IYGU Challenges

Global environmental change

Our environment is changing in many ways and at unprecedented rates: climate change, biodiversity loss and loss of ecosystems, increase in the frequency and severity of extreme events, desertification and soil degradation, overfishing and deforestation are just some of the many environmental challenges we are faced with.


There is a need to enhance our understanding of both Earth systems processes and socio-cultural contexts of human action. We also need to strengthen the relevance, use and social acceptance of existing knowledge. While there is sometimes a lack of awareness concerning the global implications of everyday living, the effective translation of knowledge into action commonly encounters a knowledge-action gap – a further challenge that the IYGU hopes to tackle. Importantly, we also need a better integration of different types of knowledge and in the process of knowledge production. The IYGU takes a transdisciplinary approach in the hope to integrate academic knowledge from all disciplines (social and natural sciences as well as the humanities), all types of knowledge (scientific, indigenous, local, traditional etc.) and all stakeholders (decision-makers, NGOs, businesses, the affected public etc.)

Changing geographies – the global reach of local actions

Over the last decades, the spatio-temporal conditions of everyone’s life have – directly or indirectly – changed dramatically. With the ongoing digital revolution, socio-cultural practices are now (at least potentially) global in reach. So are the consequences of human transformations of natural realities. With global change and the globalization of everyday life, we are confronted with an unprecedented situation. Generally speaking, we are experiencing the unintended consequences of 19th and 20th century problem solutions. We are facing a global climate change, as well as a global social change and both are inextricably linked.

Science-policy interface

But political institutions are not prepared for this constellation. Our political institutions are still of (predominantly) national reach. To bridge the gap between global problems and national problem-solving strategies, we need to foster global understanding and enhance international collaboration in climate policy and other policy fields concerned with global issues. In addition, and regardless of the spatial scale, there is a dire need to enhance the translation of the findings of global change research and research on sustainability into effective policies that will prevent the worst consequences of unabated global environmental change. International co-operation and national actions need to be aligned to deliver the best possible outcomes for societies and ecosystems.