Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht, 2018-02-19
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  • Idea

    The Earth League

    Our Blue Planet Our Blue Planet

    In view of the challenges and opportunities sketched above, we propose to establish a voluntary alliance of leading scientists and institutions dealing with planetary processes and sustainability issues - the Earth League.

    The name is meant to reflect that this initiative is about the whole Earth as a research topic, on the one hand, and about involving world-class scientific entities, on the other hand. The latter are universities, institutes or think tanks, which are strong enough to stand comfortably alone, yet would gain additional weight and impact by standing together.

    We will sketch options for the initial and intermediate design of that alliance below. First, however, we wish to address the critical question, why such a network might have considerable advantages in comparison to existing pertinent structures. As outlined in the previous section, the world urgently needs transnational scientific and evidence-based capacities – in order to mobilize objective critical masses for investigating global issues and to form unmistakable voices in the dialogue with societies facing enormous pressure for change. Evidently, those capacities and voices do not exist yet, or only in much constrained versions.

    Of course, there are institutions like the IPCC and similar international panels that are supposed to summarize the scientific state-of-the-art regarding certain aspects of global sustainability and to express the views of the research community in a way that can easily be digested by the relevant stakeholders. Of course, there are hundreds of national academies that represent the respective knowledge communities and occasionally weigh in on debates about planetary issues. And, of course, there are several worldwide research programs on global change like IGBP or IHDP that try to coordinate investigative synergies. In fact, serious steps towards an integrated Earth System science program finally bridging the gap between the natural and the social sciences are currently made.

    All these entities have done marvellous jobs so far. And yet these structures are either tenuous and severely underfunded (like the global-change programs) or inherently unwieldy by construction and mandate (like the intergovernmental panels) or rather ill-connected across the national boundaries (like the academies). Also, hardly any of the institutions mentioned are able to do original research on an emerging issue within an appropriately short period of time. So it is only natural to turn directly to the top “primary producers” of global sustainability knowledge and to unleash their synergistic forces by a carefully designed alliance, i.e. an “Earth League”.

    The members of such an association can (i) use their autonomous resources for tackling crucial scientific problems together; (ii) collaborate on setting and advancing research agendas for the respective international communities; (iii) jointly apply for packaged national as well as explicitly transnational funding (as provided, e.g., by eminent foundations); (iv) co-produce assessments of intra- and extra-alliance findings; and (v) communicate to and discuss with decision makers as well as society at large the conclusions to be drawn from those assessments.

    In summary, the collaborative activities of the Earth League shall unfold in scientific as well as in societal arenas: based on ground-breaking research in the fields of Earth system analysis, sustainability science and transformation dynamics, credible transnational advice to decision makers, opinion formers and society at large may be provided if solicited or necessary.

    While quite a few institutions already offer individual topical advice to certain stakeholders, the Earth League will offer a truly global perspective, not least by forming fast-track investigative capacities and by adopting a responsive style of dialogue with societies around the world.

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