AGU Fall Meeting goes online for 2020

Mark Dwortzan | MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change
Friday, October 16, 2020

MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change researchers to share findings on the state of global change

Read this at MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change

This year’s American Geophysical Union (AGU) Fall Meeting will be held online, making it one of the world’s largest virtual scientific conferences ever. Held December 1-17 (with most scientific programming taking place December 7-11) and presenting more than 1,000 hours of content, AGU20 will feature live and pre-recorded oral presentations and virtual posters from leading Earth and space science researchers. The conference theme is “Shape the Future of Science."

Among those researchers will be 14 co-authors of oral and poster presentations, and conveners of conference sessions, who are core members or affiliates of the MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change. Summarized below (with links provided for complete abstracts), their work spans several Joint Program research focus areas, including Earth systems, managed resources, infrastructure and investment, policy scenarios, regional analysis and modeling systems. Topics include modeling the ocean carbon cycle, assessing risks across multiple Earth systems and economic sectors, enabling proactive adaptation to global change, designing effective climate and air quality policies, and quantifying uncertainty in climate and other global change projections.

Earth systems

Senior Research Scientist Stephanie Dutkiewicz is a co-author of the poster The ECCO-Darwin Data-assimilative Global-ocean Biogeochemistry Model: A New Modeling Framework for Ocean Carbon Cycle and Ecosystem Studies. The poster presents a unique global-ocean biogeochemistry model that incorporates both physical and biogeochemical observations, and considers how the nature of the ocean carbon sink and marine ecosystems have changed over several decades. As the Estimating the Circulation and Climate of the Ocean (ECCO) ocean circulation estimates become more accurate and lengthen in time, ECCO-Darwin will become an ever more accurate tool for identifying and predicting the consequences of natural and anthropogenic perturbations to the open- and coastal-ocean carbon cycle and the climate-related sensitivity of marine ecosystems.

Managed resources

Principal Research Scientist Xiang Gao will deliver the oral presentation, Identifying hotspots of multi-sector vulnerability: A risk triage framework that advances a risk triage framework to provide a computationally efficient assessment of spatial vulnerability to multiple human and environmental stressors. The triage framework offers a unique ability to screen and/or combine multiple indicators and visualize their co-evolution via a GIS-enabled interface. In particular, “hotspots” of spatial vulnerability can be identified across a variety of geographic scales and prioritized for further research. The results can also help inform policymakers as they consider risk management strategies and decisions. Other co-authors of the presentation include Deputy Director C. Adam Schlosser and Research Scientist Jennifer Morris.

Research Scientist Angelo Gurgel will deliver the oral presentation Land Use Change in the Continental United States under a Multisystem Dynamics Approach: Are There Tipping Points? The presentation investigates multiple drivers of U.S. land-use and their implications from a multisector, multisystem dynamics perspective focused on understanding dynamics and resilience in complex interdependent systems. Chief among these drivers is economic growth, the major force driving future land-use scenarios. The presentation finds that faster global economic growth can increase CH4 emissions from agriculture sector in US by 50%, land-use emissions by 40%, N2O emissions and chemical use in agriculture by 20%, intensifying future environmental challenges. The presentation is co-authored by Gurgel, Co-Director Emeritus John Reilly and Research Scientist Elodie Blanc.

Joint Program Research Collaborator Hanqin Tian is lead author of the poster Potential Impacts of international food trade on global agricultural greenhouse gas emissions under climate change. The poster combines an agricultural ecosystem model and a global economic model (the Joint Program’s Economic Projection and Policy Analysis (EPPA) model) to analyze dynamics of global agricultural greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (including CO2, CH4 and N2O) in the future under varied international food trade policies with two different GHG concentration pathways. The results show different trade policies, which consider concerns of food security, economic and ecological benefits, can largely affect land-use change patterns and the associated GHG emissions. This study can serve as a reference for international policymaking to help cope with ongoing climate change. Joint Program co-authors include Angelo Gurgel, Xiang Gao, Research Scientist Andrei Sokolov and John Reilly.

Infrastructure and Investment

C. Adam Schlosser will deliver the oral presentation The Changing Nature of Hydroclimatic Risks Across Southern and South Africa, which highlights results from a large ensemble of projected changes in seasonal precipitation and near-surface air temperature changes across southern Africa, with a focus on South Africa. The presentation finds a clear benefit within the evolving hydroclimatic risks from setting strong climate targets, such as limiting global climate warming to 1.5˚C by 2100. The risk of precipitation changes in the 1.5˚C scenario toward the end of this century (2065–2074) is nearly identical to that seen in a reference scenario during the 2030s. Thus, the climate risk that may be experienced in a decade as a result of current global actions to reduce emissions could be delayed by 30 years, and would provide invaluable lead-time for national efforts to be put in place to prepare, fortify and/or adapt to these changing environments of risk. Joint Program co-authors of the presentation include Andrei Sokolov, Research Scientist Kenneth Strzepek and Xiang Gao.  

Faculty Affiliate Noelle Selin, an associate professor at the MIT Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences and Institute for Data, Systems and Society, is a co-author of the poster Modeling Adaptive Capacity in Co-Evolving Water and Agriculture Systems. Water and food security goals in agrarian economies are interlinked and increasingly challenging to fulfill due to growing populations and environmental uncertainties. System adaptability—the ability to reconfigure use of resources to effectively function under new conditions—is important for sustainably achieving such goals. However, there is limited understanding on how adaptability can be created, maintained and measured. In this work, stylized models of adaptation are developed and applied on irrigation and agricultural production systems in the Punjab province in the Indus Basin of Pakistan. The tools developed in this study showcase an application for coupled water and agriculture systems, and also advance research on adaptation from largely theoretical concepts to operational frameworks that can guide interventions for sustainability.

Policy scenarios

Postdoctoral Researcher Xaquin Garcia-Muros is lead author of the poster Distributional Impacts of Low-Carbon Policies in USA and Spain: Does One Size Fits All? Using economy-wide models, the poster analyzes and compares the distributional and efficiency impacts of different carbon-related revenue allocation schemes for the United States and Spain to assess the applicability and generalization of a region-specific study to other countries. The main objectives are to analyze if the impacts of climate mitigation policies on population groups are different in the U.S. and Spain, and to study the role that existing tax structure, energy prices, income inequality and consumption patterns can play in determining the impacts. The results can be relevant for decision-makers in these and other countries aiming to design efficient carbon-reducing policies. The poster is co-authored by Jennifer Morris and Deputy Director Sergey Paltsev.

Joint Program Research Affiliate Sebastian Eastham is lead author of the poster Incorporating High-fidelity Air Quality Simulation into Integrated Assessment Models. The poster presents a new integrated assessment framework which combines state-of-the-science air quality modeling with an ensemble approach, using multiple uncertain climate projections. The authors quantify how a Paris treaty-compliant climate policy differs from an unrestricted scenario in its effects on emissions of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and air pollutants. Their approach can provide robust, quantitative assessments of interactions between climate change and air pollution for proposals ranging from state-level GHG reductions to a Green New Deal. Joint Program co-authors include Sergey Paltsev and Noelle Selin.

Sebastian Eastham and Faculty Affiliate Steven Barrett are co-authors of one oral presentations and three posters focused on air quality impacts: Informing decision-making to mitigate the air quality and health impacts of agricultural residue burning in India using an adjoint modeling approach (oral), Dominant formation pathways and impacts for aerosols resulting from aviation emissionsAir quality trade-offs of a rapid expansion of personal electric vehicles in China and Development and application of a tropospheric-stratospheric adjoint to identify the ozone-neutral aircraft cruise altitude. Eastham and Selin are co-authors of two presentations in this space: Air Quality and Climate Impacts of United States Nuclear Power Plant Closures (oral) and Applying a systems framework to examine policies that address sustainability challenges arising from agricultural practices in north India (poster).

Noelle Selin will deliver the oral presentation Synergies and tradeoffs between climate action and mercury reductions: a matrix approach to analyzing human-technical-environmental systems. Noting that identifying synergies and tradeoffs in air pollution and climate policies is critical for understanding and intervening to promote sustainability, Selin will introduce a new systems-oriented analytical framework—the human-technical-environmental (HTE) framework (Selin and Selin, 2020)—to assess system-wide implications of interventions. The work applies the framework to examine past, present and future trajectories of mercury and CO2 emissions from coal-fired power plants in the U.S. and China, and suggests ways in which further interventions can encourage synergies among sustainability-related goals in practice.

Selin is a co-author of three other posters on air quality and human health: Beyond Benzo[a]pyrene: Human Health Risks of Airborne Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbon MixturesGlobal Health Impacts of International and Domestic Shipping and Statistical and Machine Learning Methods for Evaluating Emissions Reduction Policies under Changing Meteorological Conditions.

Regional analysis

Kenneth Strzepek is a co-author of the oral presentation Climate Change Impacts on the Water-Energy-Food Nexus of the Zambezi River Basin. The Zambezi River Basin is shared by eight countries with growing populations and economies, leading to growing demands for water, energy and food. While current trade-offs are limited, new infrastructure (e.g. irrigation, hydropower) planned to satisfy the growing demands, combined to climate change impacts might turn water into a scarce resource. This presentation investigates the climate change impacts on the water-energy-food nexus of the Zambezi River Basin using a hydroeconomic decision support tool, linking representations of the water, agriculture, and power systems in a holistic framework.

Modeling system

Jennifer Morris will deliver the oral presentation Consistent Framework for Probabilistic Uncertainty Quantification in Coupled Human-Earth System Models, using the MIT Integrated Global System Modeling (IGSM) framework to demonstrate. This approach involves formal uncertainty quantification of key parameters in both human and Earth system components of the coupled model, sampling from the probability distributions to explore the uncertainty space, and developing integrated, probabilistic socio-economic and climate projections. These projections provide insight into the probability of outcomes of interest, including emissions, concentrations, temperature, economy-wide welfare and energy. Among other benefits, this approach can help inform decision-making and risk-based discussions about mitigation and adaptation. The presentation is co-authored by Andrei Sokolov.

Bridging multiple research focus areas

Finally, Morris will serve as co-chair of the session Multisector Dynamics: Science and Modeling for Societal Transformations I, which seeks to develop a MultiSector Dynamics (MSD) community focused on advancing our understanding of the co-evolution of human and natural systems over time and developing the next generation of tools needed to support major societal transformations. MSD research occurs within a perspective that bridges sectors (e.g., energy, water, land, transportation, economy, etc.) and scales (spatial, temporal, and institutional) to better understand coupled human and natural systems. Morris will also co-chair two poster sessions (IV and V) on the topic.

Story Photo: AGU Fall Meeting Central Exhibit Hall (Credit: AGU)