Planetary opportunities: A social contract for global change science to contribute to a sustainable future

Ruth S. Defries, Erle C. Ellis, F. Stuart Chapin, Pamela A. Matson, B. L. Turner, Arun Agrawal, Paul J. Crutzen, Chris Field, Peter Gleick, Peter M. Kareiva, Eric Lambin, Diana Liverman, Elinor Ostrom, Pedro A. Sanchez, James Syvitski

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

156 Scopus citations


The global change research community needs to renew its social contract with society by moving beyond a focus on biophysical limits and toward solution-oriented research to provide realistic, context-specific pathways to a sustainable future. A focus on planetary opportunities is based on the premise that societies adapt to change and have historically implemented solutions-for example, to protect watersheds, improve food security, and reduce harmful atmospheric emissions. Daunting social and biophysical challenges for achieving a sustainable future demand that the global change research community work to provide underpinnings for workable solutions at multiple scales of governance. Global change research must reorient itself from a focus on biophysically oriented, global-scale analysis of humanity's negative impact on the Earth system to consider the needs of decisionmakers from household to global scales.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)603-606
Number of pages4
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2012


  • Assessments
  • ecology
  • ethics
  • interdisciplinary science
  • policy
  • sustainability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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