Transitions and Tipping Points in Complex Environmental Systems

NSF Advisory Committee for Environmental Research and Education

This report, by an NSF advisory committee, details many of the environmental challenges facing our planet and our society, and issues a call to action for NSF, for researchers, and for educators, to provide a better understanding of complex environmental systems, a higher level of environmental literacy in the public, and a stronger foundation for informing policy decisions for addressing global environmental issues:

''The need for equitable, ethical, and sustainable use of Earth's resources by a global population that nears the carrying capacity of the planet requires us not only to understand how human behaviors affect the environment but also how human behavior changes in response to changes in the environment or perceptions of environmental status. The committee recommends that the approach to environmental literacy bridge the gap between the academics who do the research, the tool developers who design curricula and applications, and the communicators and educators who translate the science into terms that can be broadly understood by policy makers and the public....

''We must help policy-makers develop a better understanding of complex environmental systems, an understanding that helps them appreciate the concepts of tipping points, the thresholds of large magnitude or abrupt change, and the socio-economic effects of severely altered environmental systems.''

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Subject: Environmental Science:Policy:Environmental Decision-Making, Environmental Economics, Geoscience:Atmospheric Science:Meteorology:Extreme weather, Environmental Science:Water Quality and Quantity, Policy:Energy Policy, US National Policy, Environmental Science:Ecosystems:Biodiversity, Habitats, Environmental Science:Policy:Global Policy, Geoscience:Atmospheric Science:Meteorology:Air quality:Dust and Particulates, Geoscience:Atmospheric Science:Climate Change, Climate Change:Impacts of climate change, Public policy , Geoscience:Soils, Oceanography:Marine Resources, Geoscience:Atmospheric Science:Climate Change:Global change modeling, Anthropogenic causes, History and evolution of Earth's climate, Paleoclimate records, Climate feedbacks, Environmental Science:Ecosystems:Ecology, Geoscience:Atmospheric Science:Meteorology:Air quality, Environmental Science:Land Use and Planning:Industrialization, Environmental Science:Human Population:Overpopulation, Environmental Science:Sustainability, Natural Hazards:Extreme Weather:Drought, Environmental Science:Land Use and Planning:Urbanization, Environmental Science:Oceans and Coastal Resources:Fisheries, Environmental Science:Global Change and Climate:Climate Change:Mitigation of climate change, Environmental Science:Air Quality:Dust and Particulates, Environmental Science:Soils and Agriculture, Natural Hazards:Extreme Weather:Hurricanes, Environmental Science:Global Change and Climate:Ozone depletion, Climate Change:Anthropogenic causes, Global change modeling, Impacts of climate change, Public policy, Climate feedbacks, Recent climate data, Environmental Science:Global Change and Climate:Sea Level Change, Climate Change:History and evolution of Earth's climate, Paleoclimate records, Environmental Science:Energy:Energy Policy
Resource Type: Policy Resources, Pedagogic Resources:Overview/Summary
Special Interest: Sustainability, Hazards, Complex Systems
Theme: Teach the Earth:Teaching Topics:Weather, Teach the Earth:Course Topics:Atmospheric Science, Teach the Earth:Incorporating Societal Issues:Energy, Teach the Earth:Teaching Topics:Biocomplexity, Teach the Earth:Incorporating Societal Issues:Public Policy, Teach the Earth:Course Topics:Oceanography, Teach the Earth:Teaching Topics:Water, Teach the Earth:Course Topics:Environmental Science, Soil, Teach the Earth:Incorporating Societal Issues:Sustainability, Hazards, Climate Change