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Earth System Governance - The Challenge for Social Science

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Wednesday, July 19, 2006 - 13:32

This paper introduces the concept of earth system governance as a new social phenomenon, as a political program, and as a subject of research. It then sketches the key problem structures that complicate earth system governance and derives principles for earth system governance both as a political project and as research practice, namely credibility, stability, adaptiveness, and inclusiveness. The main part of the paper introduces five challenges that lie at the core of earth system governance: architecture, agency beyond the state, the adaptive state, accountability, and allocation.
In this paper, the concept of earth system governance is introduced as a new social phenomenon, as a political program, and as a subject of research. The author sketches then the key problem structures that complicate earth system governance and derives principles for earth system governance both as a political project and as research practice. In the main part of the paper the author introduces five research and governance challenges that lie at the core of earth system governance

The anthropogenic transformation of the earth system is diverse in its causes, consequences and possible responses, which makes it impossible to design one solution that fits all. Earth system governance must cope with at least five problem characteristics: high analytic and normative uncertainty; high temporal, functional and spatial interdependence; and potentially extreme impacts.

These problem characteristics of the global transformation of earth system parameters through human action are unprecedented in the governance of human affairs. From these characteristics of earth system transformation, the author derives four core principles of earth system governance: credibility, stability, adaptiveness, and inclusiveness.

Earth system governance is an emerging empirical phenomenon as well as a political project of the 21st century. In both dimensions, it is also a demanding challenge for social science, which must generate theoretical insights and practical tools to develop effective means of earth system governance. According to it, Biermann introduces five key clusters of questions that could guide a renewed research effort in earth system governance theory. It is the problem of different overall architectures of earth system governance, of agency beyond the state, of the adaptiveness of governance mechanisms and of their accountability and legitimacy, and of the mode of allocation in earth system governance.

Source: Frank Biermann, 2006, "Earth System Governance - The Challenge for Social Science", Global Governance Working Paper No. 19, Amsterdam et al.: The Global Governance Project, www.glogov.org, all rights remain with the author.


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