CoSy-CC2 - Complex Systems Approaches to Understanding Causes and Consequences of Past, Present and Future Climate Change

Dynamics and stability of “nature” and “society” as two considerably complex systems have mostly been studied separately so far. This viewpoint has widely ignored the existing complex interdependences between climate, ecology and socio-economy, which call for a holistic treatment of global change related problems. In this spirit, structural and dynamical complexity is a crucial factor that needs to be better understood in order to avoid or at least minimize and manage unavoidable global change in different areas as well as gain a systemic understanding of the impacts of possible actions.

Project Objectives
Recent methodological advances from complex systems sciences allow systematically evaluating the mutual interdependences between different components, processes and associated spatio-temporal scales of high-dimensional dynamical systems. This project is based on these developments, which are thoroughly adopted and used to achieve the following scientific goals:

1. Novel concepts from nonlinear time series analysis and complex network theory are collected, implemented and subsequently extended to develop a widely applicable framework for analyzing mutually interdependent climate, environmental and socioeconomic changes in past, presence and future. The rich toolbox of methods is shared with the scientific public based on some open-source software platform.

2. The developed methodological toolbox is used for unveiling relevant variables as well as their mutual couplings in climate and societal dynamics subject to global change. Specific climate change-related research questions to be studied as benchmark examples include (i) the existence of tipping points in the Earth`s climate history, (ii) the discrimination and anticipation of complex signatures of natural and anthropogenic climate change, and (iii) the variability of sea-level on various temporal and spatial scales. By considering both observations and model data, the novel methods provide detailed information about insufficiencies of existing models to be communicated to the respective model developers.

3. Complex network based approaches are used for investigating socio-economic evolution paths with respect to the key structural features of the underlying network of interdependent factors. The obtained systemic knowledge supports political and economic decision making (particularly regarding climate change adaptation and mitigation measures) by making the possible consequences and risks of mutually interdependent decisions transparent.

In summary, this project follows a trans-disciplinary approach in order to develop new mathematical tools for assessing relevant processes in climate and socio-economy and apply these approaches for addressing specific research questions in both areas.

Project Management
Dr. Reik Donner
Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research
P.O. Box 60 12 03
14412 Potsdam
Tel: +49 331 288 2685


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