Summer School on Global Sustainability-Working Group Wiki Page

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Please refer to the Complex Systems Summer School groups page to get an idea of self organization and working groups.

Cluster Research Ideas

Ecosystem Services, Biodiversity, Food and Ag

1) How can the global food and land-use systems decrease their negative environmental impact and adapt to climate change while mitigating its effects?

2) Expanding and standardizing measurement, monitoring, and verification of global ecosystem services.

3) How can we sustainably use ocean and freshwater systems (drinking water, fishing, aquaculture, recreation, and biodiversity)?

Developing World

4) How to foster innovation/knowledge sharing within the developing world in regards to improving livelihoods & ensuring sustainability? (e.g. Indeigenous Knowledge, solutions appropriate for agricultural lifestyles)?

5) How would technological transfer from developed to developing nations (or vice versa) for climate change adaptation and mitigation actually occur? (e.g. acocuntability, $$, open source software, govt to govt, private to private, incentives for innovation)

6) How do we get to an equitable distribution of responsibility for climate change mitigation & adaptation around the globe? (e.g. emission reduction burdens, adaptation funds, ranking vulnerability)

Policy/Regulatory Environment

7) How can complexity science support streamlining development and adoption of technologies and practices?

8) How to effectively translate research into policy, practice and intervention (with diverse collaborators, partnerships, initiatives, etc.)

9) How do we transform policies affecting global sustainability (path dependence, complex adaptive policy, integration, scalability, etc.)

10) What types of policies can promote sustainability and how to meaningfully enforce them? (individual initiatives, systems approaches, international agreements)

Decision Sciences

11) How do we understand/how do we change/what are the rules of the game, especially as applied to: economic growth theory agricultural/eco systems social systems?

12) What drives societal transformation (in terms of values, norms, practices, and livelihoods strategies) & how can complex system science help to productively shed light on those processes?

Climate Change

13) How can we better quantify uncertainty when we are in uncharted territory of the climate system (where change is happening faster and involving feedbacks we don't yet understand?

14) How do we develop useful integrated models? Are there feedback mechanisms that we don't understand?

15) How does climate change affect uncertainties and challenges in modeling de-carbonization & the energy system?

Human Well-Being, Sociology, Advocacy

16) How can we best change consumption and political behaviors?

17) How can population growth be part of the dialogue?

18) What techniques & strategies from past social movements can be used to initiate and sustain new social movements?

19) How do cultural conceptions of nature influence sustainability? What kind of educational strategies are needed to foster values that facilitate sustainability?

20) How can we anticipate & mitigate resource-based human conflicts?

Mitigation and Adaptation

21) What technologies are still needed to evaluate environmental impacts?

22) What is our vision for a sustainable future?

23) Which low-carbon or carbon neutral technologies or practices are needed, or need to be developed for a sustainable future?


24) To what degree does heterogeneity facilitate the adoption & spread of sustainable technologies or practices?

25) Are entropy and sustainability opposing or supporting forces? Under what conditions?

26) Can ideas from complexity be used to improve integrated design practices for new technology (and retrofit technology?)

27) What methods can be used and developed to quantify interactions between previously developed models of human, physical, and economic systems?

Mitigation and Adaptation Continued

28) How will we address projected phosphorus shortages? (2020-2050)

29) How are adaptation ideas distributed or shared? (Technology/Idea Transfer)

30) Can localization become an adaptive strategy?

31) What technologies or tools are still needed to evaluate environmental impacts?

Proposals for Combination

  1. 2 and 21
  2. 7 and 26 and 4
  3. 12 and 18
  4. 15 and 23 and 6
  5. 8 and 9 and 16
  6. 1 and 3
  7. 1 and 27
  8. 12 16 and 19

Op-Ed Paragraphs

Ecosystem Services

While the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere will have catastrophic consequences if not reversed, when planning for future sustainability, it is imperative to better understand ecosystems and the goods and services they provide. A globally integrated system to measure, monitor, model, verify and communicate the current state of ecosystem services and how they respond to natural and anthropogenic changes is needed. In order to identify patterns and processes that are emergent at various scales, a wide range of data are needed across various spatial and temporal scales. Collecting and analyzing the flows of ecosystem services needs to be used as an input to a broad range of policies to ensure the future availability of these important services. This needs to be coupled to the appropriate distillation of data and trends for consumption by the general public. Systems that humans depend on for the continuous delivery of goods and services relating to food, water, climate and health are highlighted in the proposal as important agenda items for future research relating to ecosystem services and human well-being.

Complexity and Climate Models

Given the urgency of addressing the climate change problem, there is a need for new tools to model and understand the most effective pathways to de-carbonization, and to better quantify uncertainty, non-linear behavior, and feedback mechanisms within climate models. In particular, further research is needed to understand the interactions between societal, technological, and natural earth systems in order to more effectively evaluate future environmental impacts, and possible policy options.

Just as climate models depend on models of emissions, emissions models depend on underlying models of human behavior via a range of different scenarios of population growth, technological change, consumption patterns, and economic growth. We argue that the underlying models of human behavior (which are often built into integrated assessment models) require further research in order to improve our understanding of human-earth dynamics:

(1) Human interaction with the climate system and the earth’s biology, which itself interacts with the climate system. (2) Presence and interactions of particular actors such as individual firms, utilities, and governments that provide mechanisms to collective behavior. (3) Potential for fundamental and rapid changes in social attitude and behaviors, which might result in significant shifts in growth and consumption patterns.

Human Well-Being, Sociology, Advocacy

The field of positive psychology indicates that one of the things that makes us happy in life is having a sense of meaning; aligning our actions with our high-level intentions makes us feel good. We call upon our political and cultural leaders to in turn call upon our society to rally around the common goal of achieving sustainability. This would provide us with an organizing principle, permitting us to become happier in the present as we create a better future for our children. Such a call should be accompanied by specific action items, such as:

1) reduce meat consumption (lose weight, improve health, reduce impacts)
2) give gifts that are not things or make them yourself (more meaningful, reduced impacts, reduced unwanted stuff, improve quality of life and strengthen connections)
3) use your influence at work (organizations often have more power than individuals)

Many of these changes to reduce personal consumption in fact come at zero up-front cost and will tend to save money, increase free time, improve health, increase human interaction, secure a brighter future, create better neighbors, and provide sense of meaning and collective action while at the same time reducing global impacts and the costs of mitigation programs (CO2 prices), through rapidly reduced emissions.

Leaders need to clearly promote such a socially positive, lower consumption vision of the future and challenge citizens to do their part for their nation and the world. This goal can give us a collective sense of meaning in pursuit of a positive shared goal while reconfirming the greatness and leadership of our nation.

Climate Change: Translating Science into Policy

We applaud President Obama for his recognition of the importance of science in government and call into action the translation of research into policy. President Obama’s focus strongly aligns with many constituencies and has been demonstrated through the appointment of scientists to senior level government positions. Decision-making that integrates science are highly essential. There is sufficient scientific evidence to guide decision-making and the broader political process. However, there is an uneven balance and inequitable reflection of research in policy practices. This imbalance raises the question of how is science being used and applied? Policy has not caught up to the results of research. There is need for accountability in the use of scientific conclusions, political promises, and policy actions. There is need for demonstration of consistency between policy and science. Communication and dissemination of research results need to be scaled up both as part of the scientific process and as a broader tool of outreach for public awareness. In order to overcome and address such challenges, there is need to transform the system. To achieve this transformation, we propose a framework that maps out the pathway for short, medium, and long term strategies to translate research to policy; a path that leads to well-represented public interest and opinions, and increases the quality of life and well-being. We issue a call for action to the scientific community, the government, and the public to translate research into policy.

Project Groups

Modeling Cluster (Q 13-14-30-27)

Complexity Approaches (Q 7-24-25-26)

Models and Complexity

Ecosystem Services (Q 1-2-3-21)

Paper writing