Executive director, Professor

Coordinator to Johan Rockström:

+46 8 674 71 83

Staff profile

Johan Rockström is the executive director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre and a professor of environmental science at Stockholm University

Profile summary

  • Global sustainability
  • Sustainable development
  • Planetary boundaries
  • Public engagement
  • Policy
  • Water resources
  • Natural resource management

Contact Coordinator to Johan Rockström

Johan Rockström is an internationally recognized scientist for his work on global sustainability issues. He is one of the leading scientific commentators in Scandinavian media on global environmental, social, and economic challenges relating to climate, energy, food security, water, human health, and human wellbeing.

Rockström helped lead the internationally renowned team of scientists that presented the planetary boundaries framework, first published in 2009 with an update in 2015. The nine planetary boundaries presented in the framework are argued to be fundamental in maintaining a “safe operating space for humanity.” This framework has been embraced as an approach to sustainable development, and has been used to help guide governments, international organizations, NGOs, and companies considering sustainable development.

Before focusing on the planetary scale, Rockström’s research aimed to address building resilience in water scarce regions, and is an expert on water resources. After completing a PhD at Stockholm University’s Systems Ecology Department in 1997, he spent nearly two decades working on applied water research in tropical regions. He has also published research on with agriculture systems, land use, and ecosystem services.

Aside from his research helping to guide policy, Rockström acts as an advisor to several governments and business networks. He also acts as an advisor for sustainable development issues at noteworthy international meetings, such as the United Nations General Assemblies, World Economic Forums, and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Conferences (UNFCCC, also known as COP).

He is chair of the steering committee for CGIAR’s Research Program on Water, Land, and Ecosystems; vice-chair of the science advisory board of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK); a member of the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN); as well as a member of several other committees and boards.

Rockström acts as chair of the advisory board for the EAT Foundation, a network that integrates knowledge on food, health, and sustainability to work towards providing environmental limits for healthy diets of the growing global population. He is one of 20 international scientists working on the EAT-Lancet Commission, an assessment of the global food system, and whether a transformation towards healthy and sustainable diets is possible. This assessment is the first systematic analysis of the food system at the global scale, and is due for completion in 2017.

Rockström has published over 100 research articles, including articles in Science and Nature, as well as 20 book chapters. He has also published four books: The Human Quest (2012) and Big World Small Planet (2015) with National Geographic photographer, Matias Klum; co-authored Water Resilience for Human Prosperity (2014); and Bankrupting Nature (2012) co-authored with Swedish writer and politian, Anders Wijkman.

As a compelling speaker, he engages with popular media on issues relating to sustainable development. Most notably:

Awards and achievements (selected)

  • German Environmental Award (Deutsche Umweltpreis) (2015)
  • Zoological Society of London Award for Conservation Innovation (2015)
  • The Woods Hole Research Center's Lawrence Huntington Environmental Prize (2014)
  • Marsh Award for Climate Change Research, British Ecological Society (2013)
  • Agronomist of the Year, Swedish Association of Professional Scientists (2013)
  • Sweden’s Most Influential Person on the Environment, MiljöAktuellt (2012, 2013), and within the top 10 (2010, 2011, 2014)
  • FOKUS magazine Swede of the Year (2009)

Related info

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Photo credit: M. Axelsson/Azote


Publications by Rockström, Johan

Suitability of Water Harvesting in the Upper Blue Nile Basin, Ethiopia: A First Step towards a Mesoscale Hydrological Modeling Framework

Dile, Y.T., Rockström, J., Karlberg, L.

2016 - Journal / article

Extreme rainfall variability has been one of the major factors to famine and environmental degradation in Ethiopia. The potential for water harvesting in the Upper Blue Nile Basin was assessed using two GIS-based Multicriteria Evaluation methods: (1) a Boolean approach to locate suitable areas for in situ and ex situ systems and (2) a weighted overlay analysis to classify suitable areas into different water harvesting suitability levels. The sensitivity of the results was analyzed to the influence given to different constraining factors. A large part of the basin was suitable for water harvesting: the Boolean analysis showed that 36% of the basin was suitable for in situ and ex situ systems, while the weighted overlay analysis showed that 6–24% of the basin was highly suitable. Rainfall has the highest influence on suitability for water harvesting. Implementing water harvesting in nonagricultural land use types may further increase the benefit. Assessing water harvesting suitability at the larger catchment scale lays the foundation for modeling of water harvesting at mesoscale, which enables analysis of the potential and implications of upscaling of water harvesting practices for building resilience against climatic shocks. A complete water harvesting suitability study requires socioeconomic analysis and stakeholder consultation.

Rockström, Johan

Stockholm Resilience Centre is a collaboration between Stockholm University and the Beijer Institute of Ecological Economics at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences

Stockholm Resilience Centre
Stockholm University, Kräftriket 2B
Phone: +46 8 674 70 70

Organisation number: 202100-3062
VAT No: SE202100306201