This chapter elaborates upon the concept of earth system governance based on existing literature in earth system science and global governance studies, making a distinction between earth system governance and traditional environmental policy studies. It considers key elements of the earth system governance problem structure that make it particularly challenging and complicated, and describes the normative frame for earth system governance. After discussing the theoretical basis and academic ancestry of earth system governance, the chapter differentiates earth system governance from competing concepts that are found in the literature, particularly the notion of “earth system management.” It then lays out the normative goal of earth system governance, with particular emphasis on earth system boundaries as it has emerged in recent years. Finally, it examines the fundamental problem structures that make earth system governance one of the most complex and difficult political challenges today, along with the basic governance principles for effective earth system governance.
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