The Earth League

The Earth Doc programme

An international group of inter-disciplinary postdoc researchers advancing the next generation of integrated Earth System science towards global sustainability: through World-Earth systems modeling.

You will find information on the individual Earth Docs here:

Ilona Otto
Avit Bhowmik
Roger Cremades
Jonathan Donges
Ignacio Venancio

About the programme

Next level integrated Earth Systems

​In today's fully globalized and increasingly turbulent world of the Anthropocene, we now face an urgent need to advance integrated Whole-Earth system analyses that can inform potential outcomes. This will also allow us to explore future pathways towards transformation on a safe and resilient planet for Earth and mankind.

Of particular importance is the integration of the human dimensions - from human behavior and equity, to global economics, development needs, security and governance – along with biophysical dynamics of the Earth system – from global change processes to interactions, feedbacks and threshold behavior. Such integrated World-Earth [or social-ecological Earth system] modeling has been called for by the scientific community for more than a decade (e.g., Schellnhuber 1999; Amsterdam declaration 2000), and even though major advancements have been made in both Earth system modeling and integrated assessment modeling, the ability to incorporate social-ecological interactions and dynamics remains rudimentary and fragmented.

There is now a rapidly rising recognition of the need for a deeper integration of Earth system analysis for global sustainability, e.g., with the emergence of Future Earth, and there is a scientific maturity in our understanding and ability to represent social and biophysical processes, which now allows for a step-change towards building an integrated community-platform for whole Earth system analysis.

The Urgency

The urgency for this next generation of science arises from the growing evidence that the world is approaching levels of human pressures on the planet that may trigger shifts in feedbacks resulting in tipping elements with irreversible outcomes for the stability and resilience of the Earth system. This scientific evidence collides with the realities and aspirations for world development. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that are expected to replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) after 2015, will very likely set out to eradicate poverty and hunger in the world, and ensure stable economic growth for a world population reaching 9-10 billion by 2050.

This is a formidable “going to scale” with every citizen’s right to development. The challenge is that nobody knows how to reconcile the twin objectives, which are tightly interdependent: Of meeting world development aspirations while staying within the safe operating space of a stable planet.

What we do know with certainty though, is that a global future that meets the needs of both people and planet, requires rapid and deep transformations across all scales, sectors and cultures, which moreover need to add up to absolute global sustainability criteria (e.g., a global carbon budget). This calls for a new generation of not only integrated World-Earth analysis, but also a novel approach to back-casting transition pathways that meet desired social and resilience outcomes.

Earthlander project: An Earth League Initiative

This is nothing less than a “Earthlander” endeavor that will require major investments in scientific collaboration among the most advanced Earth system research institutions in the world. The Earth League, an alliance of 17 of the internationally leading scientists and institutions on Earth systems and global sustainability research, has made the commitment to take on this “Earthlander” challenge, of advancing the next generation of World-Earth analysis to deepen our understanding of global risks and opportunities in the Anthropocene and explore transformative pathways towards global sustainability.

As part of this new scientific endeavour the Earth League has decided to recruit an international and inter-disciplinary team of postdoc researchers, the Earth-Docs, to form part of an international young science team to work on this crucial and state-of-the-art “Earthlander” project.