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Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement for Johan Rockström

Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement for Johan Rockström

Professor Dr Johan Rockström
Image: M. Axelsson/Azote

Johan Rockström, Director at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) and internationally recognized for his work on global sustainability issues, will be awarded the Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement 2024. The announcement was made by the University of Southern California (USA), which awards the prize annually. The prize is endowed with 250,000 dollars and a gold medal. Johan Rockström studies questions relating to global sustainability and is particularly known for the concept of planetary boundaries, which has since become a key framework of sustainability science in international climate research. Rockström has been a Leopoldina member since 2020.

In its announcement, the University of Southern California stressed Rockström’s pioneering role in developing a scientific framework for humanity’s sustainable development on a stable and resilient planet. He made a decisive contribution to establish the knowledge that a stable functioning Earth system is essential for societies to flourish. His research activities span many topics, from the Earth system to global sustainability in the Anthropocene. When researching the concept of planetary boundaries, he collected data from around the world and used it to identify processes that depict the limits of Earth’s resilience and stability and what is needed to ensure sustainability. Against the backdrop of environmental change caused by human activity, the concept sets out a stable framework for human action within physical and biogeochemical limits and is subject to continuous development.

Rockström studied agriculture and philosophy in Uppsala (Sweden), Paris (France) and Stockholm (Sweden). In 1997 he completed his doctorate at Stockholm University’s Department of Systems Ecology. After working as a regional consultant and research coordinator at organisations including the Institute for Water Education in Delft (the Netherlands), he became Executive Director at the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) in 2004. He also founded the Stockholm Resilience Centre (SRC) at Stockholm University in 2007. He was Director of the organisation until his appointment as Professor in Water Systems and Global Sustainability at Stockholm University and Professor in Earth System Science at Potsdam University in 2018. Since then, Rockström and fellow Leopoldina member Ottmar Edenhofer have led the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK). He is also involved in various scientific expert groups, including the European Commission’s “Mission Board for adaptation to climate change including societal transformation” (since 2019), and the “Earth Commission” (since 2019), an international team of leading researchers who evaluate and categorise the latest scientific discoveries from around the world in relation to climate change. Alongside membership in Leopoldina’s Geosciences Section (since 2020), Rockström is a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, has received honorary doctorates from the Universities of Gent (Belgium) and Amsterdam (the Netherlands), and has been awarded numerous prizes, including the Prince Albert II of Monaco’s Climate Change Award (2020), the German Environmental Prize, and the International Cosmos Prize (both in 2015).

The Tyler Prize was established by the conservationists John and Alice Tyler and is one of the world’s most illustrious prizes in the field of environmental science and protection, and energy. The inaugural award in 1973 aimed to raise global awareness of the importance of environmental protection. Today it is regarded as the “Nobel Prize for the environment”. Rockström is one of several Leopoldina members who have been awarded the prize, including Dame Jane Goodall (1997) and Edward O. Wilson (1984).