DKN Future Earth Activity

New Future Earth Challenges

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The expert discussion, organised during the 5th meeting of the German Committee Future Earth, is part of the national theme finding process - the development of a German perspective of Future Earth research jointly together with the German community.

As a result of the expert discussion a comprehensive set of 8 to 10 guiding questions (“Future Earth Challenges”) was expected to be defined, that

  • set new impulses for research within Future Earth, means research that have not been considered at all or insufficiently within the Global Environmental Change-programmes.
  • are of social relevance,
  • support integrated research, and
  • bring forward research within Future Earth programmatically.

Scientists from various fields of study and organizations, early career scientists, representatives from policy and the economy sector, as well as research funders has been invited to pool together and focus the numerous ideas, results and concepts of the first German Future Earth Summit and of several published papers on “Grand Challenges” of various authors.

The expert discussion was one of the next steps in a still ongoing process to structure Future Earth research and to develop a community based perspective of Future Earth research. Along with publication of the Future Earth Strategic Research Agenda this process has been started and initiated by the German Committee Future Earth in 2014. 



The following guiding question sets (“Future Earth Challenges”) has been identified and can be used as a possible (not exclusive) basis to propose working groups in the German Committee Future Earth:


Guiding question Set 1:

a) What are the barriers to the implementation of sustainability measures?

b) How can we feed a world population of 9 to 10 billion people in a sustainable way?

c) How is sustainability understood in an intercultural context?

d) What characterizes (sustainable) resilient forms of society and how can they be developed?

e) Where are possible tipping points in the further development of global systems?

f) What kind of preventive action can be taken against improbable but possible dramatic developments?

g) Are previous methods of modelling and anticipating possible developments still adequate?

h) How can the creativity and power of new technologies be exploited for sustainability?


Guiding question Set 2:

(with priority on implementation of Sustainable Development Goals).

a) Where are the environmental and welfare tipping points and how does the pattern of extreme events change in relation to global and regional change?

b) What are the connections between population dynamics and a changing environment?

c) How can we ensure access to safe water and sanitation services, sustainable agricultural production, food security and nutrition from land-based resources while preserving ecosystems and biodiversity? How can we ensure access to healthcare systems, education ….?

d) How can economic growth, industrialization, infrastructures, energy and climate change be brought into line with environmental stewardship?

e) How can we build sustainable cities and human settlements that promote sustainable consumption and production?

f) How can we protect and sustainably use marine resources, oceans and seas and other global common resources?

g) What governmental structures and societal incentive systems support global partnership for achieving sustainable development?

h) How can we provide free and open access to scientific information and infrastructure in support of peaceful and non-violent societies, the rule of law and capable institutions?

i) How can we manage environmental crises/conflicts in the context of building resilience or as an opportunity for transformational change?

j) What can we learn from past and present societal and cultural changes for future transformations?




  • Prof. Dr. Almut Arneth, Karlsruher Institut für Technologie
  • Prof. Dr. Birgit Blättel-Mink, Goethe-Universität Frankfurt a.M.
  • Prof. Dr. Armin Grunwald, Karlsruher Institut für Technologie - ITAS
  • Dr. Maja Göpel, Wuppertal Institut
  • Dr. Tim Haarmann, DFG
  • Dr. Jochen Hinkel, Global Climate Forum e.V.
  • Dr. Christiane Joerk, DFG
  • Dr. Johannes Karte, DFG
  • Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Lucht, Potsdam Institut für Klimafolgenforschung
  • Dr. Simon Meisch, Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen
  • Prof. Dr. Karen Pittel, ifo Institut
  • Prof. Dr. Christiane Schmullius, Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena
  • Prof. Dr. Martin Visbeck, GEOMAR Helmoltz-Zentrum für Ozeanforschung Kiel
  • Prof. Dr. Volkmar Wolters, Justus Liebig Universität Giessen
  • and several representatives from German ministries (BMZ, BMBF, UBA).


Invited also: Representatives of the economy sector (e.g. MunichRe, Außenhandelsvereinigung des Deutschen Einzelhandels).


updated 12.12.2014

Date & Venue:

17./18.6.2014, Bad Homburg (by invitation)
Forschungskolleg Humanwissenschaften



Prof. Dr. Armin Grunwald
Karlsruher Institut für Technologie – ITAS

Prof. Dr. Martin Visbeck 
GEOMAR Helmholtz-Zentrum für Ozeanforschung Kiel

Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Lucht
Potsdam Institut für Klimafolgenforschung

Dr. Bettina Schmalzbauer 
DKN Future Earth Secretariat



  • Sustainability Doalogue

    Open Letter of German Future Earth Summits` Participants

  • Sustainability Dialogue

    Open Letter of Early Career Scientists

  • Sustainability Dialogue

    Mailing list „Design of trandsdisciplinary Research“

  • International Coordination

    Belmont Forum: Global data management and e-infrastructures

  • International Coordination

    DKN meeting together with German SC members of Global Change Programmes

  • DKN Future Earth Activity

    Integrated Research: Concepts, Instruments, Processes

  • DKN Future Earth Activity

    New Future Earth Challenges

  • DKN Future Earth Activity

    Strengthening the Social Sciences within Future Earth