Whole Earth System Analysis (WhESA)

Whole Earth System Analysis (WhESA)
Social dynamics and human-Earth system interactions have become a planetary-scale geological force in the Anthropocene. Gulf of Mexico, United States (c) NASA / Unsplash

About the working group

Analysis of Earth system dynamics in the Anthropocene requires explicitly taking 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 ecological 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.

Building on the foundations of Earth system and complex systems science, the WhESA working group develops frameworks, concepts, methods and simulation models focussing on the analysis of human-Earth system interactions, social dynamics and networked social-institutional structures that are relevant for future trajectories of the Earth system in the Anthropocene.

As part of the COPAN collaboration, the WhESA working group collaborates strongly with PIK's FutureLab GaNe on Game Theory and Networks of Interacting Agents and with the FutureLab ERA-LAB on Earth Resilience in the Anthropocene.

Working Group Leader:

Dr. Jonathan Donges

Related Models


Related Projects

Project list

Former Projects


Research objectives

  • Develop and refine frameworks, concepts and methods for analysing human-Earth system interactions in the Anthropocene.
  • Develop and run models of human-Earth system interactions and feedbacks to study Whole Earth System Dynamics including biogeophysical, socio-metabolic/socio-economic and socio-cultural processes.
  • Engage with civil society and policy makers on holistic approaches to Earth System Analysis and their implications for addressing anthropogenic climate change and its interactions with other global systemic risks

Team WhESA