- Global sustainability
- Sustainable development
- Planetary boundaries
- Public engagement
- Water resources
- Natural resource management
Johan Rockström is a professor in environmental science with emphasis on water resources and global Sustainability
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:
- Appears alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in the documentary Before the Flood (2016)
- With over 39 000 shares, held one of the most listened to Swedish radio talks on the popular Sommar i P1 programme
- Presented two TED talks: How we can all become responsible stewards of Planet Earth (2013), and Let the environment guide our development (2010)
- Key lecturer in the well-received Planetary Boundaries and Human Opportunities massive open online course (MOOC) from SDG Academy
- Written a number of op-eds in English and Swedish media, such as in The Guardian and Svenska Dagbladet
Awards and achievements (selected)
- Laureate, Hillary Institute of International leadership (2017)
- French distinction Knight of the Legion of Honour (2016)
- Environmental Award (Deutsche Umweltpreis) (2015)
- International Cosmos Prize (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)
News articles with Rockström, Johan
Research news | 2023-05-31
Groundbreaking study quantifies safe and just Earth system boundaries
International commission proposes new safe and just boundaries for maintaining a healthy planet and protecting people from significant harm
Research news | 2023-05-11
Building back better: Resilience means more than bouncing back
Adapting, transforming and creating new ways of functioning as a society: This is how reshaping a resilient future in the aftermath of a shock should look like, argue researchers
General news | 2023-04-14
Centre co-founder Johan Rockström listed among TIME’s 100 most influential people of the year
Centre researcher and co-founder Johan Rockström made it onto the TIME100, the TIME magazine’s annual list of the hundred most influential people in the world
Research news | 2023-03-02
Planetary boundaries must include justice, say researchers
Earth system boundaries must not only ensure the stability of the planet but also protect humans and other species from significant harm
Publications by Rockström, Johan
A planetary boundary for green water
Journal / article | 2022
Green water — terrestrial precipitation, evaporation and soil moisture — is fundamental to Earth system dynamics and is now extensively perturbed by human pressures at continental to planetary scales. However, green water lacks explicit consideration in the existing planetary boundaries framework that demarcates a global safe operating space for humanity. In this Perspective, we propose a green water planetary boundary and es...
Scientific mobilization of keystone actors for biosphere stewardship
Journal / article | 2022
The biosphere crisis requires changes to existing business practices. We ask how corporations can become sustainability leaders, when constrained by multiple barriers to collaboration for biosphere stewardship. We describe how scientists motivated, inspired and engaged with ten of the world’s largest seafood companies, in a collaborative process aimed to enable science-based and systemic transformations (2015–2021). CEOs face...
Defining a sustainable development target space for 2030 and 2050
Journal / article | 2022
With the establishment of the sustainable development goals (SDGs), countries worldwide agreed to a prosperous, socially inclusive, and environmentally sustainable future for all. This ambition, however, exposes a critical gap in science-based insights, namely on how to achieve the 17 SDGs simultaneously. Quantitative goal-seeking scenario studies could help explore the needed systems' transformations. This requires a clear de...
Human well-being in the Anthropocene: limits to growth
Journal / article | 2021
Transformation of the world towards sustainability in line with the 2030 Agenda requires progress on multiple dimensions of human well-being. We track development of relevant indicators for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 1–7 against gross domestic product (GDP) per person in seven world regions and the world as a whole. Across the regions, we find uniform development patterns where SDGs 1–7 – and therefore main human nee...