Sarah leads a transdisciplinary team of researchers who aim to characterize the global ‘safe operating space for humanity’ in applicable ways. She jointly coordinates the international planetary boundaries research network PB-net. She contributes to the science-policy interface work of SwedBio. She teaches Challenges of the Anthropocene, an introduction to global change science and policy, in the SRC Master’s programme.
Sarah has a research background in marine and atmospheric chemistry. She obtained her PhD in 1996 from the University of East Anglia, UK, where she did postdoctoral research on the global nitrogen cycle before moving into transdisciplinary sustainability research. She worked on integrated approaches to environmental management, mainly of wetlands and coastal zones. Later she turned to issues of global environmental change and sustainability.
She has combined her own research with international science coordination for several years, helping bridge various knowledge communities in environmental change science. And she has occasionally worked as a sustainability consultant, on issues ranging from local participatory processes for community planning up to global environmental risks.
Sarah is involved in several forums where science interfaces with policy, business and wider society. She has served as a Trustee and Vice President of the international Institute of Marine Engineering, Science and Technology, a learned society and membership body for all marine professionals. She co-chairs the Executive Committee of IHOPE (Integrated History and Future of People on Earth), a Future Earth project. She co-convenes PB-net, an international network of policy-engaged researchers working to advance planetary boundaries science and operationalization. She is associate editor for the journal Environmental Science & Policy, and an editorial advisory board member of the Journal of Critical Realism.
Throughout her career Sarah has championed university, national and EU initiatives to support women, working parents, and contract research staff working in science.
Awards and achievements:
Research news | 2018-07-10
The World in 2050 initiative launches new report outlining synergies and benefits that render the goals achievable
Research news | 2018-03-07
In continuing to highlight some of our women researchers for International Women’s Day, we would now like to showcase Sarah Cornell whose work spans from understanding Earth resilience science to crafting real world impacts
Research news | 2017-12-21
New study looks at whether marine plastic pollution should be considered as a component of chemical pollutants in planetary boundaries framework
Research news | 2017-10-16
How investments in solar energy go beyond access to electricity to positively affect people’s life expectancy and years of schooling
2018 - Report
This study has made an initial disaggregation, allocation and benchmarking analysis to the EU-28 level, for the planetary boundaries for climate change, biosphere integrity, land systems change, freshwater use, biogeochemical flows (nitrogen and phosphorus), and novel entities (chemical pollution). The following overarching insights relate to all PBs: Based on equal-per capita allocation of the global safe operating space, ...
2018 - Journal / article
Global change and governance scholars frequently highlight polycentricity as a feature of resilient governance, but both theoretical and empirical knowledge about features and outcomes of the concept are lacking at the global scale. Here we investigate the structural properties of governance of global nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) cycles, two processes in the ‘planetary boundaries’ framework. We have used a mixed-methods app...
2018 - Journal / article
Changes to climate–carbon cycle feedbacks may significantly affect the Earth system’s response to greenhouse gas emissions. These feedbacks are usually analysed from numerical output of complex and arguably opaque Earth system models. Here, we construct a stylised global climate–carbon cycle model, test its output against comprehensive Earth system models, and investigate the strengths of its climate–carbon cycle feedbacks ...
2017 - Journal / article
The exponential increase in the use of plastic in modern society and the inadequate management of the resulting waste have led to its accumulation in the marine environment. There is increasing evidence of numerous mechanisms by which marine plastic pollution is causing effects across successive levels of biological organization. This will unavoidably impact ecological communities and ecosystem functions. A remaining question ...