International Review of Environmental and Resource Economics > Vol 8 > Issue 1

The Economy, The Biosphere and Planetary Boundaries: Towards Biosphere Economics

Anne-Sophie Crépin, The Beijer Institute of Ecological Economics, The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and The Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University, Sweden, asc@beijer.kva.se Carl Folke, The Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University, Sweden and Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study (STIAS), Wallenberg Research Centre at Stellenbosch University, South Africa,
 
Suggested Citation
Anne-Sophie Crépin and Carl Folke (2015), "The Economy, The Biosphere and Planetary Boundaries: Towards Biosphere Economics", International Review of Environmental and Resource Economics: Vol. 8: No. 1, pp 57-100. http://dx.doi.org/10.1561/101.00000066

Published: 20 May 2015
© 2015 A. Crépin and C. Folke
 
Subjects
Environmental Economics,  Public Economics,  Economic Theory,  Uncertainty,  Collective action,  Climate Change,  Fisheries,  Water,  Forestry
 

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In this article:
1. Introduction
2. The Global Scene
3. Defining Safe Zones of Operation
4. Navigating the Global Social-Ecological System
5. Concluding Remarks
References

Abstract

Nine planetary boundaries have been proposed, capturing essential biophysical processes that sustain the Earth System and its biosphere in an accommodating state for humanity. Drawing on economics literature, we propose conditions under which remaining within these boundaries is in line with economic policy. We assert that pervasive uncertainties combined with impacts of trespassing planetary boundaries clearly legitimate using safe minimum standards or precautionary approaches. Moreover, information about the risk structure of these processes, including potential large-scale regime shifts, could help refine policies for how to relate to the zones of uncertainty of the boundaries. Planetary boundaries may be interpreted as "growth within limits" especially in relation to the biophysical expansion of the human dimension. Here, we picture them as warning signs creating incentives for shifting development into new directions, new pathways, where growth in human well-being is the focus rather than growth in GDP. In this sense, we reiterate the framework of ecological economics of sustainable scale (i.e., developing within planetary boundaries), efficient allocation, and fair distribution, and emphasize the need for "biosphere economics" to help navigate globalization within the capacity of the biosphere as the complex adaptive system it truly is.

DOI:10.1561/101.00000066