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Working at CSU

CSU professor helps craft report on earth system governance

March 26, 2012
By Tony Phifer

CSU's Michele Betsill, a professor of political science, used her expertise to help produce a study on the impact of global climate change.

CSU professor Michele Betsill helped assemble a plan detailed in the March issue of Science Magazine.

Michele Betsill, a professor of political science at CSU, is one of 32 social scientists from around the world who collaborated to write a report seeking to improve earth system governance.

The report, highlights of which were published in an article "Navigating the Anthropocene: Improving Earth System Governance" in the March 16 issue of Science, calls for fundamental reform of the institutional framework for sustainable development in order to avoid dangerous changes in the Earth system. The report was written as an input to the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, set for Rio de Janeiro in June.

“The goal of this effort was to highlight the fact that discussions about sustainable development have to think big,” Betsill said. “Without fundamental change around the world we are on a path that is simply unsustainable.”

Recommendations for the UN

In particular, the group argues for the creation of a UN Sustainable Development Council to better integrate sustainable development concerns across the UN system, with a strong role for the 20 largest economies (G20). The report also suggests upgrading the UN Environment Programme to a full-fledged UN agency, giving it greater authority and more secure funding as well as stronger consultative rights for representatives of civil society.

“Today, the threats to our planetary system are comparable in scale and importance to the worldwide threats we dealt with following the conclusion of World War II in 1945, and they require a transformation of international institutions to meet the challenge,” Betsill said. “This certainly is not a call for world government, and we are not advocating for a final decision at Rio. Our goal is to lay out a plan, a road map, for moving in the direction of sustainable development using some of the principles outlined in our report.”

Fascinating research

Betsill has been at CSU since 2000 and specializes in international relations and global environmental politics. She said this politically charged project has piqued her interest on a couple of different scientific levels.

“No. 1, I do believe these are important and vital issues we need to deal with,” she said. “No. 2, as a political scientist, global environmental issues are absolutely fascinating because they are so complicated in terms of how decisions are made. It’s very rich material to study.”