Safe and just Earth system boundaries

Johan Rockström, Joyeeta Gupta, Dahe Qin, Steven J. Lade, Jesse F. Abrams, Lauren S. Andersen, David I. Armstrong McKay, Xuemei Bai, Govindasamy Bala, Stuart E. Bunn, Daniel Ciobanu, Fabrice DeClerck, Kristie Ebi, Lauren Gifford, Christopher Gordon, Syezlin Hasan, Norichika Kanie, Timothy M. Lenton, Sina Loriani, Diana M. LivermanAwaz Mohamed, Nebojsa Nakicenovic, David Obura, Daniel Ospina, Klaudia Prodani, Crelis Rammelt, Boris Sakschewski, Joeri Scholtens, Ben Stewart-Koster, Thejna Tharammal, Detlef van Vuuren, Peter H. Verburg, Ricarda Winkelmann, Caroline Zimm, Elena M. Bennett, Stefan Bringezu, Wendy Broadgate, Pamela A. Green, Lei Huang, Lisa Jacobson, Christopher Ndehedehe, Simona Pedde, Juan Rocha, Marten Scheffer, Lena Schulte-Uebbing, Wim de Vries, Cunde Xiao, Chi Xu, Xinwu Xu, Noelia Zafra-Calvo, Xin Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

197 Scopus citations


The stability and resilience of the Earth system and human well-being are inseparably linked1–3, yet their interdependencies are generally under-recognized; consequently, they are often treated independently4,5. Here, we use modelling and literature assessment to quantify safe and just Earth system boundaries (ESBs) for climate, the biosphere, water and nutrient cycles, and aerosols at global and subglobal scales. We propose ESBs for maintaining the resilience and stability of the Earth system (safe ESBs) and minimizing exposure to significant harm to humans from Earth system change (a necessary but not sufficient condition for justice)4. The stricter of the safe or just boundaries sets the integrated safe and just ESB. Our findings show that justice considerations constrain the integrated ESBs more than safety considerations for climate and atmospheric aerosol loading. Seven of eight globally quantified safe and just ESBs and at least two regional safe and just ESBs in over half of global land area are already exceeded. We propose that our assessment provides a quantitative foundation for safeguarding the global commons for all people now and into the future.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)102-111
Number of pages10
Issue number7968
StatePublished - Jul 6 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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