Justice key to live within Earth system boundaries

03/02/2023 - To ensure a safe and just future for people, nature and the planet Earth System Boundaries must include justice. That is the result of a new study investigated by international team of scientists from the Earth Commission, amongst them PIK Director Johan Rockström.
Justice key to live within Earth system boundaries
Photo: NASA/Unsplash

„Increasing human exposure to climate extremes, ecosystem degradation, water scarcity and pollution, all these threaten peoples lives today, while undermining the stability of the planet, which will hit back even harder tomorrow”, says Johan Rockström, Director of Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research PIK and co-author of the study. “A change towards a more just resource consumption is essential so that the needs of all humans can be met while at the same time securing justice between species and ensuring a stable Earth system.”
"A conclusion is", Rockström continues, "that the ultimate definition of human justice today - when we are putting the livability on Earth at risk, is everyone's right to a stable planet".

In the paper, the researchers argue that Earth System Boundaries must not only ensure the stability of the planet but also protect humans and other species from significant harm. This includes avoiding tradeoffs, and ensuring that we meet the goals of sustainable development in guaranteeing that everyone has access to energy, food, water and other resources for a dignified life.

At the core of Earth System Justice the researchers consider the need for justice among present nations, communities and individuals (Intragenerational Justice), justice for future generations (Intergenerational justice) and for other living things and Earth system stability (Interspecies Justice and Earth system stability).

The Earth Commission is the scientific cornerstone of the Global Commons Alliance. The research comes ahead of an associated Earth Commission report due out in early 2023 that defines ‘safe and just’ ‘Earth System Boundaries’ (ESBs) to safeguard a stable and resilient planet.


Joyeeta Gupta, Diana Liverman, Klaudia Prodani, Paulina Aldunce, Xuemei Bai, Wendy Broadgate, Daniel Ciobanu, Lauren Gifford, Christopher Gordon, Margot Hurlbert, Cristina Inoue, Lisa Jacobson, Norichika Kanie, Steven Lade, Timothy Lenton, David Obura, Chukwumerije Okereke, Ilona Otto, Laura Pereira & Peter Verburg (2023): "Earth system justice needed to identify and live within Earth system boundaries". Nature Sustainability. [DOI:10.1038/s41893-023-01064-]


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