Johan Rockström is an internationally recognized scientist for his work on global sustainability issues. He 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; 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, Mattias Klum; co-authored Water Resilience for Human Prosperity (2014); and Bankrupting Nature (2012) co-authored with Swedish writer and politician, Anders Wijkman.
As a compelling speaker, he engages with popular media on issues relating to sustainable development. Most notably:
Awards and achievements (selected)
Research news | 2017-08-08
Centre scientists and CEO’s of world largest seafood companies form coalition to turn seafood industry more sustainable. New PNAS study highlights the importance and process of science-business partnerships
Research news | 2017-07-02
Centre director Johan Rockström co-authors six-point plan for turning the tide of the world’s carbon dioxide by 2020
General news | 2017-06-13
Centre director selected from a global short-list of remarkable candidates demonstrating "extraordinary leadership in mid-career"
General news | 2017-06-02
Centre director Johan Rockström addresses Donald Trump's decision to pull the US out of the Paris climate accord
Presentation by Johan Rockström during World Economic Forum 2017
Johan Rockström and Friedman discuss governance, global sustainability and why everything changed during a game show in 2011
New initiative will help establish pathways to attain the UN Sustainable Development Goals
Clear message from Side event to the UN Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals
2017 - Journal / article
The ocean is under considerable pressure originating from diverse human activities on land and in the water. While substantial literature has focused on how science interacts with policy, relatively little is known about interactions between science and business. Here, we describe: ( i ) the process of identifying “keystone actors” in marine ecosystems, namely globally operating corporations engaged in fisheries and aquacultu...
2017 - Journal / article
There is an ongoing debate on what constitutes sustainable intensification of agriculture (SIA). In this paper, we propose that a paradigm for sustainable intensification can be defined and translated into an operational framework for agricultural development. We argue that this paradigm must now be defined—at all scales—in the context of rapidly rising global environmental changes in the Anthropocene, while focusing on eradic...
2017 - Journal / article
Although the Paris Agreement's goals (1) are aligned with science (2) and can, in principle, be technically and economically achieved (3), alarming inconsistencies remain between science-based targets and national commitments. Despite progress during the 2016 Marrakech climate negotiations, long-term goals can be trumped by political short-termism. Following the Agreement, which became international law earlier than expected, ...
2016 - Journal / article
This study tests the applicability of the curve number (CN) method within the Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) to estimate surface runoff at the watershed scale in tropical regions. To do this, surface runoff simulated using the CN method was compared with observed runoff in numerous rainfall-runoff events in three small tropical watersheds located in the Upper Blue Nile basin, Ethiopia. The CN method generally performed ...