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A Complex Systems Study of the Implications of Anthropogenic Perturbations of the Global Biogeochemical Cycles

A PhD Presentation by Nicola Smith 23 May 2008

During the 20th century the world s population quadrupled, the global economy expanded 14-fold, energy use increased 16 times, and the control of world biomass increased to about 40 percent

Overview of Presentation
Describe research topic and key aims Provide context to the proposed research a summary of five existing contributions Propose a broad conceptual framework Describe the economic components of the research Summary of key challenges

Overview of Research
Key task is to develop an integrated model of the Earth system that captures insights from both the natural and social sciences Focus is on:
Natural systems - biogeochemical cycles Socio-economic systems - economy, demographics The interactions within and between these components

Research will pick up on contributions already made by Murray Patterson and Garry McDonald Research will be undertaken at a global level

Key Research Aims

To develop a method for modelling the world economy as it is embedded within the global biogeochemical cycles, that:
Achieves a high level of integration of natural and human components Captures important feedbacks, non-linearities and lags

To identify the anthropogenic disturbance regimes and perturbations that matter at the global level
The human mind is not well-adapted to interpreting the behaviour of our complex earth system characterised by multiple non-linear feedbacks Jay Forrester

To identify sustainable pathways for the global economy

What are Sustainable Pathways?

A steady state economy - in terms of physical input and output Minimizing energy throughput (entropy law)
A sustainable economy is one characterised by minimized and consistent physical exchanges between human society and the environment, with internal material loops driven by renewable energy

Maintaining a constant stock of (natural) capital (some natural capital is critical ) Maintain life-support services and assimilative capacity of the environment Ensuring the Earth system does not transcend to a new stable state

Overview of Other Models

Integrated global modelling originates from the 1970s with the World2 and World3 models Nearly all models begin with a strong emphasis on either natural or human parts of the earth system truly integrated models still rare Five models have been selected for review to help provide a context to the proposed research:
Mackenzie, GBCM, World Model, GUMBO and TARGETS

Mackenzie Model
Mackenzie et al. (1993) Strengths: Attempt to integrate biogeochemical cycles (C, N and P) at a global level Relatively simple and easy to understand Limitations: Few connections and feedbacks between cycles
Largely driven by perturbations in P cycle only

Almost every process controlled by first order rate equation


f AO ! kA

fAO = flux of C from atmosphere to ocean, k = constant, A = C stock in atmosphere

Global Biogeochemical Cycling Model (GBCM)

Very high degree of integration and feedback between the biogeochemical cycles
eg phytoplankton N fixation

CO2  H 2O  SO4  HPO4  N2O  N 2 p C100 H150O80 N4SP  O2  H

C cycle H cycle N cycle S cycle P cycle


Every process driven by a selected donor stock Does not include anthropogenic processes

GBCM: Example of CO2 Increase

<Micro prod NH3> + <P particulate flux> Decrease in + kerogen Fossil fuels + Loss of rock minerals Transformation of kerogen to + igneous rock Volcanic action + + + + + + Increase in CO2 + + Land plant respiration + + + <P decomposition> <Volcanic action> + Increase in + Increase in NH3 Increase in H2S atmospheric + PO4+ + + + Atmospheric NEC Increase in atmospheric SO42Loss of H2S Loss of NH3 + + + Uptake of NH3 by soil + CO oxidation Ocean release of CO2 + Loss of atmospheric CO

+ Oxidation of land + Loss of ocean Loss of ocean humus Micro N2 HCO32& N2O sulphate + prod + + Increase ocean + Loss of plant + + Loss of humus HCO32Loss of Igneous rocks Ocean NEC + matter + ocean + + + matter HPO4 + C+D + Increase in igneous + decomposition Increase in ocean Micro + Increase in rock minerals prod <Absorption of nitrate ocean HPO4 Land plants + NH3 Increase in CO2> + + <Photoplankton + ocean -+ + fixation> sulphate + <P particulate + Land humus + + increase in plant Increase in land flux> + Decrease in P and matter humus C matter + P decomposition <Release of N2 + + <Gross land &N2O> <Gross land production> production> <uptake of N2 + and N2O> Increase in P and C matter <Uptake of NH3 Producers and by soil> consumers

My model will extend the stoichiometric approach to the economy

Leontief s World Model

What is input-output analysis?
Example Input-Output Table
Industries Households Primary Primary Industries Secondary Tertiary Primary Inputs Total Inputs $5 $10 $8 $12 $35 Secondary $20 $5 $10 $15 $50 Tertiary $1 $10 $10 $25 $40
(final demand)

Total Outputs $35 $50 $40

$9 $25 $12

Allows for easy consideration of economy structure, direct & indirect effects, industrial metabolism

Leontief s World Model (continued)

First created by Leontief & colleagues in mid 1970s
Extended in other studies eg Duchin and Lange (1994) Strengths: Describes economy with high level of detail (c50 sectors, 16 regions) Recognises the industrial metabolism of the economy (6 resource inputs and 3 residuals) Limitations: Mostly linear relationships, few feedbacks No internal description of natural systems

Highlights the difficulty of technology change

Connects social, economic and biophysical systems Focus is on ecosystem services Strengths: Many aspects of the Earth system included:
C, N and H2O cycles, climate, capital formation, GWP, land use, energy use, population

Recognises the industrial metabolism of economy Considers role of the natural systems in economic growth Limitations: Entire economy aggregated to 1 sector


TARGETS Framework
Temperature increase, UV-B impact
Land cover, Livestock water demand, demand for irri gated cropl and

TERRA Sub-Model CYCLES Sub-model Demand Module

vegetabl e ani mal product roundwood Food/ Feed Supply - Actual yield - Supply costs Crop Potential Yield Model (includes factors such as erosion, irrigation, temperature)

State Module

Land cover, Erosion

State Module (calculates reservoirs and fluxes of biogeochemical cycles) Atmosphere (eg CO2, N2O, sulphate aerosols)

Potenti al yei ld

Water availability & quality, Rain erosivity factor

Policy Module
Scenari os coveri ng: Fores t cleari ng Irri gati on Area of arabl e l and Land Use Dynamics Models distribution of land among land types Land degradation

Soil fertility, Temperature CO2 fertilization

Terrestrial Biosphere (eg C in vegetation, inorganic N in soils)

Ocean eg C in plankton, dissolved S

Land requirements for biofuel production

Refores tation Land conservation

Developed & undeveloped GWP

Available food Energy Sub-Model

Energy emissions Population size (developed, developing) Economic scenario generator

Greenhouse gas, Temp sulphate & DMS conc feedbacks Climate change module Radiative forcing Ozone conc Mean global temperature

C & Br conc UV-B effects Ozone module Stratospheric ozone

Energy Demand Module Aggregate heat and electricity demand in 5 sectors (commercial, industrial, residential, transport & other Investment in efficiency gains Efficiency gains

Electricity Modules Investment in new capacity Generating costs Electricity price Electricity generation

Required investment in energy

Required investment in water resources

Temp effects (sea level) N & P concentratios in surface & ground water AQUA Sub-model

Domestic & industrial waste water treatment Hydrological transport of substances

GWP, Industrial production, Water investment Sector value added Health services, GWP Population and Health Sub-model Health services demand Temp increase. UV-B impacts

Water demand module Water demand for domestic, agriculture and industrial sectors Water saving efficiency Policy/ Response Module Increase of public water supply & sanitation. Distribution of water takes Water pricing

Water State Module takes & Hydrological cycle discharge Water flows between reservoirs Water quality Allocation of water to classes according to N & P conc

Heat Fuels (Solid Fuel, Liquid Fuel, Gaseous Fuel) Modules Fuel market share Investment in extraction, Extraction costs, Fuel Price Known fuel reserves Fuel production

Pressure Module Global Environmental change Income status literacy Drinking water availability Food availability Response/ Policy Module Population Labour costs Food policy Water policy Health services Reproduction policy

State Fertility Population Disease

Impact Module Fresh water availability, public water supply & sanitation, water for ecosystems

Population Impact Module Population size and structure Disease burden Population with proper drinking water

Demand for new reservoirs

TARGETS Framework (continued)

Strengths: Extensive coverage of the Earth system
C, N, S, P & hydrological cycles, climate, agriculture, land use change, energy use, population, health

Some feedbacks from environment to socio-economic systems

eg impact of CO2 fertilization on agricultural production

Incorporation of cultural dimensions Limitations: Complexity has led to a loss of transparency Limited representation of the economy, only 2 sectors industries and services (but sub-models for agriculture and energy)

Mackenzie Natural Systems Biogeochemistry Hydrological cycle Climate Resource inputs Interface
Coverage Complexity

GBCM C, P, N, S High x x

World Model x n/a x x


TARGETS C, N, S, P Mod Water resources, organic matter, fossil fuels animal & human excre., CH4, CO2, SO2, N UVB, water quality, CO2 fert, nutrients 2 sectors Low Scenario

My Model C, N, S, P High

C, N, P Low x x

Water, ore, Metals, energy fossil fuels, organic matter CO2, S & N oxides CO2, N, waste




Other interactions
Coverage Complexity

Natural capital 48 sectors Low x Scenario Scenario x 1 sector Low Scenario

? up to 57 sectors? Mod Scenario x

Economics Human Systems Land use change Energy Demographics Political Cultural

x n/a x x x x x

x n/a x x x x x

The Earth System

Limits to pop growth

Residuals (eg CO2) Demand Energy

Natural Processes Climate

Forcing Agents

Limits to production

Global Biogeochemical Cycles


Land Demand




Biome Change
Available land Matter Inputs (eg timber)


Land Use
Temperature, Precipitation


The Economic System (static)

Starting point is monetary input-output table Next step is to extend the framework to a static model of mass and energy flows Like other physical input-output tables this will:
Account for the metabolism of the economy Recognize the law of conservation of mass

The model will be unique as materials will be recorded as biogeochemical species

The Economic System (static, continued)

Physical Input-Output Table -Tracing Fertilizer Production and Consumption
Industries Primary Primary Secondary Tertiary Hhlds (primary

Residuals Tertiary Hhlds (final


Secondary 6kg



Human excrement

Total Outputs 10kg 6kg


2kg 2kg


2kg 1kg 3kg 1kg 1kg 10kg 6kg 2kg


Matter inputs

H2O N2 CH4 Total Inputs

The Economic System (dynamic)

A particularly challenging component of the research Key factors to consider:
Population change Change in capital Technology change Feedbacks from the environment

No existing modeling approach entirely satisfactory

Modelling Economic Dynamics

Output + + Investment Final demands + + + GDP Govt + Household spending consump + Population

How do we incorporate feedbacks?

Economic Growth Theory

Output + Capital effect + Capital + + Labour effect + + Population growth rate Technology growth rate

CGE Models
Assumption of equilibrium

Capital investment + Investment rate + Income + + Wage rate

Rent rate

Conclusion Key Challenges

Breadth of topic Scale and aggregation How do we model dynamic growth of the economy? How do we incorporate technological change? Complexity and comprehensiveness vs easily digestible outputs