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TIAS Quarterly

No. 01/2019 (April)
The Newsletter of
The Integrated Assessment Society (TIAS)

 
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In this Issue


Photo: Ulli Meissner ©

The Society

The Integrated Assessment Society is a not-for-profit entity created to promote the community of inter-disciplinary and disciplinary scientists, analysts and practitioners who develop and use Integrated Assessment (IA). The goals of the society are to nurture this community, to promote the development of IA and to encourage its wise application.

Integrated Assessment can be defined as the interdisciplinary process of integrating knowledge from various disciplines and stakeholder groups in order to evaluate a problem situation from a variety of perspectives and provide support for its solution. IA supports learning and decision processes and helps to identify desirable and possible options for addressing the problem. It therefore builds on two major methodological pillars: approaches to integrating knowledge about a problem domain, and understanding policy and decision making processes. IA has been developed to address issues of acid rain, climate change, land degradation, water and air quality management, forest and fisheries management and public health.

 

Feature

Image Source: adapted from Global Environment Outlook 6 cover


A healthy planet and healthy people? The release of UNEP's
6th Global Environmental Outlook


by Klaus Jacob, Environmental Policy Research Centre, Free University Berlin and TIAS President
 
After three years of assessment by 250 authors, more than 1000 reviewers, intensive interaction with government representatives, the Sixth Global Environmental Outlook was released on March 13 to the United Nations Environmental Assembly (UNEA) in Nairobi.  The report analyses drivers, pressures, states, impacts and responses for the global environment. It is divided into three major parts: Part A covers the drivers, states and trends for air, biodiversity, oceans and coasts, land and soil, freshwater and some cross-cutting issues, i.e. human health, environment disasters, gender aspects, education, urbanization, climate change, management of waste and chemicals, resource use, and food systems. Part B addresses the effectiveness of policies: For each of the thematic areas of part A, policy approaches were identified and analysed. The assessment of policy approaches is underpinned by case studies of examples for the respective policy approach. To complement the evaluation, policy-sensitive indicators are analysed for the thematic areas. Finally, the outlook is presented in part C: possible pathways that are documented in the literature are explored to identify the conditions needed to achieve sustainable development.


The state of the planet

The report highlights the role of the environment for human health and wellbeing. However, the state and trends are alarming in many respects: Every year, 6-7 million premature human deaths can be attributed to air pollution. The rapid decline in biodiversity, depletion of fish stocks and dying of coral reefs not only marks an unprecedented change in ecosystems, but also has direct impacts on the opportunities for generating income. For example, between 58 and 120 million people depend on income from fisheries, generating approximately US$ 250 billion annually and providing a substantial share of dietary protein to billions. With overfishing, pollution including plastics and the effects of climate change, this income is at risk.

There is increasing use of land for the production of food and for settlements and infrastructure, putting additional pressures on ecosystems. The quality of soils is deteriorating in many parts of the world. At the same time, about one third of agricultural products are not consumed but wasted.  Antimicrobial-resistant bacteria are found in freshwater sources around the globe, and without effective countermeasures, infections from these will become a major cause of death by 2050. The competition for water by agriculture, urban areas and industry contributes to excessive withdrawals from aquifers. Wetlands are also diminishing, which not only contributes to further losses of biodiversity, but also comes with substantial economic costs. Consumption rates of raw materials, energy, food and chemicals are rising as a result of increasing demand, which puts additional pressure on ecosystems. Overall, the state of the environment is alarming, human health is at risk and the deterioration comes at tremendous costs to societies. The report demonstrates in particular the intertwined nature and complexity of drivers, changes, and impacts. There are no linear cause-to-effect relationships, but many inferences between different ecosystems, environmental media and impact areas.

 

Ineffective policies

Are environmental policies in place that effectively address these problems? This is the core question in part B of the report. The section begins by presenting a methodology for policy evaluation. Since there is no meaningful baseline against which environmental policies can be evaluated, the framework is developed on theory-based evaluation: In total 13 criteria are derived from the literature that would indicate the effectiveness of policies if the criteria are fulfilled. Among these are transparency, evidence-based, objective-oriented, participatory, ex post evaluation and so forth.  For the various thematic areas, typical policy approaches are identified, e.g. integrated water management, payment for ecosystem services, innovation programs and creation of networks. For each of these approaches, exemplary cases are identified and evaluated. As this approach is rather selective (among the thousands policies in place only 25 were assessed in detail), the evaluation is complemented by an analysis of policy-sensitive indicators.

The report shows plenty of activities and efforts around the globe towards policy innovation. In some cases, the report observes a ratcheting up: environmental policies start with soft, sometimes symbolic measures, and over time, efforts and levels of ambition increase. Increasingly, policy innovation is taking place in the Global South. It is the developing countries that link environment policies with social objectives, in particular poverty reduction. However, despite these innovative policy approaches, the findings show that environmental policy-making takes place without a sufficient evidence base – and often appear to be as steering in the fog rather than moving towards effective problem solving. Often environmental policies lack effective implementation and there is insufficient integration of environmental concerns in other domains of policy making, despite of manifold economic and social co-benefits. Therefore, the section concludes that issue of effective environmental policies is far from being solved, and further efforts are needed. Even if efficiency is improved, there is still the need for more transformative change and, accordingly, the policies that would enable such change.

 

Transformative change for achieving the SDGs

Transformative change is the core topic of the third part of the report. It analyses scenarios to identify pathways that would achieve the SDGs as a whole. The current patterns of consumption and production are not sustainable, leading to severe pressure on ecosystems. Without effective policies, the SDGs will not be achieved. This is not limited to the environmental dimension: With the current overexploitation of natural resources such as water and land and with rapidly declining biodiversity and climate change, non-environmental SDGs cannot be achieved either. The food system, the energy system and the sustainable use of water are identified as being key to sustainable development. Sustainable pathways imply the adoption of efficient technologies, but also changes in lifestyles.

The reports demonstrates that there is plenty of innovation at the local level: Initiatives by cities, communities and enterprises around the globe demonstrate the feasibility of sustainable development. However, such innovations are not mainstream. Transformative environmental policies would need to improve the framework conditions for such niches and support their mainstreaming. On the other hand, transformative policies would also aim at an exnovation of unsustainable technologies and practices.


Outstanding issues highlighted

The report and its summary for policy makers were intensively discussed in January 2019 among representatives of more than 100 countries. Overall, the call for more effective, better informed and ultimately transformative environmental policies was well received. However, disputes arose on, among other things, the role of innovation and the need for a precautionary principle, the effect of increasing the use of biomass for energy and raw materials, and the need to and opportunities presented by effectively influencing lifestyles and consumption patterns. These controversies were not fully resolved, but they demonstrate that GEO 6 touched on some relevant and sensitive issues.

During UNEA and during the preparation of the declaration for GEO, some countries questioned the value for money of the assessment. This is reflected in the resolution adopted by the ministers on the endorsement of the GEO (https://papersmart.unon.org/resolution/uploads/k1900891.pdf). It calls for a comprehensive strategy to improve the science-policy interface and sets up a steering committee to develop options for the GEO process and future reports. Countries will nominate members by May 30 this year.

 
The GEO 6 summary and full reports in multiple languages are available via https://www.unenvironment.org/resources/global-environment-outlook-6
 

TIAS News

 

Welcome to the newest member of TIAS: Laura Verbrugge of the Helsinki Institute for Sustainability Science and University of Twente


Laura Verbrugge is a postdoctoral researcher at the Helsinki Institute for Sustainability Science (HELSUS, in Finland) and the Water Engineering & Management Group at the University of Twente (The Netherlands). She is a researcher in the Dutch research program RiverCare where she studies the diverse ways in which citizens and stakeholders can be part of adaptive river management. In her earlier PhD research (2010-2014) she provided an integrated outlook on public perceptions and risk management of invasive alien species. In her work, she always strives for collaboration between scientists, practitioners and citizens to ensure the development and implementation of science-based and inclusive environmental management strategies. Here, she sees an important role for communication, for example using storylines or newsletters to communicate research findings to a wider audience. Laura is a member of several international research networks, including the COST Action Alien CSI and the International Association for Open Knowledge on Invasive Alien Species (INVASIVESNET). 

 

Calls for session contributions from TIAS members


MODSIM 2019 Conference: Integrated modelling and data science for environmental and human health


TIAS member, Stefan Reis of NERC Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (UK), invites session contributions from the TIAS community for the MODSIM 2019 conference, Supporting evidence-based decision making: the role of modelling and simulation. 1-6 December in Canberra, Australia. Full papers and extended abstracts are due 31 July 2019

Session G7. Integrated modelling and data science for environmental and human health
This session will bring together researchers from environmental and health sciences addressing the complex challenges of integrating data and modelling approaches in order to harness the opportunities emerging for a fast-increasing richness of environmental and health data. Pilot research in the UK has focused on how linking health and population records to forecasts of near-term air pollution can help to inform learning health systems and improve the management of frontline health services and patient health and well-being. Research on life-course exposure and exposomics has highlighted the need for integrated modelling approaches and novel data science methods (e.g. blending, data cubes, deep/machine learning) to utilise long-term datasets, informing next-generation models of human exposure at individual to population level. We invite contributions focusing on methods for modelling and simulation of human-environment interactions, exposure and epidemiological studies with an emphasis on the utilisation of models and emerging environmental datasets (e.g. earth observation products from the SENTINEL satellites), as well as new methodological approaches for the integration of large, rich datasets. Our emphasis in this session will be on fostering an interdisciplinary dialogue between computer & data scientists, environmental researchers and public health experts to generate new ideas. Building on previous sessions and workshops, which have generated special journal issues and community papers, the intent for this session is to lay the foundations for a collaborative and interdisciplinary activity resulting in (a) publication(s) identifying the next steps and emerging research needs in this area.  Contact: Dr. Stefan Reis (srei@ceh.ac.uk)


Conference: Divergent values in sustainability assessments: love them, leave them, or change them?


Martin Kowarsh of the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change (MCC) and TIAS member invites abstracts for a conference on ethics and values in assessments organised by the MCC Berlin and co-funded by DKN Future Earth..  16-18 Sept. 2019 in Berlin, Germany

"Divergent values in sustainability assessments: love them, leave them, or change them?" Berlin, Abstract submission by 30 April. Envisaged outputs include a high-level publication in the form of a joint article by speakers and/or a journal special issue. Members are encouraged to share this invitation with peers and networks. Contact: Dr. Martin Kowarsch (kowarsch@mcc-berlin.net)
 


TIAS Advisory Board to meet on April 5th


The society's advisory board elected last October will meet for the first time on Friday April 5th. Among the topics the board will also discuss our role in stimulating responses to the global environmental crisis. A report will be shared at the latest in the June issue of the newsletter.
 


Adapted from photo by Aleksi Tappura on Unsplash

 

Recent Publications


Bakkes, J., Cheatle, M., Mzavanadze, N., Pinter, L., Witt, R. 2018. Insights from the intellectual history of the Global Environment Outlook (GEO): An independent review. Supporting Organisations: Central European University, Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency and The Integrated Assessment Society.

Bellaubi, F., Feb. 2019. Why do we need more geoethics in research? The blog of The International Association for Promoting Geoethics (IAPG)

Bremer, S., A. Wardekker, S. Dessai, S. Sobolowski, R. Slaattelid, J. van der Sluijs. 2019.Toward a multi-faceted conception of co-production of climate services. Climate Services, 13, 42-50. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cliser.2019.01.003

Meijer, J., Shames, Scherr, S.J. and Giesen, P. 2018. Spatial modelling of participatory landscape scenarios: synthesis and lessons learned from exploring potential SDG progress in 3 case studies. PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency
(
Contact:  Johan Meijer, PBL)

Newig, J., Derwort, P. and Jager, N.W.. 2019. Sustainability through institutional failure and decline? Archetypes of productive pathways. Ecology and Society. 24(1):18.  https://doi.org/10.5751/ES-10700-24011
 
Turnhout, E., Tuinstra, W., & Halffman, W. 2019. Environmental Expertise: Connecting Science, Policy and Society. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
This  book  co-authored by TIAS member, Willemijn Tuinstra, offers guidance on how to tackle challenges in the interaction between knowledge, society, and policy. It discusses these challenges both on a practical and a conceptual level including how to identify sources of disagreement over environmental issues, communicate uncertainties and limitations of knowledge, and deal with controversial topics such as genetic modification and the use of biofuels. The book equips readers with tools to better understand the diversity of environmental knowledge and its role in complex environmental issues. It covers a wide range of examples and case studies, from fisheries and biodiversity conservation to climate change or pesticide pollution. The primary aim of the book is therefore educational, aiming specifically at environmental scientists with a natural science background, but also at practitioners in environmental advice or policy.

A new journal "One Earth" from the Cell Press, focuses on research from the natural, social, and applied sciences, with a particular interest in integrated, transdisciplinary studies.

 

Events


28–31 May. ECCA 2019 - 4th European Climate Change Adaptation conference: Working together to prepare for change. Lisbon
 
17-20 June 2019. ESP Africa 2019 Conference: Management of Ecosystem Services for Nature Conservation and Human Wellbeing in Africa. Kpalime, Togo. Organised by the Ecosystem Services Partnership (ESP) in cooperation with the Global Mountain Biodiversity Assessment and Plateforme des Organisations de la Société Civile pour la Sauvegarde des Montagnes (PSM). This is the second ESP regional conference for Africa, organised to draw attention to the key role ecosystems are playing in the development of the economy, human wellbeing and culture in the region. More information

18 - 20 June, 2019, 26th Ulvön Conference on Environmental Economics, Ulvön, Sweden. Abstract submission deadline: 12 April, 2019
 
26 - 29 Jun 2019. 24th Annual Conference of the European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK
 
21-25 October 2019, Ecosystem Services Partnership 10th World Conference: 10 years advancing ecosystem services science, policy and practice for a sustainable future. Hannover, Germany. For more information on hosting a session, renting an exhibit booth, proposing a workshop, and present work, visit the conference site.
 
26-27 November 2019. EU Conference on Modelling for Policy Support. Brussels. Organized by Competence Centre on Modelling of the European Commission. The conference aim is to identify common challenges and solutions in the use of models to support policy making.
 

Jobs


Post-doctoral positions (4 years) in Spatially Explicit Modelling of Environmental Systems, Radboud University. Application deadline: 14 April 2019  More information

Post-doctoral position (2.5 years) Enhancing trust in government for effective water governance – EnTruGo, Barents Institute, Arctic University of Norway.
 


Photo by L.W. on Unsplash

 

From the editor: Global changes / Global responses


In light of global environmental challenges that have reached a most critical stage, TIAS as an organisation is considering how it can further support and stimulate the needed large-scale responses.  This was a topic of discussion in our first meeting with the newly elected Advisory Board on Friday April 5th. Outcomes will be reported to TIAS members at the Society's Annual General Meeting (date to be announced).

In the meantime, support can be given to organizations such as those below:
 
Scientists4future (currently only in German-speaking countries) which supports #FridaysForFuture
Read here the initiative's Statement of scientists and scholars concerning the protests for more climate protection
 
No Fly Clim Sci initiative: A site for Earth scientists, academics, and members of the public who either do not fly or who fly less.

Our readers are invited to send information on similar initiatives to info@tias-web.info

Caroline van Bers, TIAS Quarterly Editor
 

 

TIAS Quarterly

TIAS Quarterly is the newsletter of The Integrated Assessment Society.
ISSN: 2077-2130
Editor: Caroline van Bers
Associate editors: Caroline Lumosi, Anna-Lena Guske
Photos: Ulli Meissner 
© (http://www.ullimeissner.com/) (unless otherwise indicated)
Layout: Worldshaper design - Fabian Heitmann, Caroline van Bers
TIAS President: Klaus Jacob
TIAS Vice-presidents: Jan Bakkes, Claudia Pahl-Wostl


TIAS Secretariat, Germany

E-Mail: info[at]tias-web.info
Web:   http://www.tias-web.info/

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