Human impacts on planetary boundaries amplified by Earth system interactions

Steven J. Lade*, Will Steffen, Wim de Vries, Stephen R. Carpenter, Jonathan F. Donges, Dieter Gerten, Holger Hoff, Tim Newbold, Katherine Richardson, Johan Rockström

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

50 Citations (Scopus)


The planetary boundary framework presents a ‘planetary dashboard’ of humanity’s globally aggregated performance on a set of environmental issues that endanger the Earth system’s capacity to support humanity. While this framework has been highly influential, a critical shortcoming for its application in sustainability governance is that it currently fails to represent how impacts related to one of the planetary boundaries affect the status of other planetary boundaries. Here, we surveyed and provisionally quantified interactions between the Earth system processes represented by the planetary boundaries and investigated their consequences for sustainability governance. We identified a dense network of interactions between the planetary boundaries. The resulting cascades and feedbacks predominantly amplify human impacts on the Earth system and thereby shrink the safe operating space for future human impacts on the Earth system. Our results show that an integrated understanding of Earth system dynamics is critical to navigating towards a sustainable future.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)119–128
JournalNature Sustainability
Early online date16 Dec 2019
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2020


Dive into the research topics of 'Human impacts on planetary boundaries amplified by Earth system interactions'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this