Science for Global Sustainability: Toward a New Paradigm

CID Faculty Working Paper No. 120

William C. Clark, Paul J. Crutzen, and Hans J. Schellnhuber
March 2005

A publication of CID's Science, Environment and Development Group

Originally published in Earth System Analysis for Sustainability, edited by Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, Paul J. Crutzen, William C. Clark, Martin Claussen, and Hermann Held. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Also published as Faculty Research Working Paper RWP05-032. Cambridge, MA: Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.


This paper provides a context for the Dahlem Workshop on “Earth System Analysis for Sustainability.” The authors begin by characterizing the contemporary epoch of Earth history in which humanity has emerged as a major—and uniquely self-reflexive—geological force. They turn next to the extraordinary revolution in our understanding of the Earth system that is now underway, pointing out how it has built on and qualitatively extended the approaches that have served science and society so well since the first Copernican revolution. The authors then discuss the novel challenges posed by the urgent need to harness science and other forms of knowledge in promoting a worldwide sustainability transition that enhances human prosperity while protecting the Earth’s life-support systems and reducing hunger and poverty. Finally, the authors provide an overview of how the contributions to this Dahlem Workshop addressed the themes and challenges outlined in this introductory chapter.

Keywords: Dahlem Workshop, sustainability science, sustainable development, sustainability transition, Earth system analysis, Earth system science, integrated systems, global environmental change, science and technology, Wissenschaft, adaptive management, social learning, vulnerability, resilience, knowledge systems, guidance systems, institutions

JEL subject codes: Q01, Q56, O19, O31, O32, O33, Z13, F02, H87, I3