In 2024 the Tyler Prize honors Johan Rockström for his leadership in pioneering a science-based approach to sustainable development for people on a stable and resilient planet and formalizing the notion that stable functioning of the Earth system is a prerequisite for thriving societies.

Credit: Jadranko Marjanovic

Johan Rockström is one of the world’s leading scientists, whose groundbreaking research on planetary boundaries stands at the forefront of global sustainability and environmental science.

Rockström is director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, professor in Earth System Science at Potsdam University, and professor in Water Systems and Global Sustainability at Stockholm University. Rockström also co-founded the Stockholm Resilience Centre and is former Executive Director of the Stockholm Environment Institute.

In 2009, Rockström’s leadership of a global team of 28 internationally renowned scientists led to the development of the Planetary Boundaries. The team identified nine boundaries that serve as ‘a safe operating space for humanity’. Within these environmental limits, humanity can continue to thrive for the foreseeable future. Beyond these boundaries, the planet’s ability to self-regulate will be challenged with potentially catastrophic consequences.

The identified Planetary Boundaries include climate change, ocean acidification, biosphere integrity, stratospheric ozone depletion, atmospheric aerosol loading, biogeochemical flows, freshwater and land systems change.

The pioneering research on Planetary Boundaries has since been twice updated (2015 and 2023) with the most recent data revealing that six of the nine boundaries are now transgressed and pressure is increasing on all boundary processes except ozone depletion.

In disseminating the Planetary Boundaries research, Rockström has engaged with political, civic and business leaders, environmentalists, academics and figures from popular culture. He has called upon political leaders to adopt a global approach to environmental management, to recognize the economic responsibilities of the wealthiest countries and the unequal burden placed on the least polluting nations and to recognize the importance of safeguarding nature to sustain our planet.

Driven by Rockström’s vision, the Planetary Boundaries framework has influenced high-level discussions on climate change, such as the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, and had considerable impact in both scientific and policy-making communities. A committed field scientist, Rockström conducted extensive studies for his Ph.D. in Systems Ecology and Natural Resource Management. Over a four-year period, he researched agrohydrology and addressed the Sahelian yield crisis in Niger, whereby the sub-Saharan African country’s devastating droughts decimated crop harvests. He subsequently dedicated over 25 years to applied water research within tropical regions. He holds more than 150 research publications in fields ranging from applied land and water management to global sustainability.

As a major supporter of interdisciplinary collaboration, Rockström has helped bring together economists, ecologists, the private sector, social scientists, government and academia to develop collaborative solutions to the challenges facing the planet.

Rockström’s contributions have been recognised with numerous awards, including the Prince Albert II of Monaco Climate Change Award (2020), German Academy of Sciences, the Hillary Laureate by the Hillary Institute of International Leadership (2017), the French distinction Knight of the Legion of Honour (2016), the German Environmental Award (2015), the International Cosmos Prize (2015), the Zoological Society of London Award for Conservation Innovation (2015), the Woods Hole Research Center’s Lawrence Huntington Environmental Prize (2014), the Marsh Award for Climate Change Research, the British Ecological Society (2013), Agronomist of the Year, Swedish Association of Professional Scientists (2013), Sweden’s Most Influential Person on the Environment, MiljöAktuellt (2012, 2013) and FOKUS magazine Swede of the Year (2009). He was also named as one of Time Magazine’s most influential people of 2023.

A compelling and engaging speaker, Rockström’s work has been featured extensively in popular media. He recently starred alongside leading broadcaster and biologist Sir David Attenborough in the popular Netflix documentary ‘Breaking Boundaries’. He also appeared alongside actor Leonardo DiCaprio in the documentary ‘Before the Flood’ (2016). He has presented two TED talks: ‘10 Years to Transform the Future of Humanity’ (2020), ‘How we can all become responsible stewards of Planet Earth’ (2013), and ‘Let the environment guide our development’ (2010). He held one of the most popular Swedish radio talks and has written several op-eds in both English and Swedish media, such as in The Guardian, TIME magazine, and the New York Times.

Eager to translate scientific knowledge into action, Rockström serves as an advisor to governments, the United Nations General Assemblies, the World Economic Forums, and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Conferences and business networks. He is chair of the Earth League, co-chair of the Earth Commission, and Chair of the advisory board of the EAT Foundation.

He is also a member of the German Academy of Sciences (Leopoldina), the Swedish Royal Academy of Sciences, the European Commission expert group (Mission Board for adaptation to climate change including societal transformation), and of the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network, and Chief Scientist at Conservation International. Rockström’s influence in policy discussions and his ability to bridge the gap between research and policy have made him a key influencer in the global sustainability arena.

Rockström’s unwavering dedication to environmental stewardship continues to inspire inform and shape the trajectory of global efforts to preserve our planet for generations to come. His most recent work includes leading the Planetary Guardians initiative, an independent collective of leaders from the worlds of business, popular culture, science and politics who seek to implement the Planetary Boundaries framework worldwide. He is also working closely with a global network of scientists, researchers, engineers and activists to call for restoration of the global commons to ensure planetary stability. Rockström is at the center of research into finding pathways for a safe landing, seeking to identify exponential, just, and transformative ways to transform our energy and food systems to safeguard our future and the fate of our planet.

The Laureate will deliver a public presentation on their work at the University of Potsdam in Germany, and later that afternoon will be presented with the Prize ($250,000). Members of the press interested in attending should email the media contact below.

Kristin Deasy, Email: kristin@reagencylab.com Phone: +54 9 2944 36 3161

The Tyler Prize is administered by the University of Southern California.

2024 Tyler Prize Laureate Press Kit


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