Johan Rockström: ‘We need bankers as well as activists… we have 10 years to cut emissions by half’

The eminent Earth scientist argues that we cannot just wait for the world order to change when it comes to tackling the climate crisis – we all have a duty to act now

Johan Rockström is one of the world’s most influential Earth scientists. As director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, he advises governments, corporations and activists, including his Swedish compatriot, Greta Thunberg, about the latest research on the climate and biodiversity and argues for better science communication. Last year, he co-edited Standing Up for a Sustainable World, a book that brought together essays from climatologists, economists, environmental defenders, financiers and school strike activists. In recent months, he has teamed up with David Attenborough to create a new Netflix series, Breaking Boundaries: The Science of Our Planet, participated in President Joe Biden’s climate summit and co-organised a declaration by more than 100 Nobel laureates.

The Nobel prize summit in April declared a planetary emergency. Why now? Scientists have known for at least three decades that human activity is destabilising the climate and accelerating the collapse of ecosystems.
This statement, signed by 126 Nobel laureates, is a world record. Never before have we seen such a global uprising of Nobel prize winners. They issued an emergency call from science to humanity, calling for reason, truth and humanism in the transformation towards an equitable and prosperous future in a safe operating space.

People feel they have to choose between wealth and protecting the planet. That is an obsolete way of communicating

Tree-huggers and frontier activists are very important but they can’t tip this whole thing over by themselves

This is quite a nervous moment. We have all those positives but we are still on a negative trend line.

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