By Topic

Earth System Analysis for Sustainability

Cover Image Copyright Year: 2004
Author(s): Hans Joachim Schellnhuber; Paul J. Crutzen; William C. Clark; Martin Claussen; Hermann Held
Publisher: MIT Press
Content Type : Books & eBooks
Topics: Geoscience
  • Print

Abstract

Earth System Analysis for Sustainability uses an integrated systems approach to provide a panoramic view of planetary dynamics since the inception of life some four billion years ago and to identify principles for responsible management of the global environment in the future. Perceiving our planet as a single entity with hypercomplex, often unpredictable behavior, the authors use Earth system analysis to study global changes past and future. They explore the question of whether the unprecedented human-originated changes transforming the ecosphere today will end a 10,000-year period of climate stability.The book presents the complete story of the inseparably intertwined evolution of life and matter on Earth, focusing on four major topics: long-term geosphere-biosphere interaction and the possibility of using extrasolar planets to test various geophysical hypotheses; the Quaternary Earth System's modes of operation; current planetary dynamics under human pressure; and transition to global sustainability. Written by leading figures in the disciplines of geology, climatology, evolution, biogeochemistry, macroeconomics, and institutions theory, Earth System Analysis for Sustainability analyzes the driving forces behind global change and uses this knowledge to propose principles to propose principles for global stewardship.

  •   Click to expandTable of Contents

    • Full text access may be available. Click article title to sign in or learn about subscription options.

      Front Matter

      Hans Joachim Schellnhuber ; Paul J. Crutzen ; William C. Clark ; Martin Claussen ; Hermann Held Page(s): i - xiv
      Copyright Year: 2004

      MIT Press eBook Chapters

      This chapter contains sections titled: Half Title, Title, Copyright, Contents, Dahlem Workshops, List of Participants View full abstract»

    • Full text access may be available. Click article title to sign in or learn about subscription options.

      Science for Global Sustainability

      Hans Joachim Schellnhuber ; Paul J. Crutzen ; William C. Clark ; Martin Claussen ; Hermann Held Page(s): 1 - 28
      Copyright Year: 2004

      MIT Press eBook Chapters

      This chapter contains sections titled: Introduction, The Anthropocene, Earth System Science, Sustainability Science, Science And Society: A New Contract For Planetary Stewardship?, The Dahlem Contribution, References View full abstract»

    • Full text access may be available. Click article title to sign in or learn about subscription options.

      What Does History Teach Us about the Major Transitions and Role of Disturbances in the Evolution of Life and of the Earth System?

      Hans Joachim Schellnhuber ; Paul J. Crutzen ; William C. Clark ; Martin Claussen ; Hermann Held Page(s): 29 - 52
      Copyright Year: 2004

      MIT Press eBook Chapters

      This chapter explores the connections between the evolution of life and past changes of the Earth system. The concept of major transitions in evolution is extended beyond those associated with the storage and transmission of information to encompass those associated with the transformation of free energy and matter. A tentative synthesis of major transitions in the history of the Earth system is offered. Our review suggests that major transitions in the evolution of life are usually associated with major transitions in the global state of the environment, and that cause and effect are often difficult to disentangle. This is consistent with the notion that the Earth with abundant life is a tightly coupled feedback system (“Gaia”). It is unclear whether major transitions of life and of the planet are always associated, not least because there are a number of competing hypotheses to explain each major transition of the Earth system. External disturbances (e.g., asteroid impacts, massive volcanic eruptions) appear in some cases to have triggered significant transitions of the system between different (quasi-stable) states. However, the largest transitions in the state of the Earth system appear to have been internally generated with evolutionary innovation playing a leading role. View full abstract»

    • Full text access may be available. Click article title to sign in or learn about subscription options.

      Is Life an Unavoidable Planetary Phenomenon Given the Right Conditions?

      Hans Joachim Schellnhuber ; Paul J. Crutzen ; William C. Clark ; Martin Claussen ; Hermann Held Page(s): 53 - 71
      Copyright Year: 2004

      MIT Press eBook Chapters

      In this chapter we argue that life, in the form of simple cells, is a common phenomenon in the Universe, given suitable conditions. By contrast, intelligent life, in the sense of organisms having technological capabilities, is probably relatively rare and, in the case of terrestrial life, appears to have been the result of a long, relatively stable geological history of the planet, punctuated by a few key events that affected the whole planet for significant amounts of time, such as the global glaciations of the Proterozoic and the giant asteroid impact at the end of the Cretaceous. Given the subject, “life as a cosmic phenomenon,” we will unavoidably overlap with topics from other chapters in this volume because the conditions for the origin and evolution of terrestrial life are relevant. View full abstract»

    • Full text access may be available. Click article title to sign in or learn about subscription options.

      What Are the Necessary Conditions for Origin of Life and Subsequent Planetary Life-support Systems?

      Hans Joachim Schellnhuber ; Paul J. Crutzen ; William C. Clark ; Martin Claussen ; Hermann Held Page(s): 73 - 90
      Copyright Year: 2004

      MIT Press eBook Chapters

      In this chapter, some questions regarding the origin of life and the coevolution of the biosphere and geosphere are discussed. According to the Gaia theory, the environment is influenced by and for the benefit of the biosphere, but whether this occurs on all timescales is uncertain. Feedback from the biota to the geosphere is particularly strong for the composition of the atmosphere. Coevolution of the geosphere and biosphere may be investigated using a simple Earth system model. The scenario of an Archaean hothouse with a thermophilic early biosphere is presented. The life span of a photosynthesis-based biosphere is limited by the atmospheric content of carbon dioxide. The simplest living being is a prokaryotic cell organism. The interactions between biosphere and geosphere are realized via the cycling of elements such as carbon, phosphorus, nitrogen, and sulfur, where the carbon cycle is the most important. To evaluate the present Earth system, which is in a state of optimum self-regulation, an extended model is used that includes three different types of biosphere: prokaryotes, eukaryotes, and complex life, where prokaryotes are always the base for higher types of biosphere. View full abstract»

    • Full text access may be available. Click article title to sign in or learn about subscription options.

      Destiny of Humankind from an Astrobiology Point of View

      Hans Joachim Schellnhuber ; Paul J. Crutzen ; William C. Clark ; Martin Claussen ; Hermann Held Page(s): 91 - 110
      Copyright Year: 2004

      MIT Press eBook Chapters

      Astrobiology is a multidisciplinary approach used to study the origin, evolution, distribution, and future of life on Earth and in the cosmos and is based on the assumption that life is a universal planetary phenomenon if the right environmental conditions prevail. Such an approach helps to transform our Weltbild from a geocentric to a more Universe-oriented one. This chapter focuses on migration as a central attribute of life within the astrobiological context. Migration has been observed for terrestrial life throughout its more than 4 billion years (Ga) of history, across all domains of life. It appears, however, that migration is not confined to the planetary realm. It is argued that microbial life-forms can be transported by meteorites between the planets of our solar system. In addition, humans have now developed the technology to leave their home planet and to explore other bodies in our solar system. This evolutionary step is still in its infancy, with the Moon being the only celestial body visited so far, yet it is demonstrated that technology exists for more ambitious projects, such as a visit to the planet Mars. The issue of whether human spaceflight has the potential to promote peaceful cooperation on a global scale is discussed briefly. Finally, forced migration due to environmental degradation is considered, with a special emphasis on hypothetical scenarios of a future exodus from the Earth as a consequence of anthropogenic collapse of the planet's life-support systems. The conclusion is drawn that sustainable development on Terra should be achievable using only a tiny fraction of the efforts required for interplanetary mass transportation. View full abstract»

    • Full text access may be available. Click article title to sign in or learn about subscription options.

      Group Report: Long-term Geosphere-Biosphere Coevolution and Astrobiology

      Hans Joachim Schellnhuber ; Paul J. Crutzen ; William C. Clark ; Martin Claussen ; Hermann Held Page(s): 111 - 139
      Copyright Year: 2004

      MIT Press eBook Chapters

      This discussion group attempted a qualitatively new synthesis of long-term geosphere—biosphere coevolution, with the aim of understanding and presenting to the other groups the broadest possible context in which to consider Earth system analysis for sustainability. This included the prospects for detecting life and intelligence elsewhere in the Universe, as debated by astrobiology. The chemoton model of life comprising three autocatalytic subsystems (boundary, metabolic, genetic) was adopted. The topology of evolution was characterized as a network in the prokaryote realm and as a tree (or bush) in the eukaryote realm. It was agreed that prokaryotic life is common in the Universe but that eukaryotic life is rare and intelligent life is extremely rare. The appearance of intelligent life on a planet might theoretically involve four or five difficult evolutionary transitions along the way. These probably include the origins of the genetic code, of oxygenic photosynthesis, of eukaryotes, and of language. Optimistic and pessimistic scenarios for the long-term coevolution of the geosphere—biosphere were contrasted. A key finding was that dating of the major transitions in evolution and, to a lesser extent, dating of the major transitions in the state of the environment are subject to large error bars that need to be reduced in order to address the causal relationships of coevolution. A major output was a visualization of a time line of coevolution that includes these uncertainties. New suggestions of coevolutionary connections were also made. The feasibility of unequivocal life detection on extrasolar planets was questioned, but it was recognized that astrobiology is already encouraging a useful broadening of Earth system analysis. The failure of the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) and the apparent difficulty of the transition to natural langua ge support the view that intelligence (or at least natural language) is extremely rare in the Universe. Habitation was defined as a first-order influence of life on the geochemical cycling of a planet, and it may be important for the maintenance of habitability. Theoretical considerations as well as Earth history suggests that there are limits (albeit rather broad ones) on how globally destructive life can become. A proposal was made to extend an existing model of global coevolution to address this and other Gaia questions. An “autocatalytic Gaia” hypothesis was put forward to suggest that autocatalytic recycling is an almost inevitable planetary phenomenon, once there is life. This is a natural extension of the autocatalytic theory of life (the chemoton model). Some broad lessons of sustainability can be learned from Gaia and the unfolding coevolution of life and its environment on Earth, in particular, the importance of avoiding long time lags for maintaining system stability. View full abstract»

    • Full text access may be available. Click article title to sign in or learn about subscription options.

      What Do We Know about Potential Modes of Operation of the Quaternary Earth System?

      Hans Joachim Schellnhuber ; Paul J. Crutzen ; William C. Clark ; Martin Claussen ; Hermann Held Page(s): 141 - 156
      Copyright Year: 2004

      MIT Press eBook Chapters

      The problem of Earth system stability during the Quaternary, approximately the last two million years, is addressed from a global perspective. Despite efforts over the last 160 years to obtain geological evidence of ice ages, we conclude that the question of which potential modes of operation impacted the Quaternary Earth system is as yet unsolved. However, there are some clues as to which elements should be included in a theory of the Quaternary Earth system. The search for direct paleo-analogues is unlikely to answer the question of potential modes in a physically meaningful manner. Assessment of a number of conceptual models—ranging from models in which forcing is necessary to yield observed climate variability to models of free climate oscillations — does not favor any particular model because of the difficulties of tuning each model to the time series of global ice volume. Hence, geographically explicit fully coupled climate system, or natural Earth system, models are required to analyze the system's response to geographically varying forcing and internal feedbacks. Evidence emerges that much of Quaternary climate variability was due to internal feedbacks involving ice sheets and biogeochemical cycles as critical elements and orbital forcing as the pacemaker. View full abstract»

    • Full text access may be available. Click article title to sign in or learn about subscription options.

      Modes of Oceanic and Atmospheric Circulation during the Quaternary

      Hans Joachim Schellnhuber ; Paul J. Crutzen ; William C. Clark ; Martin Claussen ; Hermann Held Page(s): 157 - 170
      Copyright Year: 2004

      MIT Press eBook Chapters

      Paleoclimatic evidence shows that the ocean and atmosphere have undergone major changes during the Quaternary. For atmospheric mean circulation, data are consistent with changes in strength and shifts in position of major atmospheric circulation features (e.g., the westerly wind belt), whereas the structure of these main features appears to have persisted. For the ocean, evidence points to qualitative reorganizations in the thermohaline circulation. Modes of ocean-atmosphere variability, such as El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), also appear to have changed or even been absent at times. View full abstract»

    • Full text access may be available. Click article title to sign in or learn about subscription options.

      What Is the Quaternary Phasespace Topology According to Cryosphere Dynamics?

      Hans Joachim Schellnhuber ; Paul J. Crutzen ; William C. Clark ; Martin Claussen ; Hermann Held Page(s): 171 - 188
      Copyright Year: 2004

      MIT Press eBook Chapters

      This chapter outlines the various mechanisms by which ice sheets can affect the evolution of the global climate system over Quaternary timescales. Discussion is divided into processes that contribute to the slow evolution of the system on the 100,000-year timescales of the ice ages and the rapid processes that could contribute to the variability observed within an individual glacial period. Particular attention is paid to the potential of ice sheets to act either as triggers of independent climate change or as amplifiers of changes initiated elsewhere. View full abstract»

    • Full text access may be available. Click article title to sign in or learn about subscription options.

      Group Report: Possible States and Modes of Operation of the Quaternary Earth System

      Hans Joachim Schellnhuber ; Paul J. Crutzen ; William C. Clark ; Martin Claussen ; Hermann Held Page(s): 189 - 210
      Copyright Year: 2004

      MIT Press eBook Chapters

      This chapter contains sections titled: Introduction: Why Study the Quaternary?, The Quaternary in the Context of the Long-Term Evolution of the Planet, Major Feedback Systems, Thresholds, and Critical Points, Using the Past to Inform the Future, Using Models to Advance Understanding, Further Lessons from the Quaternary: Can We “Geo-Engineer” The Climate System?, References View full abstract»

    • Full text access may be available. Click article title to sign in or learn about subscription options.

      Human Footprints in the Ecological Landscape

      Hans Joachim Schellnhuber ; Paul J. Crutzen ; William C. Clark ; Martin Claussen ; Hermann Held Page(s): 211 - 226
      Copyright Year: 2004

      MIT Press eBook Chapters

      In this chapter we explore how the evolution of human behavior has led to the current condition, the quantitative impact of humans on ecological and biogeochemical processes, and potential strategies for developing a sustainable partnership between humans and the ecosystems in which they operate. Our basic thesis is that humans appear to have uniquely escaped from the Red Queen constraint of adaptive genetic selection. The subsequent consequences of that escape has led to rapid alterations of all ecosystems on Earth. The alterations were so rapid and so strong that they exerted selection pressures not unlike a mass extinction event. View full abstract»

    • Full text access may be available. Click article title to sign in or learn about subscription options.

      How Humankind Came to Rival Nature

      Hans Joachim Schellnhuber ; Paul J. Crutzen ; William C. Clark ; Martin Claussen ; Hermann Held Page(s): 227 - 243
      Copyright Year: 2004

      MIT Press eBook Chapters

      Humankind is axiomatically tied to environmental change and was party to some forms of global-scale change reaching as far back as the Holocene. The capacity to induce environmental change, however, has increased throughout human history. This change follows a long-term, global-scale trajectory that tracks well with a logarithmic-logistic function describing human population growth. The model is applicable to technological and socioeconomic conditions as well. This review briefly describes the multiple steps of the resulting curve. Case-study examples illustrate the successive or stair-step changes in the human-environment condition. As these changes increase in variety, magnitude, pace, and spatial scale, they threaten the structure and function of the biosphere. Broad lessons are drawn from this history, with the caveat that the environmental changes underway today and the human-environment relationships precipitating them have no adequate analogues in the past. View full abstract»

    • Full text access may be available. Click article title to sign in or learn about subscription options.

      Anthropogenic Modification of Land, Coastal, and Atmospheric Systems as Threats to the Functioning of the Earth System

      Hans Joachim Schellnhuber ; Paul J. Crutzen ; William C. Clark ; Martin Claussen ; Hermann Held Page(s): 245 - 264
      Copyright Year: 2004

      MIT Press eBook Chapters

      Over the past two centuries, the tremendous growth of the human population and the high resource demand of technologically developed societies has made humanity a geochemical and geophysical force that is able to compete with Nature's forces and to threaten Earth system functioning. Human activities are changing the composition of biosphere, atmosphere, and hydrosphere, affecting global climate, and may even perturb the main circulation patterns of the world's oceans. Human impact on the Earth system is illustrated by examining the effects of intensive agriculture, tropical deforestation, and excessive nutrient inputs into coastal ecosystems. Because of the numerous feedbacks and teleconnections in the Earth system, the change resulting from such perturbations is likely to be nonlinear and contain abrupt discontinuities. In this situation, the prudent course would be to maintain the Earth system as much as possible within the known parameter space and to pursue a course of sustainability using the knowledge gained from Earth system research. View full abstract»

    • Full text access may be available. Click article title to sign in or learn about subscription options.

      Atmospheric Chemistry and Climate in the Anthropocene

      Hans Joachim Schellnhuber ; Paul J. Crutzen ; William C. Clark ; Martin Claussen ; Hermann Held Page(s): 265 - 292
      Copyright Year: 2004

      MIT Press eBook Chapters

      Humans are changing critical environmental conditions in many ways. Here, the important changes in atmospheric chemistry and climate are discussed. The most dramatic examples of major human impacts are the increase of the “greenhouse” gases, especially carbon dioxide (CO2), in the atmosphere and the unpredicted breakdown of much of the ozone in the lower stratosphere over Antarctica during the months of September to November, caused by the emissions of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). Other, more regional but ubiquitous examples include photochemical smog and acid rain. Industrial activities are not alone in causing air pollution and in changing the chemical composition of the atmosphere. Biomass burning, which takes place largely in the developing world, also contributes in major ways. In the future, climate warming due to CO2 emissions will continue to increase over present levels and pose a major problem for humankind. Current radiative forcing by “greenhouse gases” can, to a substantial degree (up to half), be dampened by increased backscattering of solar radiation, either directly by aerosol particles or indirectly through their influence on cloud albedo, or also by cloud feedbacks independent of anthropogenic aerosols. Cloud and hydrological cycle feedbacks provide major challenges. It is unlikely and undesirable that aerosol emissions will continue to increase, as greater emphasis will be placed on air quality, also in the developing world. However, due to its long atmospheric lifetime and expected growth in global emissions, CO2 will continue to accumulate, exacerbating climate warming and related problems in the future. Drastic measures are thus needed at the international level to reduce the emissions, in particular, of CO2 through energy savings, alternative energy sources, and sequestration. View full abstract»

    • Full text access may be available. Click article title to sign in or learn about subscription options.

      Assessing and Simulating the Altered Functioning of the Earth System in the Anthropocene

      Hans Joachim Schellnhuber ; Paul J. Crutzen ; William C. Clark ; Martin Claussen ; Hermann Held Page(s): 293 - 312
      Copyright Year: 2004

      MIT Press eBook Chapters

      The current human-dominated era or “Anthropocene” has been a time of unprecedented rates of change within the Earth system. As such the Anthropocene poses a no-analogue situation in which evidence of past Earth system changes cannot, on their own, tell us of how the system will respond in the future. Instead, we need to develop mechanistic and phenomenological models based on robust underlying principles to extrapolate our knowledge of the past Earth system into projections of the future. This requires an entire spectrum of Earth system models that can be related to each other in a more rigorous way than has been achieved to date. It also requires new integrated models of the two-way coupling between the biophysical and human aspects of the Earth system. Only then will we be able to approach all of the paleodata constraints on Earth system dynamics (which requires long simulations), while also providing regionally specific Earth system projections and spatially specific human development paths for policy makers (which requires, in both cases, high-resolution comprehensive models as well as models that can bridge spatial and temporal scales). Such a spectrum of models offers a solution to the tension between “simulation,” which inevitably leads to increasing model complexity, and “understanding,” which often involves reducing the system to its bare necessities. View full abstract»

    • Full text access may be available. Click article title to sign in or learn about subscription options.

      Group Report: Earth System Dynamics in the Anthropocene

      Hans Joachim Schellnhuber ; Paul J. Crutzen ; William C. Clark ; Martin Claussen ; Hermann Held Page(s): 313 - 340
      Copyright Year: 2004

      MIT Press eBook Chapters

      This chapter contains sections titled: The Earth System in the Anthropocene, Climate Sensitivity, Earth System Geography in the Anthropocene, “Achilles' Heels” in the Earth System, Systems of Models and Observations, Technological Fix and Substitution, Research Challenges, Acknowledgments, References View full abstract»

    • Full text access may be available. Click article title to sign in or learn about subscription options.

      The Mental Component of the Earth System

      Hans Joachim Schellnhuber ; Paul J. Crutzen ; William C. Clark ; Martin Claussen ; Hermann Held Page(s): 341 - 365
      Copyright Year: 2004

      MIT Press eBook Chapters

      This chapter explores how the mental component of the Earth system functions and interacts with the physical and biological systems of the planet. A tetrarchical loop is used to illustrate the four elements of the mental component: • GeoScope (the interplay between observation and theory), • GeoGraphy (the reintroduction of generalized knowledge into social contexts), • GeoMind (aspects of identity), and • GeoAction (interplay between governance and representation). The ability to transfer understanding from local to global levels, e.g., through macro-scopes, is a central challenge in managing the future of the Earth system. Management goals should be identified through a continuous process, based on the awareness that a multiplicity of global realities and situations exist, that there is partiality of knowledge, that observation is often influenced by theory, and that an empirical basis is needed for a science of sustainability. View full abstract»

    • Full text access may be available. Click article title to sign in or learn about subscription options.

      What Kind of System of Science (and Technology) Is Needed to Support the Quest for Sustainable Development?

      Hans Joachim Schellnhuber ; Paul J. Crutzen ; William C. Clark ; Martin Claussen ; Hermann Held Page(s): 367 - 386
      Copyright Year: 2004

      MIT Press eBook Chapters

      This chapter concentrates on the role of science and technology in humankind's efforts to change course toward sustainable development, in the context of deep transformations intensifying as globalization interweaves and clashes with ecological interdependence. Nine fundamental (“nodal”) issues, which should be addressed by a scientific and technological system better able to support good global stewardship, are discussed in terms of their strategic implications for global sustainability. These include the basic unit of analysis for Earth system science, integration of research, the criteria of truth, inclusion of qualitative variables, dealing with uncertainty, incorporation of other knowledges, interparadigmatic dialogues, science-policy interface, and stakeholder involvement. The adaptive management approach, often proposed as a preferred strategy for the use of science and technology for global sustainability, is discussed. Finally, a resulting glimpse of some of the strategic traits of the scientific and technological system for global sustainability is presented, including the possibility of scientific holistic forms of understanding of the Earth system. View full abstract»

    • Full text access may be available. Click article title to sign in or learn about subscription options.

      Institutions, Science, and Technology in the Transition to Sustainability

      Hans Joachim Schellnhuber ; Paul J. Crutzen ; William C. Clark ; Martin Claussen ; Hermann Held Page(s): 387 - 408
      Copyright Year: 2004

      MIT Press eBook Chapters

      This chapter explores the implications for a transition to sustainability of understanding the Earth as a complex, interdependent system in which human perturbations produce effects (with corresponding feedbacks to humans) that occur at multiple temporal and spatial timescales. Such an approach poses obstacles but also offers opportunities to better understand how human perturbations influence the Earth system and how to govern those perturbations and our human responses to the corresponding feedbacks. This chapter examines how existing human institutions, and globalization, contribute to environmental impacts on the Earth system and also evaluates efforts of alternative institutions to incorporate science and technology into the policy process in ways that will facilitate a transition to sustainability. Major institutional reforms will be needed for existing institutions to use science and technology effectively in the service of sustainability. They will need, in particular, to improve the integration of science into the policy-making process and the integration of policy concerns into scientific research in ways that help science provide more policy-relevant knowledge to those making economic and policy decisions without undercutting its scientific validity. These are complex tasks that will require many institutions to make dramatic changes in how they operate. Experiences with existing institutions that have been relatively successful at making such changes are used to illustrate the argument. View full abstract»

    • Full text access may be available. Click article title to sign in or learn about subscription options.

      Group Report: Sustainability

      Hans Joachim Schellnhuber ; Paul J. Crutzen ; William C. Clark ; Martin Claussen ; Hermann Held Page(s): 409 - 434
      Copyright Year: 2004

      MIT Press eBook Chapters

      This chapter contains sections titled: Introduction, Caring for the Earth System, What is Needed From Science and Technology?, A Science-Policy Dialogue, What Does This Mean for the Organization of Science and Technology?, Conclusions, A Final Note, Acknowledgments, References View full abstract»

    • Full text access may be available. Click article title to sign in or learn about subscription options.

      Name Index

      Hans Joachim Schellnhuber ; Paul J. Crutzen ; William C. Clark ; Martin Claussen ; Hermann Held Page(s): 435 - 442
      Copyright Year: 2004

      MIT Press eBook Chapters

      Earth System Analysis for Sustainability uses an integrated systems approach to provide a panoramic view of planetary dynamics since the inception of life some four billion years ago and to identify principles for responsible management of the global environment in the future. Perceiving our planet as a single entity with hypercomplex, often unpredictable behavior, the authors use Earth system analysis to study global changes past and future. They explore the question of whether the unprecedented human-originated changes transforming the ecosphere today will end a 10,000-year period of climate stability.The book presents the complete story of the inseparably intertwined evolution of life and matter on Earth, focusing on four major topics: long-term geosphere-biosphere interaction and the possibility of using extrasolar planets to test various geophysical hypotheses; the Quaternary Earth System's modes of operation; current planetary dynamics under human pressure; and transition to global sustainability. Written by leading figures in the disciplines of geology, climatology, evolution, biogeochemistry, macroeconomics, and institutions theory, Earth System Analysis for Sustainability analyzes the driving forces behind global change and uses this knowledge to propose principles to propose principles for global stewardship. View full abstract»

    • Full text access may be available. Click article title to sign in or learn about subscription options.

      Subject Index

      Hans Joachim Schellnhuber ; Paul J. Crutzen ; William C. Clark ; Martin Claussen ; Hermann Held Page(s): 443 - 454
      Copyright Year: 2004

      MIT Press eBook Chapters

      Earth System Analysis for Sustainability uses an integrated systems approach to provide a panoramic view of planetary dynamics since the inception of life some four billion years ago and to identify principles for responsible management of the global environment in the future. Perceiving our planet as a single entity with hypercomplex, often unpredictable behavior, the authors use Earth system analysis to study global changes past and future. They explore the question of whether the unprecedented human-originated changes transforming the ecosphere today will end a 10,000-year period of climate stability.The book presents the complete story of the inseparably intertwined evolution of life and matter on Earth, focusing on four major topics: long-term geosphere-biosphere interaction and the possibility of using extrasolar planets to test various geophysical hypotheses; the Quaternary Earth System's modes of operation; current planetary dynamics under human pressure; and transition to global sustainability. Written by leading figures in the disciplines of geology, climatology, evolution, biogeochemistry, macroeconomics, and institutions theory, Earth System Analysis for Sustainability analyzes the driving forces behind global change and uses this knowledge to propose principles to propose principles for global stewardship. View full abstract»