Will Steffen has died. The Chairman of the Volvo Environment Prize Jury passed away at a hospital in Canberra, Australia, on Sunday evening, Jan 29. He was treated for pancreatic cancer. He is survived by his wife, Carrie, and daughter Sonja.

Will Steffen took over as chairman of the Jury in 2014 and relentlessly worked to find the pioneering science in sustainability. He is remembered as a “truly leading thinker” who has influenced scientific agendas, businesses, and governments worldwide.

“We deeply regret the passing of Will Steffen”

Statement by Martin Lundstedt, President and CEO of Volvo Group and Chairman of the Volvo Environment Prize Foundation

We deeply regret the passing of Will Steffen. During his many years as Chairman of the Prize Jury, he worked hard to select and highlight the leading environmental research in the world. And he succeeded in that, not least because he himself was such a distinguished scientist. Moreover, Will Steffen was convincing in his message that science is crucial to solving planetary crises.

He set high standards for the foundation’s work, and we see today that it has led to increased international recognition in academia, the business community, and governments for the pioneering research that our purpose is to reward and highlight. We are very grateful for his efforts. The world has lost a leading climate scientist, inspirer, and team builder. Our task at the Volvo Environment Prize Foundation is to manage and develop what we have learned from Will Steffen.

Our thoughts go out to his family, friends, and colleagues worldwide.

“A major loss to the world”

Statement by Carl Folke, Chairman of the Scientific Committee, Volvo Environment Prize, Professor and director of the Beijer Institute, founder and Chair of the board of the Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University

This is a major loss to the world. Will Steffens’s scientific contributions are outstanding, exceptional, and path-breaking. 

We have been so fortunate to have him as Chairman of the Volvo Environment Prize Jury, and his passing deeply saddens my colleagues and me in the Jury and Scientific Committee. It’s a great human being and a scientific giant that is gone.

Will is the father behind Earth System science. His book from 2004 ‘Global Change and the Earth System: A Planet under Pressure’ is a milestone. Will’s work captures how the human and biogeophysical worlds interact, often at the global level and across scales. 

Will’s work was instrumental in the Great Acceleration, explaining in detail the increasing rate of impact of human activity upon the Earth’s biosphere and climate system.

Without Will, the world would not be so familiar with the Anthropocene concept and its implications as a new geological epoch where humanity has become a global force shaping the dynamics of planet Earth. In addition, he played a pivotal role in the development of planetary boundaries, which has had a strong impact also outside science. Will was also known for his studies on the rate at which humans were driving changes to the planet and the risk of irreversible “tipping points” that could push the world to so-called “hothouse conditions” and break down of the biosphere as we know it.

Will’s work will have a lasting imprint. Likewise, his humble personality, a pleasant way of being, and great friendship will remain deeply in our hearts