Development goals: Science alone cannot shape sustainability

We agree that science can and should inform the sustainable development goals agreed at the Rio+20 conference (G. Glaser Nature 491, 35; 2012). But basing policy decisions on science alone may be unproductive.

Experience indicates that political receptiveness to scientific advice is essential for shaping policy. Climate-change policy-makers, for example, continually receive new technical and scientific input, but they still cannot agree how best to act on it to mitigate or adapt to climate change (J. Depledge Glob. Environ. Polit. 6, 122; 2006).

Scientific evidence is rarely politically neutral or universally accepted; neither can it replace what is inherently a political process.