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Linking Human and Earth System Models to Assess Regional Impacts and Adaptation in Urban Systems and their Hinterlands

Chinese courtyard

The central objective of this proposal is to improve understanding of the joint consequences of socio-economic development and regional climate change by developing and applying tools to better integrate human and earth system models. We will pursue this objective by focusing on impacts in three key systems – urban areas, agriculture and forests – in three regional case studies in rapidly developing countries – China, India and Brazil.

Within the next three decades, climate variability, climate change and global development trends could have varied and profound effects on human wellbeing, especially in the developing world. Understanding how human and earth system trajectories will interact is essential to making better decisions that can reduce negative consequences for society and ecosystems. Research related to climate impacts has traditionally been separated into a number of poorly coordinated tasks, with independent models and research groups developing a) socio-economic development pathways, b) emissions and land use scenarios, c) land cover projections, d) climate simulations and e) impact assessments. This disjointed approach has led to inconsistencies in assumptions across different components of the problem, lack of incorporation of feedbacks, unmanaged uncertainty propagation and introduction of errors when upscaling or downscaling information across components.

To address these issues, better approaches to impact assessment are required that provide richer, higher resolution and more internally consistent information about future societal and earth system conditions, and that link models of human and earth systems more effectively.

The central objective of this proposal is to improve understanding of the joint consequences of socio-economic development and regional climate change by developing and applying tools to better integrate human and earth system models. We will pursue this objective by focusing on impacts in three key systems – urban areas, agriculture and forests – in three regional case studies in rapidly developing countries – China, India and Brazil.

The project will develop an integrated suite of community tools for linking the most relevant type of global human system model, integrated assessment models (IAMs), with the Community Earth System Model (CESM), developed and validated through broad-based scientific collaboration and community support over the past 15 years. It will employ these tools to link the CESM with one IAM, the integrated Population-Economy-Technology-Science (iPETS) model, and carry out end-to-end impact assessments for our case study regions, from socio-economic scenario development through earth system analysis to impact and adaptation assessment.

These assessments will serve as a proof-of-concept for this new modeling framework, as well as produce valuable assessment information. Importantly, the research framework we propose to develop will be applicable in other human systems, in other regions, and with other IAMs than those we employ here, to contribute to an even broader understanding of the human consequences of climate change.

 

Funding Source:
National Science Foundation – Directorate for Geosciences-Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences

Team Members:

Brian O'Neill, National Center for Atmospheric Research
Peter Lawrence, National Center for Atmospheric Research
Samuel Levis, National Center for Atmospheric Research
Keith Oleson, National Center for Atmospheric Research
Atul Jain, University of Illinois Department of Atmospheric Sciences
Johannes Feddema, University of Kansas Environmental Studies Program
Michael Barton, Arizona State University School of Human Evolution and Social Change
Robert Pahle, Arizona State University School of Geographical Sciences & Urban Planning