Click on image to download illustration. Credit: J. Lokrantz/Azote based on Steffen et al. 2015.

Planetary boundaries research

The planetary boundaries concept presents a set of nine planetary boundaries within which humanity can continue to develop and thrive for generations to come

In 2009, former centre director Johan Rockström led a group of 28 internationally renowned scientists to identify the nine processes that regulate the stability and resilience of the Earth system. The scientists proposed quantitative planetary boundaries within which humanity can continue to develop and thrive for generations to come. Crossing these boundaries increases the risk of generating large-scale abrupt or irreversible environmental changes. Since then the planetary boundaries framework has generated enormous interest within science, policy, and practice.

Click here to watch Johan Rockström introduce the Planetary Boundaries framework at TED Global 2010.

Read more about how the research on the planetary boundaries came about

Click here to learn more about each of the nine planetary boundaries

Key publications and further research

2009

Ecology & Society: Planetary Boundaries: Exploring the Safe Operating Space for Humanity

Nature: a special section and feature article published in Nature

2015

Most recent update of the framework, published in Science. It stated that society’s activities have pushed climate change, biodiversity loss, shifts in nutrient cycles (nitrogen and phosphorus), and land use beyond the boundaries into unprecedented territory.

Planetary boundaries: Guiding human development on a changing planet

Click here to access figures and data for the updated planetary boundaries framework

2017

From 2017, Johan Rockström’s ERC Advanced Grant Earth Resilience in the Anthropocene is funding an exciting new phase in this work. Centre researchers including Sarah Cornell, Tiina Häyhä, Ingo Fetzer, Steve Lade, Andrea Downing, Jonathan Donges, and Avit Bhowmik have all been actively involved in advancing these frontier areas, and building collaborative research links among a growing international community of scientists.

Policy and practice

2011

Former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged global society to “Help us defend the science that shows we are destabilising our climate and stretching planetary boundaries to a perilous degree.”

Centre researchers kept planetary boundaries in the forefront of policy-advisory processes leading up to the agreement of the global Sustainable Development Goals. Policy-makers working at national and European levels are also interested, catalysing a research network, PB-net.org, which links scientists involved in translating the global framework to operational decision-making scales.

2013-2016

A report to the Swedish Environmental Protection AgencyPDF (pdf, 901.8 kB) assessed Sweden’s responsibility, and a 2016 study for the European Environment Agency assessed the contribution to global boundaries both of activities within Europe’s territory and of effects of its citizens’ consumption. Increasingly, companies are asking for guidance on putting the planetary boundaries into business practice.

The World Business Council on Sustainable Development, a forum for 200 companies including some of the best-known brands in the world, used the planetary boundaries framework to shape their Action 2020 strategy. Since then, there has been further engagement with companies in financial investment, food, textiles, building, technology, and household goods sectors.

2017

Stockholm Resilience Centre became the scientific partner in a research project with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and the Swedish clothing retailer H&M group, working to integrate the planetary boundaries framework and the circular economy concept.

Related content

  • Publications
    Here you can find the original articles behind the research along with related publications
  • Background
    How did the research on the planetary boundaries come about?
  • About the research
    Since the planetary boundaries were first presented in 2009, researchers from around the world have sought to advance the concept

Contact

Related info

For direct inquiries about the planetary boundaries concept and its research, please contact Sarah Cornell, Planetary boundaries coordinator

sarah.cornell@su.se
Phone +46 (0) 73 707 8580

Key publications

Rockström, J., W. Steffen, K. Noone, Å. Persson, et.al. 2009. Planetary boundaries:exploring the safe operating space for humanity. Ecology and Society 14(2): 32

Rockström, J., Steffen, W., Noone, K., Persson, Å., et.al. 2009. A safe operating space for humanity. Nature 461: 472-475 DOI 10.1038/461472a

Steffen, W., K. Richardson, J. Rockström, S.E. Cornell, et.al. 2015. Planetary boundaries: Guiding human development on a changing planet. Science 347: 736, 1259855

Download illustrations

The illustrations are free to use in publications, scientific or otherwise, describing the planetary boundaries concept. Correct credit is required.

Download 2015 Planetary Boundaries illustration (credit: J. Lokrantz/Azote based on Steffen et al. 2015)

Download 2015 Planetary Boundaries illustration in black and white (Credit: J. Lokrantz/Azote based on Steffen et al. 2015)

Download Swedish version of 2015 Planetary Boundaries illustration (Credit: J. Lokrantz/Azote based on Steffen et al. 2015)

Download Spanish version of 2015 Planetary Boundaries illustration
(Credit: J. Lokrantz/Azote based on Steffen et al. 2015)

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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
SE-10691
Phone: +46 8 674 70 70
info@stockholmresilience.su.se

Organisation number: 202100-3062
VAT No: SE202100306201