Planetary boundaries: Challenges for science, civil society and politics

Cover Planetary Boundaries
Keppner, Benno; Walter Kahlenborn, Holger Hoff, Wolfgang Lucht and Dieter Gerten 2020: Planetary boundaries: Challenges for science, civil society and politics. Dessau-Roßlau: Umweltbundesamt.

The planetary boundaries concept was formulated in 2009 by an international research group led by Johan Rockström, and revised in 2015 by Will Steffen and colleagues. The concept emerged against the background of the  Anthropocene – a period of time associated with rapidly growing environmental pressures, and increasing degradation and scarcity of global environmental resources, which intensifies risks for the stability and functioning of the Earth system. This creates the danger of reaching so-called tipping points, which permanently destabilize ecosystems and thus also socio-economic systems or affect the resiliency of the Earth system through gradual change.

The most important challenge for further work on the planetary boundaries concept, beside scientific development and revision, is to translate and operationalise the concept. The project Planetary Boundaries - Challenges for Science, Civil Society and Policy took on this challenge and examined the strength, weaknesses, opportunities and risks of the concept. The goal was to analyse the requirements this concept places on politics, science, civil society, and business and to compile concrete information for its political implementation.

This report summarises the results of the project. After an introduction to the planetary boundaries concept, it explains our current knowledge about the risks when crossing these boundaries and analyses the concept of the Anthropocene. Additional focus topics are approaches to disaggregating the concept, the potential for environmental communication, and the promotion of a national integrated nitrogen strategy.