Johan Rockström Chairs Newly Launched Earth Commission

19/09/2019 - The initiative of 20 globally renowned scientists on Earth Systems sets out to identify the concrete risks climate change brings for cities and firms. They aim to delineate the exact scientific borders of what our Planet can bear in terms of human-made climatic changes. Specifically, the commission will elaborate concrete tangible targets for cities and firms, thus scientifically underpinning tailored Goals for Land, Water, Oceans, and Biodiversity.
Johan Rockström Chairs Newly Launched Earth Commission
The Earth Commission sets out to identify risks, guardrails, and targets for the Planet. Photo: Earth Commission

“This year’s fires in the Amazon, the rapidly warming Arctic, dying coral reefs, and unprecedented heat waves and floods across the world are the clearest signals yet that human activities are pushing the planet further and further from the stable state we have enjoyed for 10,000 years,” says Prof Johan Rockström, Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and co-chair of Future Earth. The Earth Commission is charged with providing the science defining the environmental boundary conditions for a stable Earth system - in simple terms, the equivalent of the ‘2 degrees Celsius’ boundary for climate change for all of the planet’s systems essential to human well-being. 

PIK director Johan Rockström, Joyeeta Gupta of the University of Amsterdam and Qin Dahe, Director of the Chinese Academy of Sciences will co-chair the Earth Commission. Altogether, it will comprise an initial 20 members, as was announced today by the international research organisation Future Earth. In addition to Rockström, Prof. Ricarda Winkelmann, who is an expert on ice sheet dynamics and tipping points at PIK, is also a member of the commission. They will develop the first holistic, Earth-wide approach to defining scientific targets specific to large cities and firms and help create a stable, resilient planet. The group will immediately begin its work on a high-level synthesis of scientific knowledge on the biophysical processes that regulate Earth’s stability and the conditions that define their boundaries. The report, expected in roughly two years, will also present an overview of the social transformations required for sustainable development on the planet.

The Earth Commission’s findings shall serve to develop practical goals for sustainably managing land, water, oceans, and biodiversity. Beyond that, a new Science Based Targets Network (SBTN) comprised of leading NGOs will work to translate and operationalise the information into achievable, science-based targets for companies and cities worldwide. “We will work closely with SBTN to ensure our analysis is useful and implementable, and how our analysis can provide guidance for development at, for example, a river basin scale,” says Rockström.

The 19 commissioners include leading scientists in both natural and social sciences from 13 countries: Argentina, Australia (2), China (2), France, Germany (2), Ghana, India, Japan, Kenya, Netherlands (2), the United Kingdom, and the United States (4).

Website of the Earth Commission listing all members:

Website of Future of the Earth: