The EU has recently published a “Circular Economy Package”, introducing various measures designed to advance the transition to a circular economy. Among these is a monitoring system that can assess progress towards a circular economy. The foundations for this monitoring framework were developed by the Institute of Social Ecology in Vienna in collaboration with the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission in Ispra.
Human biomass utilization reduces global carbon stocks in vegetation by 50%, implying that massive emissions of CO2 to the atmosphere have occurred over the past centuries and millennia. The contribution of forest management and livestock grazing on natural grasslands to global carbon losses is of similar magnitude as that of deforestation. Currently, these effects are underappreciated in existing global carbon models and assessments of the greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) from land-based production. Without full consideration of land management effects, global climate forecasts and calculations of the GHG effects of future bioenergy policies are error prone, seriously jeopardizing the robust evaluation of measures that would help achieving the 1,5°C target of the Paris Agreement. These are some of the result of a study headed by Karl-Heinz Erb from the Institute of Social Ecology, published in the scientific journal “Nature” on 20.12.2017.
A global conversion to organic farming can contribute to a profoundly sustainable food system, provided that it is combined with further measures, specifically with a one-third reduction of animal-based products in the human diet, less concentrated feed and less food waste. At the same time, this type of food system has extremely positive ecological effects, i.e. considerable reduction of fertilizers and pesticides, and reduced greenhouse gas emissions – and does not lead to increased land use, despite lower agricultural yields. These are the findings of a new study, which included the Vienna-based Department of Social Ecology among its contributors. Results have recently been published in “Nature Communications”.
In the last decades social ecology has made important contributions to sustainability research. As the science of societal relationship to nature it evolved in the late 1980s. Today, the approach that understands complex environmental problems to be rooted in the critical relationship between society and nature is regarded to be fundamental for research dealing with sustainable development. Now, with a special issue of the renowned international journal ‘Sustainability’ a comprehensive insight is given to the state of the art of social-ecological research.