Horses for courses: Analytical tools to explore planetary boundaries

Author(s): van Vuuren, D.P., P.L. Lucas, T. Häyhä, S.E. Cornell, M. Stafford-Smith
In: Earth System Dynamics Discussions
Year: 2015
Type: Journal / article
Link to centre authors: Cornell, Sarah, Häyhä, Tiina
Full reference: van Vuuren, D.P., P.L. Lucas, T. Häyhä, S.E. Cornell, M. Stafford-Smith. 2015. Horses for courses: Analytical tools to explore planetary boundaries. Earth System Dynamics Discussions 6: 1711–1741


There is a need for more integrated research on sustainable development and global environmental change. In this paper, we focus on the planetary boundaries framework to provide a systematic categorization of key research questions in relation to avoiding severe global environmental degradation.

The four categories of key questions are those that relate to (1) the underlying processes and selection of key indicators for planetary
boundaries, (2) understanding the impacts of environmental pressure and connections between different type of impacts, (3) better understanding of different response strategies to avoid further degradation, and (4) the available instruments to implement such strategies. Clearly, different categories of scientific disciplines and
associated model types exist that can accommodate answering these questions.

We identify the strength and weaknesses of different research areas in relation to the question categories, focusing specifically on different
types of models. We discuss that more interdisciplinary research is need to increase our understanding by better linking human drivers and social and biophysical impacts.

This requires better collaboration between relevant disciplines (associated with the model types), either by exchanging information or by fully linking or integratin them. As fully integrated models can become too complex, the appropriate type of model (the racehorse) should be applied for answering the target research question (the race course).


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