ENGLAND – Using a mathematical model researchers at the University of Bath have discovered that achieving key Global Goals could trigger a domino effect.

The 17 goals adopted in 2015 include ending hunger and combating climate change by 2030. Looking at the links between them all using a systems perspective, Professor Jonathan Dawes from the Department of Mathematical Sciences, University of Bath, and his team have identified that advancing goals 4-16, the broader societal and environmental objectives, are central to progressing goals 1-3: no poverty, zero hunger, and good health and wellbeing.

“This analysis, using a very simple mathematical model, takes a systems level look at all the linkages between the goals and what we see is a directionality – or a domino effect – in that progress in some areas leads to more progress in others,” said Professor Dawes.”Some goals are better reinforced by others in virtuous circles, but others aren’t: we need to prioritise and support the goals that aren’t in order to make sure that the system as a whole is successful.”

He continued: “Almost all academic research focusses on issues related to one or only a handful of SDGs and targets. In contrast, this research is intended to be complementary – looking at the system-level linkages between goals, and their implications. It’s definitely not the last word on the topic: these are complex problems, and there’s a great opportunity for the academic community to become more involved in these systemic issues. 

“Modelling also allows us to make predictions as to which goals are most likely to be achieved by 2030 under ‘business as usual’ scenarios, and then to propose alternatives. We’re privileged as academic researchers to able to discuss courses of action that politicians would find very difficult to introduce into the public debate.

Professor Dawes added: “Perhaps we can follow the example of climate modellers, where different computer models make predictions that vary in detail, but when taken together provide consistent estimates of future trends. Multiple research clusters examining the SDGs and their linkages from different viewpoints might allow us to pick out common factors – and a systems level approach gives us the ability to pull out clear priorities from a complicated, difficult picture.”

The study is published in the journal Sustainable Development.