Paul Raskin

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Paul Raskin
Paul Raskin
Dr. Paul Raskin
Born 1942
Occupation President of Tellus Institute, environmentalist
Language English
Nationality USA
Ethnicity USA
Subject sustainability, scenario analysis
Notable works Great Transition

Paul Raskin is the Founding Director of the Tellus Institute, which has conducted over 3,500 research and policy projects throughout the world on environmental issues, resource planning, scenario analysis, and sustainable development. His research and writing has centered on formulating and analyzing alternative global and regional scenarios, and the requirements for a transition to a sustainable, just, and livable future, called the Great Transition. Dr. Raskin has served as a lead author on the National Academy of Science's Board on Sustainability, the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, UNEP's Global Environmental Outlook, and the Earth Charter. He was also lead author on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Third Assessment Report,[1] and professional reviewer of the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report.


Born in Chicago in 1942, Raskin was raised in California, receiving a B.A. in physics and philosophy in 1964 from the University of California, Berkeley, under the mentorship of eminent philosopher of science Paul Feyerabend. He went on to earn a Ph.D. in theoretical physics from Columbia University in 1970, and taught at the university level, becoming Chair of an interdisciplinary department at the State University of New York at Albany in 1973. In 1976, he co-founded the Tellus Institute, where he has directed a team of professionals in environmental, resource, and development policy research working throughout the world.[2] Raskin also founded the U.S. center of the Stockholm Environment Institute in 1989,[3] The Global Scenario Group (GSG) in 1995,[4] and the Great Transition Initiative (GTI) in 2003.[5]

Research contributions[edit]

Dr. Raskin’s research has evolved through several phases: integrated energy and environment planning, integrated freshwater assessment, climate change mitigation strategies, and sustainable development studies. He conceived, developed, and disseminated widely used planning models, including the Long-range Energy Alternatives Planning (LEAP)[6] system in 1980 and the Water Evaluation And Planning (WEAP) system in 1990,[7] both now maintained by the US Center of the Stockholme Environment Institute. More recently, he created PoleStar, a comprehensive framework for exploring alternative global, regional and national scenarios.[8]

Since the Brundtland Commission's seminal Our Common Future in 1997, for which he was a contributing author, Raskin's work has centered on developing comprehensive long-range scenarios of socio-ecological systems at different spatial scales: river-basin, nation, region, and globe. Toward that end, he organized the GSG in 1995 as an interdisciplinary and international team to examine alternative global scenarios for the twenty-first century. The GSG's work culminated in the 2002 essay Great Transition: The Promise and Lure of the Times Ahead.[9] This treatise integrates a large body of data and analysis on institutional, resource, and environmental trends and possibilities, and on detailed computer simulation of alternative global scenarios.

Great Transition[edit]

The conceptual point of departure of Dr. Raskin's Great Transition essay is that humanity is in the midst of a profound transition, which the essay refers to as the Planetary Phase of Civilization. According to this perspective, a form of global society will consolidate in the coming decades but its ultimate character remains fundamentally and inherently uncertain. The development of the global system can branch in different directions, depending on the ways ecological systems respond to anthropogenic stresses, such as climate change and how social institutions evolve and conflicts are resolved. Most fundamentally, the form of twenty-first century society that emerges will depend on human consciousness and the choices people make in the critical years ahead. The essay envisions three broad types of possible twenty-first century scenarios — Conventional Worlds, Barbarization, and Great Transitions — and a number of variations within each category.

This scenario framework been used in numerous global, regional and national scenario assessments, such as UNEP’s Global Environment Outlook.[10] A recent comprehensive review of over 450 global scenarios found the GSG's framework to be the most useful and archetypal, "a testament to the original concept of the GSG scenarios and their development and refinement over a 16 year period".[11]

Selected publications[edit]

  • Future. In Encyclopedia of Sustainability: The Spirit of Sustainability. Editor: Willis Jenkins. Great Barrington, MA: Berkshire (2010).
  • Global Sustainability: Bending the Curve. London: Routledge Press (2002).
  • Halfway to the Future: A Reflection on the Global Condition. Boston: Tellus Institute (2002).
  • Our Common Journey: A Transition Toward Sustainability. Report of the Board on Sustainability of National Academy of Sciences. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press (1999).
  • Bending the Curve: Toward Global Sustainability. Second Report of the Global Scenario Group. (1998). (Accessed 6 June 2013).
  • Windows on the Future: Global Scenarios and Sustainability. Environment Magazine (April 1998), 40(3):6-11.
  • Global Energy, Sustainability and the Conventional Development Paradigm. Energy Sources (1998), 20:363-383.
  • Water Futures: Assessment of long-range Patterns and Problems Perspectives. Background Document of the Comprehensive Assessment of the Freshwater Resources of the World. Stockholm: Stockholm Environment Institute/United Nations. (1997)
  • Branch Points: Global Scenarios and Human Choice. First Report of the Global Scenario Group. (1997). (Accessed 6 June 2013).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "IPCC Assessment Reports". Retrieved 24 April 2013. 
  2. ^ "Tellus Institute: About". Retrieved 8 May 2013. 
  3. ^ "Common Dreams: Paul Raskin". Retrieved 8 May 2013. 
  4. ^ "Global Scenario Group - About". Retrieved 8 May 2013. 
  5. ^ "Paul Raskin Bio". Retrieved 8 May 2013. 
  6. ^ "SEI LEAP". Retrieved 4 January 2012. 
  7. ^ "WEAP History and Credits". Retrieved 4 January 2012. 
  8. ^ "PoleStar Project Background". Retrieved 4 January 2012. 
  9. ^ Raskin, Paul. "Great Transition: The Promise and Lure of the Times Ahead" (PDF). Retrieved 4 January 2012. 
  10. ^ "GEO-1 About". Retrieved 9 January 2012. 
  11. ^ Hunt, Dexter V. L.; Lombardi, D. Rachel et al. (2012). "Scenario Archetypes: Converging Rather than Diverging Themes". Sustainability 4 (4): 740–772. doi:10.3390/su4040740. Retrieved 6 June 2013.