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Quantitative modelling of the human–Earth System a new kind of science?

Quantitative modelling of the human–Earth System a new kind of science?
Quantitative modelling of the human–Earth System a new kind of science?
The five grand challenges set out for Earth System Science by the International
Council for Science in 2010 require a true fusion of social science, economics and
natural science—a fusion that has not yet been achieved. In this paper we propose
that constructing quantitative models of the dynamics of the human–Earth system can
serve as a catalyst for this fusion. We confront well-known objections to modelling
societal dynamics by drawing lessons from the development of natural science over
the last four centuries and applying them to social and economic science. First, we
pose three questions that require real integration of the three fields of science. They
concern the coupling of physical planetary boundaries via social processes; the
extension of the concept of planetary boundaries to the human–Earth System; and the
possibly self-defeating nature of the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals.
Second, we ask whether there are regularities or ‘attractors’ in the human–Earth
System analogous to those that prompted the search for laws of nature. We nominate
some candidates and discuss why we should observe them given that human actors
with foresight and intentionality play a fundamental role in the human–Earth System.
We conclude that, at sufficiently large time and space scales, social processes are
predictable in some sense. Third, we canvass some essential mathematical techniques
that this research fusion must incorporate, and we ask what kind of data would be
needed to validate or falsify our models. Finally, we briefly review the state of the
art in quantitative modelling of the human–Earth System today and highlight a gap
between so-called integrated assessment models applied at regional and global scale,
which could be filled by a new scale of model.
119-146
Australian Academy of Science
Finnigan, John
134bc1b4-3a27-4f09-a0cd-0fc78c799d93
Brede, Markus
bbd03865-8e0b-4372-b9d7-cd549631f3f7
Grigg, Nicola
3e585e5d-9574-460f-b82f-049881dc1d31
Finnigan, John
134bc1b4-3a27-4f09-a0cd-0fc78c799d93
Brede, Markus
bbd03865-8e0b-4372-b9d7-cd549631f3f7
Grigg, Nicola
3e585e5d-9574-460f-b82f-049881dc1d31

Finnigan, John, Brede, Markus and Grigg, Nicola (2013) Quantitative modelling of the human–Earth System a new kind of science? In, Negotiating our future: Living scenarios for Australia to 2050 Vol II. Australian Academy of Science, pp. 119-146.

Record type: Book Section

Abstract

The five grand challenges set out for Earth System Science by the International
Council for Science in 2010 require a true fusion of social science, economics and
natural science—a fusion that has not yet been achieved. In this paper we propose
that constructing quantitative models of the dynamics of the human–Earth system can
serve as a catalyst for this fusion. We confront well-known objections to modelling
societal dynamics by drawing lessons from the development of natural science over
the last four centuries and applying them to social and economic science. First, we
pose three questions that require real integration of the three fields of science. They
concern the coupling of physical planetary boundaries via social processes; the
extension of the concept of planetary boundaries to the human–Earth System; and the
possibly self-defeating nature of the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals.
Second, we ask whether there are regularities or ‘attractors’ in the human–Earth
System analogous to those that prompted the search for laws of nature. We nominate
some candidates and discuss why we should observe them given that human actors
with foresight and intentionality play a fundamental role in the human–Earth System.
We conclude that, at sufficiently large time and space scales, social processes are
predictable in some sense. Third, we canvass some essential mathematical techniques
that this research fusion must incorporate, and we ask what kind of data would be
needed to validate or falsify our models. Finally, we briefly review the state of the
art in quantitative modelling of the human–Earth System today and highlight a gap
between so-called integrated assessment models applied at regional and global scale,
which could be filled by a new scale of model.

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Published date: 2013
Organisations: Agents, Interactions & Complexity

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Local EPrints ID: 352825
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/352825
PURE UUID: af3e33df-4361-474c-8da8-eaacbe1e8265

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Date deposited: 18 May 2013 12:53
Last modified: 07 Apr 2020 16:34

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Contributors

Author: John Finnigan
Author: Markus Brede
Author: Nicola Grigg

University divisions

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