PIK Report No. 27

4. RAGTIME Project

4.1 Objectives

The main objective of this project study is the anticipation and evaluation of regional impacts of global change and climate change phenomena. The orientation is determined both by the potentials and chances and the vulnerabilities and characteristic burdens of the Elbe region, which include a regional climatic precipitation deficit and the recent structural changes. The latter are connected with an inherited list of loads and damages which represent a severe mortgage for sustainable development.

4.2 Integrants

Investigating a region which is defined naturally, such as a river drainage basin, and which is divided into administratively autonomous subregions participating in a federal structure, typically demands integration efforts on three levels:

  1. Interdisciplinary integration of scientific branch, sector, and expert models

  2. Integration of economy and ecology/environment

  3. Integration of science and policy.

These are three discrete levels of a multi-level hierarchy in which the need for communication is growing strongly, along with the degree of aggregation. Thus, appropriate tools and methods for communication are intrinsic vehicles of integration.

4.3 Procedure and Structure

Two pragmatic principles are guiding the realization of integrative structures of the Elbe region:

  1. The final aim should not be one integrated regional model but a framework-like computer aided experimentation tool.

  2. The selection of a few extraordinary important aspects that dominate the integrative structures is rather productive than restrictive.

The above-mentioned levels of regional integration are specifically realized in a conceptual top-down approach, which will be complemented by a continuous empirical bottom-up feeding for its completion. The highest level is formed by a welfare index based on sustainability or a suitable environmental generalized system of national accounts. The index represents the most aggregated form of level-two integration with economy and ecology as integrants.

Instead of simply estimating those parts of the index which are related to environment and sustainability (e.g., the balance positions ,loss of wetland', ,loss of farmland' etc. of the ISEW - Index of Sustainable Economic Welfare), these parts will be ,modelled', i.e. extended by system analytical principles and contents as a more sophisticated causal network with synergisms and feedbacks.

The result is a generic dynamic model. However, the dynamical changes described are not those on the biophysical process level but are on the level of annual changes in expenditure, gains, losses, damage, balances, and sustainability deficits.

With respect to the biophysical processes this model will play the role of a metamodel. It will be calibrated and parameterized by results of the scientific branch, sectoral and expert models which are geographically explicit and use the eigentimes of those processes as time steps. This performs level-one integration.

From the utilitarian point of view the metamodel is generic and serves as a framework for computer-aided experimentation (1st principle). Thus, the anticipation of Global Change and its impacts in the region has a unique correspondence to a scenario catalogue to be performed using this framework.

The varying entities for scenario definitions are not only the calibrations produced by the branch, sector, and expert models and their coupling, but also a subtle level-three integration with the possibility of system-inherent evaluation of human factors and policies in the broadest sense: strategies, regimes, and measures; standards, norms, and thresholds; affluence, attitudes, and values.

4.4 Priority of Land Use and Land Use Change

By far the most sensible subjects or expressions of Global Change in the Elbe region are land use and land use change, respectively (2nd principle). If dominated by land use change aspects, the described integrating structures of the RAGTIME project emerge, among others, the following characteristic features:

The framework is formed by a generic model for the annual dynamic of land use changes, driven by biophysical and human factors. The river basin is represented by federal states split into elementary ecotopes with homogeneous climatic, topographic, and edaphic site parameters. The carriers of dynamics are ecotope variables (suitability for land use types, productivity, several contamination levels etc.) and whole-region specific variables (land use proportions and patterns, population, technology level, affluence etc.). A genuine reflection of the framework character is given by an extended set of changeable conditions, standards, and thresholds like food basket, critical loads and levels, over-use limits and other sustainability standards. Strategies and guiding principles with respect to resource usage and prevention of sustainability deficits form another category.

The heart of the model is an algorithm for the (monetary) evaluation of land use and land use change. For this purpose the following three hierarchy levels are distinguished:

  1. land use types (infrastructure, wetland, forest, farmland, natural and waste land)

  2. benefit categories (productivity, biogenesis, compensation/conciliation, resource, site)

  3. exploitation regimes (intensive, extensive, and intervening).

There are 30 principally different benefit functions/algorithms which are all modified by the exploitation regimes. Besides benefit evaluation the latter also allow expenditure, damage, and sustainability deficits to be determined, eventually, leading to the corresponding balance positions of the Index of Sustainable Economic Welfare (ISEW), serving for stimulation and communication on the highest possible aggregation level.