World in Transition: The Research Challenge
Development and environment problems have reached such alarming proportions that the very survival of humanity is now subject to critical and unprecedented threats. So far, the scientific community has failed to deliver strategic responses adequate to this situation.
Analyses produced by the separate disciplines are similarly inadequate due to the complexity of the problems involved and the intricate interlinkages between them. In its latest report, the German Advisory Council on Global Change (WBGU) criticizes Germany's global change research community for its lack of international orientation, its bias towards individual disciplines and for its weaknesses in translating scientific results into a form readily accessible to policymakers. The Council identifies alternatives for restructuring the research landscape, focusing primarily on a new "Syndrome Approach" for global change research. By applying this tool, scientists can systematically describe and analyze the "diseases" afflicting the Earth System, and thus elaborate response options. The 16 most important syndromes, or "clinical profiles" of Planet Earth have now been identified.