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LOOPS 2014 Workshop

Closing the loop – Towards co-evolutionary modeling of global society-environment interactions
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16-18 February 2014, Chorin Monastery, Berlin, Germany

GoalsChorin Monastery airial view

  • Develop an agenda for innovative co-evolutionary modeling of global society-environment interactions in the Earth system

  • Contribute to a special issue in the journal Earth System Dynamics 

  • Take concrete steps towards forming a modeling network

Key participants

  • Peter Cox, University of Exeter, UK (Climate and economic modeling)
  • Rainer Hegselmann, University of Bayreuth, Germany (Social dynamics)
  • Carsten Lemmen, Helmholtz Institute for Coastal Research, Germany (Paleosocietal dynamics)
  • Tim Lenton, University of Exeter, UK (Earth system analysis)
  • Petter Holme, Umeå University, Sweden (Adaptive networks and complex systems)
  • Johan Rockström, Stockholm Resilience Center, Sweden (Planetary boundaries)
  • John Schellnhuber, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Germany (Earth system analysis)
  • Peter Turchin, University of Connecticut, USA (Cliodynamics)

Working mode

In this workshop we will gather a carefully selected group of international experts for creatively exploring innovative approaches to Earth system modeling. The aim is to stimulate collaboration on research questions and model development related to the role of human societies in the Earth system and global societal-environmental co-evolutionary dynamics.

The workshop will feature focussed and inspiring short presentations by the participants that feed into joint work on developing concrete papers on Earth system modeling, global change, planetary boundaries and next steps in modeling, for a dedicated Special Issue in the journal Earth System Dynamics. All participants are asked to prepare abstracts on specific research questions related to their expertise before the workshop to provide a basis for collaborative work and discussions during the meeting. A calm setting and ample time dedicated to this working mode will facilitate the formation of interest groups designing research papers or opinion pieces to be finalized after the workshop.


Human actions play an increasing role in shaping the Earth’s planetary environment, from the physical climate system to biogeochemical cycles to the functioning of the land surface. To understand and predict the future evolution of the Earth system, it is thus critical to understand the planetary boundaries of the human playing field, as well as socio-economic dynamics and their interactions with climate, and the consequences for the planetary system. There is a range of urgent questions related to this topic, from the definition of planetary boundaries, the safe operating space for humanity, thresholds and critical transitions in the global socio-environmental system, and the identification of sustainable pathways for future development. 

However, the current Earth system modeling landscape lacks the tools to adequately address these challenges. Either societal dynamics is tightly constrained by economic optimization paradigms (Integrated Assessment modeling) or present only as prescribed scenario input (physical Earth system models, such as those participating in the CMIP5 intercomparison project). Furthermore, feedback loops between social and environmental processes are largely absent in current Earth system models.

What is needed is a more dynamic societal sphere allowing for social tipping points, major reorganizations, revolutions and collapse in conjunction with a description of the fully coupled co-evolutionary dynamics of human societies and the natural Earth system. In this workshop, we seek novel and innovative approaches that deal with modeling socio-economic phenomena in the Earth system, their dynamics, interactions, and boundaries.

We welcome contributions applying concepts and methods that include, but are not limited to:

  •  Earth and social systems thermodynamics and stoichiometry (e.g., socio-industrial metabolism)

  •  Socio-ecological systems modeling

  •  Conceptual, empirical, or agent-based models from the social sciences

  •  Adaptive and temporal networks

  •  Dynamical and evolutionary game theory

Inspiring literature

  1. Gross, T., and B. Blasius (2008). "Adaptive coevolutionary networks: a review." Journal of the Royal Society Interface 5: 259-271.

  2. Kellie-Smith, O., and P. M. Cox (2011). "Emergent dynamics of the climate–economy system in the Anthropocene." Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences 369.1938: 868-886.

  3. Lenton, T.M., H. Held, E. Kriegler, J.W. Hall, W. Lucht, S. Rahmstorf, and H.-J. Schellnhuber (2008). “Tipping elements in the Earth's climate system”, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 110: 10324-10329.

  4. Rockström, J., et al. (2009). "A safe operating space for humanity." Nature 461: 472-475.

  5. Schellnhuber, H.-J. (1999). "Earth system analysis and the second Copernican revolution." Nature 402: C19-C23.

  6. Schlüter, M., et al. (2012). "New horizons for managing the environment: A review of coupled socio-ecological systems modeling." Natural Resource Modeling 25: 219-272.

  7. Turchin, P.,T. E. Currie, E. A. Turner, and S. Gavrilets (2013). "War, space, and the evolution of Old World complex societies." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 110: 16384-16389.

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