Living within Environmental Boundaries

According to the global need for addressing issues of access, safety, equity and diversification of resource use, special attention needs to be paid to:

Understanding of Environmental Constraints

The environment is both a source and a sink. It represents a source of energy and resources used in the economies of humans and a sink for by products of economic processes. Energy use is more likely to be curtailed as the result of ecological considerations than as the result of actual resource exhaustion.

In fact, although there is partial disagreement regarding the ultimate limitation of resources (i.e. the amount of resources that are actually available and the energy and economic cost of their exploitation), there is wide consensus worldwide about present exploitation of nature as a sink for waste release.

As a consequence, there is an urgent need for incorporating environmental constraints into scientific research and policy actions.

Multidisciplinary integration of approaches

It is obvious that there is still a need to evaluate new technologies. Much more effort is needed to reach quantitative and reliable conclusions regarding new technologies and energy sources.

It is necessary to evaluate the feasibility and environmental effects of new technologies as much as possible during their developmental stages. Heated discussions occurs worldwide about the use of different approaches, methods and tools and the domain in which the results of the various methods and tools are valid.

Each of these methods reflects differences in perspectives, different questions, different goals, and different system boundaries. Rather than being a problem these differences are a strength, as the approaches are complementary and insights derived from the different approaches can be combined to increase insights into the complexities of reality and to generate policy within that reality.

Tools supporting decision making

Much needed are system modeling tools, decision support software, and techniques of multi-criteria evaluation leading to policy. Yet these approaches are still not at a level of maturity where they could be used by decision makers.

We are still in the suggestion phase, still at the stage of trail observations and evaluations with an emphasis on indicators and normative standards that might lead to decision support tools. Much research and testing are still needed.