxiao Qiu, University of Florida, after the workshop in June 2018. 
 
 
  
 

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Smart Groth, a popular concept for sustainable cities lacks scientific proof
2018-10-18

The Smart Growth concept has been hailed as a way to turn our increasingly urbanized planet into a compact, walkable and bicycle friendly one, where urban sprawl is halted because old land is used for new constructions. The concept is frequently endorsed by national and local policy makers. However, conclusive proof of its ability to deliver environmental benefits is lacking.
 
In a study published in the journal Ambio, Beijer Institute researchers Åsa Gren and Johan Colding, also affiliated with Stockholm Resilience Centre, and colleagues take a closer look at the Smart Growth concept and whether it delivers what it promises. The short answer is no.
 
Studies lack a broader perspective
In their review, the team, including colleagues from Chalmers University and Gävle University in Sweden, analysed the scientific literature on the concept and found that a surprisingly limited number of studies have actually examined the environmental rationales behind Smart Growth. In fact, 34 percent of the studies even presented negative consequences of applying a Smart Growth strategy, particularly for biodiversity.
 
The studies that do show positive outcomes are focusing on a limited number of environmental parameters, such as reduced C02 emissions due to less private transportation. However, even these studies lack a broader perspective, failing to take into account important aspects such as leisure travel, which lead author Åsa Gren and her colleagues warn could turn out to be a game changer.
 
“This leaves us as uninformed as before even about the environmental gains that a compact city structure offers in order to reduce CO2 emissions,” Gren explains.
 
There was also confusion about what Smart Growth actually stands for.
 
“We found that there is no generally agreed upon definition of Smart Growth, rather a broad number of description exists, varying around certain themes”, says Åsa Gren.
 
Their study reveals a variety of inconsistencies in how things are defined and measured. One example is population density, which describes how many people that live within an area. However, although appearing straight forward, this can be, and indeed is, measured in multiple ways in different studies, making comparisons very difficult.
 
Not debunking Smart Growth
Amid rapid urbanization, Gren and her colleagues are not arguing against the Smart Growth concept per se, but the authors consider it an “unfortunate time in history” that strong scientific knowledge and consensus is still lacking about the concept, considering the amount of cities being built. More research is needed, they argue.
 
Based on their review, the authors push for a research which includes three important issues:
Research must, to a greater degree, apply systems thinking in its understanding of urban processes
Making cities more resilient against for instance climate change effects must be a priority
Research must be founded in more advanced knowledge and consistent use of geospatial analysis
 
“The aim here is not to debunk Smart Growth but to argue for the need to set research on sustainable urban planning on firmer grounds,” co-author Johan Colding explains.
 
Gren, Å., Colding, J., Berghauser-Pont, M., Marcus, L. 2018. How smart is smart growth? Examining the environmental validation behind city compaction. Ambio DOI 10.1007/s13280-018-1087-y
 

How smart are smart cities?
2018-10-15

The Smart City is by far the fastest growing concept in the current urban sustainability literature and has been embraced by many politicians and city planners as a way forward for creating more sustainable cities. It comprises an urban development approach for integrating information and communication (ICT) technology and the so-called Internet of Things (IoT) technology to digitally connect a city’s infrastructure and services, in order to better manage and control them.  This can include collecting data from citizens, monitoring and managing traffic and transportation systems, power plants and water supply networks, and using information systems in remotely diagnosing patients for medical treatment. The idea is that by enhancing the quality, performance and interactivity of urban services, resource consumption and costs can be reduced.
 
Concerns for resilience and security
In two articles published during the year, Beijer Institute researcher and programme director Johan Colding and colleagues assess the Smart City concept from a social-ecological resilience perspective.
 
In the first article, in Journal of Cleaner Production, the authors identify critical gaps in the thriving literature on Smart Cities and point out that these deserve greater attention. They argue that the literature on Smart Cities needs to better address issues of resilience and cyber security, including how Smart City solutions may affect the autonomy of urban governance, personal integrity and infrastructures that provide inhabitants with basic needs, such as food, energy and water.
 
As Johan Colding explains: 
“We are already seeing vast internet- and computer technology problems related to hacking, sabotage and terrorism that could harm large-scale critical infrastructure, such as electricity, hospitals and other basic services. However, the issue of security is largely absent from the literature.”
 
Connecting technologies – disconnecting to nature?
Another issue that deserves greater attention, according to the study, is how Smart City developments may change human-nature interactions, for instance whether they hinder or support children’s learning and psychological connection with nature. 
 
“Smart City policies may unintentionally further disconnect citizens from nature experiences. Hence, we argue that it is critical to move from a solely sociotechnological focus of the Smart City framework to a more biosociotechnical focus, integrating ecology and including the role of ecosystem services as technologies and promoting reconnection to the biosphere”, emphasises Johan Colding.
 
Enerqy effiency
In a second article, in Environment and Planning B, the authors call for a greater societal debate on smart cities, raising the question of whether, if carried too far, digitalisation could result in diminishing return on energy savings and create unmanageably complex cities. They predict that, as more people and things are connected by IoT, the complexity of urban systems will increase over time and they point out that throughout the history of human civilisation, increasing complexity has led to growth in energy consumption.
Finally, in a forthcoming article Johan Colding and colleagues elaborate on the role different kinds of disturbance play in the context of Smart City development. They indicate some critical features that developers and planners need to consider carefully and propose a set of policy recommendations for ensuring more resilient development of city digitalisation.
References:
Colding, J. and S. Barthel. 2017. An urban ecology critique on the “Smart City” model. Journal of Cleaner Production 164:95-101.
Colding, J., M. Colding and S. Barthel. 2018. The smart city model: A new panacea for urban sustainability or unmanageable complexity? Environment and Planning B: Urban Analytics and City Science. First online. 10.1177/2399808318763164.
Colding, J., M. Colding and S. Barthel. In preparation. The Smart City as an ecosystem: applying resilience thinking on the digital city.
 
 

Healthy fish, healthy people – reducing antimicrobial use in aquaculture
2018-10-15

Global seafood provides almost 20% of all animal protein in diets and aquaculture is the fastest growing food sector worldwide. The intensification of fish and shrimp farming systems has been accompanied by increased use of antimicrobials (AMs), which are hazardous to both human health and the industry itself. In an attempt to reverse this trend, a study by Beijer Institute scientists, which is reported in Sustainability Science, identifies some key drivers behind the overuse in different sectors and regions, and suggests ways to reduce it. The good news is there is much room for improvement.
 
“One of the findings, which was most surprising, is that much of the overuse is due to pure lack of knowledge”, says lead author Patrik Henriksson. “This means there are multiple measures for reducing AM use that can be applied at different levels of the value chain.”
 
The dangers of overuse
Successful treatment with AMs constitutes the foundation of modern medicine and the spread of AMR bacteria has been classified by the World Health Organization (WHO) as one of the major threats to the human population in the twenty-first century. Today, the amount of AMs used for animals is much higher compared than that used to treat humans and even involves some AMs that are deemed critically important in human medicine.
 
While AM use in aquaculture is lower than that in meat production on land, in light of the expected rapid future growth in aquaculture (doubling by 2030), it is critical to come to terms with overuse. 
 
Underlying factors and regional measures
The study provides a systematic overview of reasons behind usage. In particular, six drivers are identified as key: vulnerability to bacterial disease (which varies between species and regions), easy access to AMs, poor disease diagnostic capacity, AMR (caused by overuse, triggering even more use), poor food safety regulations in target markets, and lack of certification.
 
Building knowledge around these can enable local governments to reduce AM use through farmer training, spatial planning, assistance with disease identification and stricter regulations, the study concludes.
 
“There is a lot to be gained from training farmers in correct diagnosis of disease, how to use AMs and the consequences of overuse”, Patrik Henriksson explains, “not to mention training in better hygiene and other measures to prevent pathogens entering farms or hatcheries in the first place, thereby reducing the risk of disease outbreak”. He points outs that the aquaculture industry largely consists of small-scale, sometimes uneducated, farmers who often overuse AMs in their production. 
 
National and international action also needed
Moreover, national governments and international organisations could assist by producing disease-free fish seed and vaccines, enforcing rigid monitoring of the quantity and quality of antimicrobials used by farmers, and minimising antimicrobial residues in farmed species and in the environment. 
 
“Lack of regulations in many low- and middle-income countries, or inadequate enforcement of existing regulations, has incentivised restrictions on AM residues in seafood imported to high income countries”, says study co-author Max Troell. While this is an important mechanism to limit AM use, it only applies to internationally traded products and leaves production aimed for domestic consumption largely unregulated. The authors conclude that a better solution would be to limit access to AMs nationally, for example by banning specifically harmful AMs or requiring veterinary certificates for every purchase, measures that have proved successful in higher-income countries. 
 
While the focus of the study was on the aquaculture industry, the authors acknowledge the importance of a “One Health” perspective to find global solutions – which means that all sectors using AMs need to work together.
 
Henriksson, P.J.G., A. Rico, M. Troell, D.H. Klinger, A.H. Buschmann, S. Saksida, M.V. Chadag and W. Zhang. 2018. Unpacking factors influencing antimicrobial use in global aquaculture and their implication for management: A review from a systems perspective. Sustainability Science 13(4):1105-1120.

 

Feeding 10 billion people by 2050 within planetary limits may be achievable
2018-10-10

A global shift towards healthy and more plant-based diets, halving food loss and waste, and improving farming practices and technologies are required to feed 10 billion people sustainably by 2050, a new study finds. Adopting these options reduces the risk of crossing global environmental limits related to climate change, the use of agricultural land, the extraction of freshwater resources, and the pollution of ecosystems through overapplication of fertilizers, according to the researchers.

The study, published in the journal Nature, and co-authored by Beijer Institute researcher Max Troell, is the first to quantify how food production and consumption affects the planetary boundaries that describe a safe operating space for humanity beyond which Earth’s vital systems could become unstable.

“No single solution is enough to avoid crossing planetary boundaries. But when the solutions are implemented together, our research indicates that it may be possible to feed the growing population sustainably,” says Dr Marco Springmann of the Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food and the Nuffield Department of Population Health at the University of Oxford, who led the study.

“Without concerted action, we found that the environmental impacts of the food system could increase by 50-90% by 2050 as a result of population growth and the rise of diets high in fats, sugars and meat. In that case, all planetary boundaries related to food production would be surpassed, some of them by more than twofold.”

The study, funded by EAT as part of the EAT-Lancet Commission for Food, Planet and Health and by Wellcome’s “Our Planet, Our Health” partnership on Livestock Environment and People, combined detailed environmental accounts with a model of the global food system that tracks the production and consumption of food across the world. With this model, the researchers analysed several options that could keep the food system within environmental limits. They found:

  • Climate change cannot be sufficiently mitigated without dietary changes towards more plant-based diets. Adopting more plant-based “flexitarian” diets globally could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than half, and also reduce other environmental impacts, such as fertilizer application and the use of cropland and freshwater, by a tenth to a quarter.
  • In addition to dietary changes, improving management practices and technologies in agriculture is required to limit pressures on agricultural land, freshwater extraction, and fertilizer use. Increasing agricultural yields from existing cropland, balancing application and recycling of fertilizers, and improving water management, could, along with other measures, reduce those impacts by around half.
  • Finally, halving food loss and waste is needed for keeping the food system within environmental limits. Halving food loss and waste could, if globally achieved, reduce environmental impacts by up to a sixth (16%).

“Many of the solutions we analysed are being implemented in some parts of the world, but it will need strong global co-ordination and rapid upscale to make their effects felt,” says Springmann.

“Improving farming technologies and management practices will require increasing investment in research and public infrastructure, the right incentive schemes for farmers, including support mechanisms to adopt best available practices, and better regulation, for example of fertilizer use and water quality,” says Line Gordon, executive director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre and an author on the report.

Fabrice de Clerck, director of science at EAT says, “Tackling food loss and waste will require measures across the entire food chain, from storage, and transport, over food packaging and labelling to changes in legislation and business behaviour that promote zero-waste supply chains.”

“When it comes to diets, comprehensive policy and business approaches are essential to make dietary changes towards healthy and more plant-based diets possible and attractive for a large number of people.” adds Springmann.

Aquaculture can be a part of this transformation, according to Max Troell: “Farmed seafood, both in the sea and on land, can play a bigger role in the future. But there is a need to include differences between sea food products in the models, related to health and environmental impacts.”

Reference: Springmann, M., M. Clark, D. Mason-D’Croz, K. Wiebe, B. L. Bodirsky, L. Lassaletta, W. de Vries, S. J. Vermeulen, M. Herrero, K.M. Carlson, M. Jonell, M. Troell, F. DeClerck, L. J. Gordon, R. Zurayk, P. Scarborough, M. Rayner, B. Loken, J. Fanzo, H. C. J. Godfray, D. Tilman, J. Rockström and W. Willett. 2018. Options for keeping the food system within environmental limits. Nature 562:519-525. 

W. Brian Arthur new senior research fellow
2018-08-20

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
2018-08-13

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
Owen.gaffney@su.se
Phone: +46 (0) 734604833

 
 

 

Nudging the neighbourhood
2018-05-08

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: doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00352
 

Engaging children and youth as agents for sustainability
2018-03-20

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 www.stockholmresilience.org/stockholmseminars 

Carl Folke receives honorary degrees
2018-03-19

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
2018-03-05

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 cCHANGE.no, 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 www.stockholmresilience.org/stockholmseminars 

 

 
 

 

Symposium video: Scenarios for a warmer Arctic
2018-02-06

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
2018-01-09

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
2017-12-27

“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
2017-11-23

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.
 
 
About ACCESS
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
2017-11-15

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
2017-11-08

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: chris@beijer.kva.se) by December 13, 2017.

For more information on how to apply read here

The 2017 Gunnerus Award in Sustainability Science to Carl Folke
2017-08-29

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
2017-08-21

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
2017-08-21

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