Scheduled Special Issues

Social dynamics and planetary boundaries in Earth system modelling

  • Guest Editors: W. Lucht, J. Donges, A. Kleidon, S. Cornell, J. Dyke, and M. Sivapalan
  • Timeline: 01 May 2014 – 30 Apr 2016

Human actions play an increasing role in shaping the Earth’s planetary environment, from the physical climate system to biogeochemical cycles to the functioning of the land surface. To understand and predict the future evolution of the Earth system, it is thus critical to understand the planetary boundaries of the human playing field, as well as socio-economic dynamics and their interactions with climate, and the consequences for the planetary system. There is a range of urgent questions related to this topic, from the definition of planetary boundaries, the safe operating space for humanity, thresholds and critical transitions in the global socio-environmental system, and the identification of sustainable pathways for future development.

However, the current Earth system modeling landscape lacks the tools to adequately address these challenges. Either societal dynamics is tightly constrained by economic optimization paradigms (Integrated Assessment modeling) or present only as prescribed scenario input in physical Earth system models. Furthermore, feedback loops between social and environmental processes are largely absent in current Earth system models.

What is needed is a more dynamic societal sphere allowing for social tipping points, major reorganizations, revolutions and collapse in conjunction with a description of the fully coupled co-evolutionary dynamics of human societies and the natural Earth system. In this special issue, we seek novel and innovative approaches that deal with modeling socio-economic phenomena in the Earth system, their dynamics, interactions, and boundaries.

We welcome contributions applying concepts and methods that include, but are not limited to:

  • Earth and social systems thermodynamics and stoichiometry (e.g., socio-industrial metabolism)
  • Socio-ecological systems modeling
  • Conceptual, empirical, or agent-based models from the social sciences
  • Adaptive and temporal networks
  • Dynamical and evolutionary game theory

Climate Change and Environmental Pressure: Adaptation and Resilience of Local Communities in the Hindu-Kush-Himalaya

  • Guest Editors: G. Gioli, V. Lucarini, J. Scheffran, and A. Turner
  • Timeline: 20 Feb 2014 – 15 Oct 2014

The Hindu-Kush-Himalaya (HKH) is the highest mountain range in the world and its glaciers feed into 10 major Asian river basins. Together, these rivers contribute to the fresh water supply of an estimated 1.4 billion people, out of whom 20% live below the poverty line. Eight countries share the territory of the HKH region: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Pakistan, India, Myanmar, Nepal, and China. All of these countries are experiencing fast paced transformations at several levels and scales. The HKH has been identified as one of the global hot spots for climate change, however, the simulation of the climatic conditions in the HKH still presents serious challenges to the research community, and state-of-the-art climate models struggle in reproducing the observed climate variability and trends. Moreover, collecting and validating hydro-meteorological data in such an extreme and diverse territory is highly challenging. The intensity and features of future climate variations, and especially of its extremes, and their potential impacts in the region are still quite uncertain. Understanding the interaction between climatic and environmental change (changing temperature and precipitation patterns, changes in the hydrological regimes of water basins, and in the snow-cover dynamics, variation in the extent of glaciers, pollution), and other drivers of change such as globalization, economic integration and population dynamics (out-migration, rural-urban migration, and population growth) are of great importance for planning a sustainable future in the region.

This special issue collects some of the contributions presented at the workshop "Climate Change and Environmental Pressure: Adaptation and Resilience of Local Communities in the Hindu-Kush-Himalaya (HKH)" held in Hamburg on October 9-11 2013. This editorial activity aims at contributing to building trans-disciplinary knowledge and collaborations among scholars working on climate change and its impacts in the HKH region, beyond disciplinary and national boundaries. Such knowledge shall lead to a better understanding of vulnerabilities and to a holistic view on the environmental and climatic challenges that shall feed into future research design, and to inform stakeholders and policy-makers. We foresee contributions covering four diverse but partially overlapping research areas, across natural sciences, social sciences, and engineering:

  • Regional Climate: Models and Observations
  • Resources and Land Management, Water, Food and Energy Security
  • Rural/Urban Interactions: Livelihoods, Gender, Migration and Development
  • Policy, Governance, Institutions and Best Practices

Intersectoral Impact Model Intercomparison Project (ISI-MIP)

  • Guest Editors: W. Lucht, M. Floerke, R. Pavlick, and D. Lapola
  • Timeline: 15 Nov 2012 – 31 Dec 2014

ISI-MIP is a community-driven modelling effort with the goal of providing cross-sectoral global impact assessments, based on the newly developed climate [Representative Concentration Pathways (RCPs)] and socio-economic [Shared Socio-Economic Pathways (SSPs)] scenarios.

Based on common background scenarios (climate and socio-economic), a quantitative estimate of impacts and uncertainties for different sectors and from multiple impact models will be derived. From this, policy relevant and society-focused metrics will be deducted.

This initiative, coordinated by a team at Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research with support from IIASA and backing from the IPCC Working Groups II and III, aims to provide fast-track outcomes for the IPCC's Fifth Assessment Report (AR5). Further it hopes to initiate a longer-term coordinated impact assessment effort driven by the entire impact community.

This ESD special issue is intended to cover research performed within the context of ISI-MIP. Contributing manuscripts may cover modelling studies which use the common ISI-MIP background scenarios to improve our understanding of the impacts and uncertainties associated with projected global change.