Social dynamics and planetary boundaries in Earth system modelling
Social dynamics and planetary boundaries in Earth system modelling
Editor(s): W. Lucht, J. Donges, A. Kleidon, S. Cornell, J. Dyke, M. Sivapalan, and J. J. Finnigan

Human actions play an increasing role in shaping the Earth’s planetary environment, from the physical climate system to biogeochemical cycles to the functioning of the land surface. To understand and predict the future evolution of the Earth system, it is thus critical to understand the planetary boundaries of the human playing field, as well as socio-economic dynamics and their interactions with climate, and the consequences for the planetary system. There is a range of urgent questions related to this topic, from the definition of planetary boundaries, the safe operating space for humanity, thresholds and critical transitions in the global socio-environmental system, and the identification of sustainable pathways for future development.

However, the current Earth system modelling landscape lacks the tools to adequately address these challenges. Either societal dynamics is tightly constrained by economic optimization paradigms (integrated assessment modelling) or presents only as prescribed scenario input in physical Earth system models. Furthermore, feedback loops between social and environmental processes are largely absent in current Earth system models.

What is needed is a more dynamic societal sphere allowing for social tipping points, major reorganizations, revolutions and collapse in conjunction with a description of the fully coupled co-evolutionary dynamics of human societies and the natural Earth system. In this special issue, we seek novel and innovative approaches that deal with modelling socio-economic phenomena in the Earth system, their dynamics, interactions, and boundaries.

We welcome contributions applying concepts and methods that include but are not limited to the following:

  • Earth and social systems thermodynamics and stoichiometry (e.g., socio-industrial metabolism);
  • socio-ecological systems modelling;
  • conceptual, empirical, or agent-based models from the social sciences;
  • adaptive and temporal networks;
  • dynamical and evolutionary game theory.

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12 Nov 2021
Taxonomies for structuring models for World–Earth systems analysis of the Anthropocene: subsystems, their interactions and social–ecological feedback loops
Jonathan F. Donges, Wolfgang Lucht, Sarah E. Cornell, Jobst Heitzig, Wolfram Barfuss, Steven J. Lade, and Maja Schlüter
Earth Syst. Dynam., 12, 1115–1137,,, 2021
04 May 2020
Earth system modeling with endogenous and dynamic human societies: the copan:CORE open World–Earth modeling framework
Jonathan F. Donges, Jobst Heitzig, Wolfram Barfuss, Marc Wiedermann, Johannes A. Kassel, Tim Kittel, Jakob J. Kolb, Till Kolster, Finn Müller-Hansen, Ilona M. Otto, Kilian B. Zimmerer, and Wolfgang Lucht
Earth Syst. Dynam., 11, 395–413,,, 2020
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05 Oct 2018
Linking resilience and robustness and uncovering their trade-offs in coupled infrastructure systems
Mehran Homayounfar, Rachata Muneepeerakul, John M. Anderies, and Chitsomanus P. Muneepeerakul
Earth Syst. Dynam., 9, 1159–1168,,, 2018
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26 Jun 2018
Modelling feedbacks between human and natural processes in the land system
Derek T. Robinson, Alan Di Vittorio, Peter Alexander, Almut Arneth, C. Michael Barton, Daniel G. Brown, Albert Kettner, Carsten Lemmen, Brian C. O'Neill, Marco Janssen, Thomas A. M. Pugh, Sam S. Rabin, Mark Rounsevell, James P. Syvitski, Isaac Ullah, and Peter H. Verburg
Earth Syst. Dynam., 9, 895–914,,, 2018
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14 Jun 2018
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On the social dynamics of moisture recycling
Patrick W. Keys and Lan Wang-Erlandsson
Earth Syst. Dynam., 9, 829–847,,, 2018
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14 Jun 2018
On deeper human dimensions in Earth system analysis and modelling
Dieter Gerten, Martin Schönfeld, and Bernhard Schauberger
Earth Syst. Dynam., 9, 849–863,,, 2018
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17 May 2018
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Analytically tractable climate–carbon cycle feedbacks under 21st century anthropogenic forcing
Steven J. Lade, Jonathan F. Donges, Ingo Fetzer, John M. Anderies, Christian Beer, Sarah E. Cornell, Thomas Gasser, Jon Norberg, Katherine Richardson, Johan Rockström, and Will Steffen
Earth Syst. Dynam., 9, 507–523,,, 2018
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31 Jan 2018
A framework for modelling the complexities of food and water security under globalisation
Brian J. Dermody, Murugesu Sivapalan, Elke Stehfest, Detlef P. van Vuuren, Martin J. Wassen, Marc F. P. Bierkens, and Stefan C. Dekker
Earth Syst. Dynam., 9, 103–118,,, 2018
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08 Nov 2017
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Towards representing human behavior and decision making in Earth system models – an overview of techniques and approaches
Finn Müller-Hansen, Maja Schlüter, Michael Mäs, Jonathan F. Donges, Jakob J. Kolb, Kirsten Thonicke, and Jobst Heitzig
Earth Syst. Dynam., 8, 977–1007,,, 2017
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11 Apr 2017
Sustainable use of renewable resources in a stylized social–ecological network model under heterogeneous resource distribution
Wolfram Barfuss, Jonathan F. Donges, Marc Wiedermann, and Wolfgang Lucht
Earth Syst. Dynam., 8, 255–264,,, 2017
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27 Mar 2017
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Drought and flood in the Anthropocene: feedback mechanisms in reservoir operation
Giuliano Di Baldassarre, Fabian Martinez, Zahra Kalantari, and Alberto Viglione
Earth Syst. Dynam., 8, 225–233,,, 2017
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31 Oct 2016
Collateral transgression of planetary boundaries due to climate engineering by terrestrial carbon dioxide removal
Vera Heck, Jonathan F. Donges, and Wolfgang Lucht
Earth Syst. Dynam., 7, 783–796,,, 2016
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22 Apr 2016
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Revolutions in energy input and material cycling in Earth history and human history
Timothy M. Lenton, Peter-Paul Pichler, and Helga Weisz
Earth Syst. Dynam., 7, 353–370,,, 2016
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21 Mar 2016
Horses for courses: analytical tools to explore planetary boundaries
Detlef P. van Vuuren, Paul L. Lucas, Tiina Häyhä, Sarah E. Cornell, and Mark Stafford-Smith
Earth Syst. Dynam., 7, 267–279,,, 2016
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15 Feb 2016
Climate model emulation in an integrated assessment framework: a case study for mitigation policies in the electricity sector
A. M. Foley, P. B. Holden, N. R. Edwards, J.-F. Mercure, P. Salas, H. Pollitt, and U. Chewpreecha
Earth Syst. Dynam., 7, 119–132,,, 2016
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18 Jan 2016
Topology of sustainable management of dynamical systems with desirable states: from defining planetary boundaries to safe operating spaces in the Earth system
J. Heitzig, T. Kittel, J. F. Donges, and N. Molkenthin
Earth Syst. Dynam., 7, 21–50,,, 2016
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13 Oct 2015
Long-run evolution of the global economy – Part 2: Hindcasts of innovation and growth
T. J. Garrett
Earth Syst. Dynam., 6, 673–688,,, 2015
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13 Oct 2015
Resource acquisition, distribution and end-use efficiencies and the growth of industrial society
A. J. Jarvis, S. J. Jarvis, and C. N. Hewitt
Earth Syst. Dynam., 6, 689–702,,, 2015
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