EaSM 2 | Linking Human and Earth System Models

To assess regional impacts and adaptation in urban systems and their hinterlands.

Principal Investigator (PI): Brian O'Neill
Co PIs: Peter Lawrence and Keith Oleson (NCAR); Michael Barton (Arizona State University); Johannes Feddemma (University of Kansas); Atul Jain (University of Illinois, Urbana-Champagne)


Within the next three decades, climate variability, climate change and global development trends could have varied and profound effects on human well-being, 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. This objective will be pursued 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 will be applicable in other human systems, in other regions, and with other IAMs than those employed here, to contribute to an even broader understanding of the human consequences of climate change.