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Earth system modeling with complex dynamic human societies: the copan:CORE open World-Earth modeling framework

Earth system modeling with complex dynamic human societies: the copan:CORE open World-Earth modeling framework
Jonathan F. Donges and Jobst Heitzig
Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research

Analysis of Earth system dynamics in the Anthropocene requires to explicitly take into account the increasing magnitude of processes operating in human societies, their cultures, economies and technosphere and their growing feedback entanglement with those in the physical, chemical and biological systems of the planet. However, current state-of-the-art Earth System Models do not represent dynamic human societies and their feedback interactions with the biogeophysical Earth system and macroeconomic Integrated Assessment Models typically do so only with limited scope. This paper (i) proposes design principles for constructing World-Earth Models (WEM) for Earth system analysis of the Anthropocene, i.e., models of social (World) - ecological (Earth) co-evolution on up to planetary scales, and (ii) presents the copan:CORE open simulation modeling framework for developing, composing and analyzing such WEMs based on the proposed principles. The framework provides a modular structure to flexibly construct and study WEMs. These can contain biophysical (e.g. carbon cycle dynamics), socio-metabolic/economic (e.g. economic growth or energy system changes) and socio-cultural processes (e.g. voting on climate policies or changing social norms) and their feedback interactions, and are based on elementary entity types, e.g., grid cells and social systems. Thereby, copan:CORE enables the epistemic flexibility needed for contributions towards Earth system analysis of the Anthropocene given the large diversity of competing theories and methodologies used for describing socio-metabolic/economic and socio-cultural processes in the Earth system by various fields and schools of thought. To illustrate the capabilities of the framework, we present an exemplary and highly stylized WEM implemented in copan:CORE that illustrates how endogenizing socio-cultural processes and feedbacks such as voting on climate policies based on socially learned environmental awareness could fundamentally change macroscopic model outcomes.

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Thank you Jonathan and Jobst. Interesting stuff. There have been global assessment models with cultural dimensions around since at least the 1990s, but I agree more attention needs to be given to cultural dimensions in earth system modeling. Since models in the cultural domain are more speculative how will this change the way you use the models and the model outcomes? What is the audience and if the audience include “policy makers” how you communicate model results? I expect that there is a lot of uncertainty in the outcomes, and this is very difficult to communicate to the broader audience.