EME 504
Foundations in Sustainability Systems

10.2 Integrating the Pillars of Sustainability across Decision-Making Scales

How to create environmentally-driven policy?

Strong environmental policy is correlated with strong economies. Furthermore, environmental policy depends on the quality of the science on which it is based and on numerous societal inputs. We can extrapolate best practices for creating effective science-policy communication from the discussion in Perrings et al. (2012). Their model is based on integration of capacity building efforts, research, monitoring, assessment, and policy development. The role of each stage is as follows:

  1. Capacity Building Efforts: Develop skills to create policy that addresses environmental change and catalyze funds for research.
  2. Research: Identify and support key areas of research. Physical and biological science research must evaluate the level of environmental change and quantitatively project the consequences of change at different timescales. Socioeconomic research must concentrate on the potential effects of change and on understanding the particular needs for mitigation (alteration of environmental change), adaptation (cost associated with change) and stabilization (reduction of stress on uncontrolled parts of the system). In addition, the relationship between environmental change and social and economic change must be studied in detail. For example, Haynie and Pfeiffer (2012) discuss the effects of environmental change on economic activity. Haynie and Pfeiffer (2012) argue that assumptions made by physical scientists might not be consistent with observed societal change, because these assumptions neglect communities' responses to changing economic, institutional, and environmental conditions.
  3. Monitoring: The spatial and temporal effects of environmental change on the triple sustainability bottom line are likely to change over time. Therefore, continuous efforts to measure environmental change must be sustained. These lines of research are systematically underfunded by government organizations in many developed nations (modeled after the American system) because preference is usually given to new and original directions of research.
  4. Assessment: Create a mechanism of timely and periodic reporting of scientific evidence and its policy-relevant analysis. Evaluate research and efforts for mitigation, adaptation, and stabilization of environmental change.
  5. Policy: Selection of the best responses to environmental change.