23 August 2013
Narrowly focused, single-disciplinary science alone cannot adequately underpin policies and solutions to resolve major sustainability challenges. We must rapidly refocus intellectual and economic investments toward multiscale, integrated, interdisciplinary approaches that consider social, economic, and environmental aspects, that look across and between borders and sectors, and that identify feedback or the co-benefits of a policy or management decision, before it is made.
Local, national and pan-regional sustainable development can no longer be seen as disconnected from developments at the global scale. There are multiple feedbacks and teleconnections in natural, economic, and social systems which link local and regional developments to transitions processes at regional and global scales. This is also the case for the Alps region. The sustainable future here would not only depend on how climate change would play out on, for example, biodiversity and winter tourism, but also on things like global energy prices which depend entirely on global economic processes and developments. It is therefore imperative, both in the scientific underpinning of sustainable development agendas as well as in actual decision making and investing in sustainable local and regional developments, to consider interactions with the processes at higher (up to) global scales.
One example of this approach is the Global Energy Assessment (GEA), a multilayer, multidisciplinary study (coordinated and performed by IIASA). The GEA links energy to climate, air quality, human health and mortality, economic growth, urbanization, water, land use, and other factors at both global scales as well as for important regions and individual countries around the world. The GEA scenarios find that energy access for all (by 2050) is possible with co-benefits of limiting warming to 2°C, improving air quality and human health, and stimulating economic growth within a green economy framework.
Last edited: 28 August 2013
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