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, Matias 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)
General news | 2016-12-19
Johan Rockström awarded the French distinction Knight of the Legion of Honour
Research news | 2016-12-14
“Keystone dialogue" between scientists and seafood-industry leaders creates breakthrough in ocean stewardship
Research news | 2016-11-25
Amid rapid change, new Arctic Resilience Report identifies 19 tipping points and need to prepare for surprises
Research news | 2016-10-17
An integrated perspective of humans-in-nature more important than ever for both science and development
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
Ending poverty and safeguarding Earth's life support system must be twin priorities
2016 - Journal / article
The scale of the decarbonisation challenge to meet the Paris Agreement is underplayed in the public arena. It will require precipitous emissions reductions within 40 years and a new carbon sink on the scale of the ocean sink. Even then, the world is extremely likely to overshoot. A catastrophic failure of policy, for example, waiting another decade for transformative policy and full commitments to fossil-free economies, will h...
2016 - Journal / article
Humanity has emerged as a major force in the operation of the biosphere. The focus is shifting from the environment as externality to the biosphere as precondition for social justice, economic development, and sustainability. In this article, we exemplify the intertwined nature of social-ecological systems and emphasize that they operate within, and as embedded parts of the biosphere and as such coevolve with and depend on it...
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 suitabil...