Global environmental assessment in the 21st century: towards a new paradigm

Prof. Noel Castree1,2

1Manchester University, Oxford Road, England,

2University of Wollongong, Wollongong, Australia


As the human impact on the Earth escalates in scale, scope and magnitude, governments have come to rely ever more on various geosciences for expert knowledge about everything from the health of fisheries to the state of global biodiversity. The FAO, UNEP, the IPCC and the IBPES are among the organisations that routinely produce high level assessments designed for policy makers and other interested parties. In this presentation I argue that such assessments are, increasingly, unable to provide the sort of knowledge that is needed to determine how best to respond to the wicked problems that characterise modern life. This is not because global assessments lack value. Instead, it is because governments have, so far, generally failed to create space for a different form of expert advice. This advice would combines the virtues of academic rigour (characteristic of, say, IPCC reports) with a commitment to offering non-neutral, policy relevant knowledge of the kind that the IBPES is, at times, moving towards. This advice would draw upon social science, humanities and arts expertise, but in ways that eschew a broadly ‘value free’ approach to understanding operational and strategic options for humanity, as we contemplate a post-Holocene future. In sum, the presentation offers arguments and examples of a putative new paradigm for global environmental expertise as it interfaces with government and other stakeholders.


Noel Castree is a Professor of Geography at Manchester University and an Honorary Professorial Research Fellow at the University of Wollongong.;

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