Sustainably managing coupled ecological–economic systems requires not only an understanding of the environmental factors that affect them, but also knowledge of the interactions and feedback cycles that operate between resource dynamics and activities attributable to human intervention. The socioeconomic dynamics, in turn, call for an investigation of the behavioural drivers behind human action. We argue that a multidisciplinary approach is needed in order to tackle the increasingly pressing and intertwined environmental challenges faced by modern societies. Academic contributions to climate change policy have been constrained by methodological and terminological differences, so we discuss how programmes aimed at cross-disciplinary education and involvement in governance may help to unlock scholars' potential to propose new solutions.
This is a preview of subscription content
Subscribe to Journal
Get full journal access for 1 year
only $8.25 per issue
All prices are NET prices.
VAT will be added later in the checkout.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.
All prices are NET prices.
Söderqvist, T., Sundbaum, A., Folke, C. & Mäler, K-G. Bringing Ecologists and Economists Together (Springer, 2011).
Hardin, G. The tragedy of the commons. Science 162, 1243–1248 (1968).
Lloyd, W. F. Two Lectures on the Checks to Population (Oxford Univ. Press, 1833).
Ostrom, E. Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action (Cambridge Univ. Press, 1990).
Rockström J. et al. A safe operating space for humanity. Nature 461, 472–475 (2009).
Ostrom, E. in Annual World Bank Conference on Development Economics 1995 (eds Bruno, M. & Pleskovic, B.) 207–234 (World Bank, 1995).
Barrett, S. Why Cooperate? The Incentive to Supply Global Public Goods (Oxford Univ. Press, 2007).
IPCC Summary for policymakers in Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis (eds Stocker, T. F. et al.) (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2013).
O'Neill, B. C. & Oppenheimer M. Dangerous climate impacts and the Kyoto Protocol. Science 296, 1971–1972 (2002).
Smith, J. B. et al. in IPCC Climate Change 2001: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability (eds McCarthy, J., Canziani, O., Leary, N., Dokken, D. & White, K.) 913–967 (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2001).
Dannenberg, A. et al. On the provision of public goods with probabilistic and ambiguous thresholds. Environ. Resour. Econ. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10640-014-9796-6 (2014).
Hansen, J. et al. Target atmospheric CO2: Where should humanity aim? Open Atmos. Sci. J. 2, 217–231 (2008).
Mastrandrea, M. D. & Schneider, S. H. Probabilistic integrated assessment of “dangerous” climate change. Science 304, 571–575 (2004).
Prather, M. J. et al. Tracking uncertainties in the causal chain from human activities to climate. Geophys. Res. Lett. 36, L05707 (2009).
McCright, A. M. et al. Promoting interdisciplinarity through climate change education. Nature Clim. Change 3, 713–716 (2013).
Ehrlich, P. R. The MAHB, the culture gap, and some really inconvenient truths. PLoS Biology 8, e1000330 (2010).
Arrow, K. et al. Economic growth, carrying capacity, and the environment. Science 268, 520–521 (1995).
Dasgupta, P., Levin, S. & Lubchenco, J. Economic pathways to ecological sustainability. BioScience 50, 339–345 (2000).
Dasgupta, P. Human Well-being and the Natural Environment. (Oxford Univ. Press, 2001).
Meehl, P. E. Clinical Versus Statistical Prediction: A Theoretical Analysis and a Review of the Evidence (Echo Point Books & Media, 2013).
Colander, D., Holt, R. & Rosser, B. The changing face of mainstream economics. Rev. Polit. Econ. 16, 485–499 (2004).
Arthur, W. B. Increasing Returns and Path Dependence in the Economy (Univ. of Michigan Press, 1994).
Wagner, G. P. & Altenberg, L. Perspective: complex adaptations and the evolution of evolvability. Evolution 50, 967–976 (1996).
Settle, C., Crocker, T. D. & Shogren, J. F. On the joint determination of biological and economic systems. Ecol. Econ. 42, 301–311 (2002).
Shogren, J. F. & Crocker, T. D. Risk and its consequences. J. Environ. Econ. Manage. 37, 44–51 (1999).
Van den Bergh, J. Evolutionary thinking in environmental economics. J. Evol. Econ. 17, 521–549 (2007).
Sethi, R. & Somanathan, E. The evolution of social norms in common property resource use. Am. Econ. Rev. 86, 766–788 (1996).
Tavoni, A., Schlueter, M. & Levin, S. The survival of the conformist: social pressure and renewable resource management. J. Theor. Biol. 299, 152–161 (2012).
Beinhocker, E. D. The Origin of Wealth: Evolution, Complexity, and the Radical Remaking of Economics (Harvard Business School Press, 2006).
Von Neumann, J. & Morgenstern, O. Theory of Games and Economic Behavior (Princeton Univ. Press, 1944).
Maynard Smith, J. Evolution and the Theory of Games (Cambridge Univ. Press, 1982).
Guckenheimer, J. & Holmes, P. Nonlinear Oscillations, Dynamical Systems, and Bifurcations of Vector Fields (Springer, 1997).
Tavoni, A., Dannenberg, A., Kallis, G. & Löschel, A. Inequality, communication and the avoidance of disastrous climate change in a public goods game. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 108, 11825–11829 (2011).
Carraro, C. & Siniscalco, D. Strategies for the international protection of the environment. J. Publ. Econ. 52, 309–328 (1993).
Heal, G. & Kunreuther, H. in Climate Change and Common Sense: Essays in Honor of Tom Schelling (eds Hahn, R. W. & Ulph, A.) Ch. 4 (Oxford Univ. Press, 2012).
Gladwell, M. The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference (Back Bay Books, 2002).
Goldenfeld, N. Lectures on Phase Transitions and the Renormalization Group (Addison Wesley, 1992).
Zahler, R. S., Sussman, H. J. Claims and accomplishments of applied catastrophe theory. Nature 269, 759–763 (1977).
Guckenheimer, J. The catastrophe controversy. Math. Int. 1, 15–20 (1978).
Scheffer, M. & Carpenter, S. R. Catastrophic regime shifts in ecosystems: Linking theory to observation. Trends Ecol. Evol. 18, 648–656 (2003).
Scheffer, M. et al. Early-warning signals for critical transitions. Nature 461, 53–59 (2009).
Boettiger, C. & Hastings, A. From patterns to predictions. Nature 493, 157–158 (2013).
Mäler, K-G., Xepapadeas, A. & de Zeeuw, A. The economics of shallow lakes. Environ. Resour. Econ. 26, 603–624 (2003).
Kossioris, G., Plexousakis, M., Xepapadeas, A., de Zeeuw, A. & Mäler, K-G. Feedback Nash equilibria for non-linear differential games in pollution control. J. Econ. Dynam. Control 32, 1312–1331 (2008).
Crépin, A-S. & Lindahl, T. Grazing games: sharing common property resources with complex dynamics. Environ. Resour. Econ 44, 29–46 (2009).
Lade, S., Tavoni, A., Levin, S. & Schlüter, M. Regime shifts in a social-ecological system. Theor. Ecol. 6, 359–372 (2013).
Ostrom, E. A Polycentric Approach for Coping with Climate Change Policy Research Working Paper 5095 (World Bank, 2009).
Ostrom, V. The Quest to Understand Human Affairs: Natural Resources Policy and Essays on Community and Collective Choice (Lexington Books, 2011).
Flierl, G., Grünbaum, D., Levin, S. & Olson, D. From individuals to aggregations: the interplay between behavior and physics. J. Theor. Biol. 196, 397–454 (1999).
Kevrekidis, I. G. et al. Equation-free, coarse-grained multiscale computation: enabling microscopic simulators to perform system-level tasks. Commun. Math. Sci. 1, 715–762 (2002).
Durlauf, S. in The Economy as a Complex Evolving System II (eds Arthur, W. B., Durlauf, S. & Lane, D.) Ch. 4 (Addison-Wesley, 1997).
Dasgupta, P. & Paul, D. Toward a new economics of science. Res. Policy 23, 487–521 (1994).
Holling, C. S. Resilience and stability of ecological systems. Annu. Rev. Ecol. Syst. 4, 1–24 (1973).
Levin, S. The problem of pattern and scale in ecology. Ecology 73, 1943–1967 (1992).
Simon, H. A. & Ando, A. Aggregation of variables in dynamic systems. Econometrica 29, 111–138 (1961).
Chave, J. & Levin, S. in The Economics of Non-Convex Ecosystems (eds Dasgupta, P. & Mäler, K-G.) 29–59 (Springer, 2004).
Clark, C. W. Mathematical Bioeconomics (Wiley, 1976).
Finnoff, D. & Tschirhart, J. Linking dynamic economic and ecological general equilibrium models. Resour. Energy Econ. 30, 91–114 (2008).
Dasgupta, P. & Heal, G. Economic Theory and Exhaustible Resources (Cambridge Univ. Press, 1979).
Folke, C. in Handbook of Environmental and Resource Economics (ed. van den Bergh J. C. J. M.) Part X (Edward Elgar, 1999).
Barnosky, A. D. et al. Approaching a state shift in Earth's biosphere. Nature 486, 52–58 (2012).
Rosser, B. J., Cramer, K. L. & Holt, R. P. F. European Economics at a Crossroads (Edward Elgar, 2010).
Levin, S. et al. Resilience in natural and socioeconomic systems. Environ. Dev. Econ. 3, 222–235 (1998).
Perrings, C. Resilience in the dynamics of economy-environment systems. Environ. Resour. Econ. 11, 503–520 (1998).
Anderson, P. W., Arrow, K. & Pines, D. (eds) The Economy As An Evolving Complex System (Westview, 1988).
May, R., Levin, S. & Sugihara, G. Ecology for bankers. Nature 241, 893–895 (2008).
Brown, J., Gillooly, J. F., Allen, A. P., Savage, V. M. & West, G. B. Toward a metabolic theory of ecology. Ecology 85, 1771–1789 (2004).
Arrow, K. et al. Are we consuming too much? J. Econ. Perspect. 18, 147–172 (2004).
Wood, C. Environmental Impact Assessment: A Comparative Review (Pearson Education, 2003).
India – Strengthening Institutions for Sustainable Growth: Country Environmental Analysis Report No. 38292-IN (World Bank, 2006).
Gowdy, J. M. Behavioral economics and climate change policy. J. Econ. Behav. Organ 68, 632–644 (2008).
Shogren, J. F. & Taylor, L. O. On behavioral-environmental economics. Rev. Environ. Econ. Policy 2, 26–44 (2008).
Kahneman, D. Thinking, Fast and Slow (Penguin, 2012).
Arrow, K. J. & Levin, S. Intergenerational resource transfers with random offspring numbers. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 106, 13702–13706 (2009).
Heal, G., Kunreuther, H. Social reinforcement: cascades, entrapment, and tipping. Am. Econ. J. Microecon. 2, 86–99 (2010).
Watts, D. J. A simple model of global cascades on random networks. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 99, 5766–5720 (2002).
Chung, N. N., Chew, L. Y. & Lai, C. H. Influence of network structure on cooperative dynamics in coupled socio-ecological systems. Europhys. Lett. 104, 28003–28009 (2013).
Dietz, S., Marchiori, C. & Tavoni, A. Why do we see unilateral action on climate change? Vox (5 December 2012).
Sterner, T. & Damon, M. Green growth in the post-Copenhagen climate. Energy Policy 39, 7165–7173 (2011).
Vasconcelos, V., Santos, F. C. & Pacheco, J. M. A bottom-up institutional approach to cooperative governance of risky commons. Nature Clim. Change 3, 797–801 (2013).
Tavoni, A. Game theory: Building up cooperation. Nature Clim. Change 3, 782–783 (2013).
Nordhaus, W. D. Geography and macroeconomics: New data and new findings. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 103, 3510–3517 (2006).
Nowak, M. Evolutionary Dynamics: Exploring the Equations of Life (Belknap, 2006).
Van de Vliert, E. Climate, Affluence, and Culture (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2008).
Levin, S. A. Learning to live in a global commons: socioeconomic challenges for a sustainable environment. Ecol. Res. 21, 328–333 (2006).
Russell . et al. Ecosystem impacts of geoengineering: a review for developing a science plan. Ambio 41, 350–69 (2012).
Douglas G. M. et al. Management of trade-offs in geoengineering through optimal choice of non-uniform radiative forcing. Nature Clim. Change 3, 365–368 (2013).
Moreno-Cruz, J., Ricke, K. & Keith, D. W. A simple model to account for regional inequalities in the effectiveness of solar radiation management. Climatic Change 110, 649–668 (2011).
Barrett, S. et al. Climate engineering reconsidered. Nature Clim. Change 4, 527–529 (2014).
Shogren, J. F. et al. Why economics matters for endangered species protection. Conserv. Biol. 13, 1257–1261 (1999).
Sandel, M. J. What Money Can't Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets (Penguin, 2012).
Frey, B. A constitution of knaves crowds out civic virtues. Econ. J. 107, 1043–1053 (1997).
Gintis, H. A framework for the unification of the behavioral sciences. Behav. Brain Sci. 30, 1–61 (2007).
Costanza, R., Wainger, L., Folke, C. & Mäler, K-G. Modeling complex ecological economic systems: towards an evolutionary, dynamic understanding of people and nature. BioScience 43, 545–555 (1993).
Söderqvist, T., Sundbaum, A., Folke, C. & Mäler, K-G. (eds) Bringing Ecologists and Economists Together. The Askö Meetings and Papers (Springer, 2011).
Weitzman, M. L. Gamma discounting. Am. Econ. Rev. 91, 260–271 (2001).
Saari, D. G. The politics of consensus. Soc. Choice Welfare 17, 179–188 (2000).
Zartman, I. W. & Touval, S. International Cooperation: the Extents and Limits of Multilateralism (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2010).
Rosvall, M. & Bergstrom, C. T. Multilevel compression of random walks on networks reveals hierarchical organization in large integrated systems. PLoS ONE 6, e18209 (2011).
A. T. is supported by the Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy, which is funded by the UK Economic and Social Research Council. S. A. L. was supported by National Science Foundation grants EF-1137894 and GEO-1211972
The authors declare no competing financial interests.
About this article
Cite this article
Tavoni, A., Levin, S. Managing the climate commons at the nexus of ecology, behaviour and economics. Nature Clim Change 4, 1057–1063 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1038/nclimate2375
Do pilot free trade zones improve the green total factor productivity? Evidence from a quasi-natural experiment in China
Environmental Science and Pollution Research (2022)
Nature Communications (2021)
Nature Climate Change (2016)