Whole Earth System Modelling: LOOPS2015

Whole Earth System Modelling: LOOPS2015

In late March, Maja and Steve attended the LOOPS2015 workshop in New Forest, England on whole Earth system modelling.

Before you ask, the New Forest isn’t particularly new (it’s over 900 years old). Nor are there that many trees. But then again, “forest” at the time meant an area reserved for royal hunts; that trees grew there was largely incidental. In addition to the royal hunts, the New Forest acted as one of the classic “commons” of common pool resource theory: Local inhabitants were permitted to use the New Forest as common pasture, to gather wood, to gather peat for fuel, and dig for clay, among other activities.

At SES-LINK we are accustomed to analysing and modelling local and regional scale social-ecological system such as the commons of the New Forest. The workshop, however, concerned modelling social-ecological systems on the global scale. The community of ‘whole Earth system modelling’ aims to ‘close the loop’ of co-evolutionary feedbacks between global biophysical processes and global effects of human behaviour. This is an important but challenging undertaking.

Short talks each began with bold hypotheses on whole Earth system modelling. Maja emphasised the role of humans, claiming that human adaptive responses cannot be neglected, and that micro-level social-ecological interactions matter. Steve related progress from last year’s CSIRO workshop, including the claim that the Earth’s safe operating space needs to be made into an attractorJonathan Donges claimed that we are frequently ‘optimising at the edge’: policies that obtain specified outcomes with least cost often lead dangerously near tipping points or unsafe zones. Ricarda Winkelmann proposed that sea-level rise should be an additional planetary boundary and showed results indicating we have already passed some dangerous tipping points.

At with the first LOOPS workshop last year in Berlin, a special issue in the journal Earth System Dynamics had been opened to provide an avenue (although not exclusively) for publication of papers developed at LOOPS. At one of the dinners, the editor of the special issue, Wolfgang Lucht, awarded the remarkable prize of a neolithic stone tool to the first submission to this special issue!

We look forward to continued LOOPiness in the future!

The Beaulieu Hotel, New Forest, location for LOOPS2015.