Remembering Professor Will Steffen

01/31/2023 - The Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research PIK is grieving Will Steffen, Emeritus Professor at the Australian National University ANU in Canberra, Australia. The climate scientist passed away on 29 January at the age of 75.
Remembering Professor Will Steffen
Will Steffen. Photo: ANU

Will Steffen was a close and valued collaborator to PIK, especially to the PIK Earth Resilience team, and an affiliated guest professor at PIK since 2018. With his passing, the world has lost a courageous and brilliant Earth system scientist and an inspiring advisor and communicator.

Steffen was also one of the spiritual fathers of the planetary boundaries framework. He led the work providing the evidence of the "Great acceleration" of the human enterprise on Earth from the 1950s, laying the foundation for the conclusion that we are now in the Anthropocene Epoch. Will tirelessly provided evidence to the Anthropocene Working Group (AWG) of the sub-commission of Quaternary Stratigraphy, and was a core member of the ERC “Earth Resilience in the Anthropocene” project, jointly coordinated at PIK and the Stockholm Resilience Centre SRC.

With a long history in international global change research, Steffen paved the way for much of today’s climate policies: Originally from the US, he led the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP), based in Stockholm, Sweden, from 1998 to 2004. From 2004 to 2011, Steffen served as science adviser on climate change policy to the Australian Government and was Councilor with the independent Climate Council of Australia. He was also the Inaugural Director of the ANU Climate Change Institute, from 2008-2012. Prior to that, he led the ANU Fenner School of Environment and Society.

One of his many outstanding publications is the 2018 scientific essay about a possible scenario of unstoppable, devastating climate change, described as a “Hothouse Earth”.

Will Steffen will be dearly missed as an outstanding scientist, person, and friend.

Obituary by Katherine Richardson and Johan Rockström:


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