Proceedings of the 59th Annual Meeting of the ISSS - 2015 Berlin, Germany, Vol 1, No 1 (2015)

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Torbjörn Skytt, Sören Nors Nielsen, Erik Grönlund, Fredrik Ståhl, Anders Jonsson, Inga Carlman, Morgan Fröling


The global development has now come to a critical state where humanity act as a new geological force and it is obvious that there are numerous of environmental problems which arise from the present geosphere-biosphere-anthroposphere interactions which urgently need to be addressed. This paper argues that systems analysis and modelling of environmental systems is one necessary part in successful governing of societies towards sustainability. In the 1960th many observations and data made it evident that the environment in most countries was in a bad state. To get a holistic view of the complex problems and to clarify the relationships of structure and function, systems thinking was applied e.g. modelling, cybernetics, systems analysis, life cycle assessment and energy and material flow analysis. Such tools used collectively, conceptualized as 'integrated assessment', can help to communicate fundamental knowledge, and to support decision-making when identifying, developing and implementing precautionary measures and solutions. There are good examples demonstrating the strength of such approaches; Solutions to the ozone depletion by replacing CFC's with more chemically reactive compounds that are degraded within the troposphere. Acidification of European low buffer soils and lakes, sensitive to acid rain, has decreased due to concerted action on Sulphur emission control in large parts of Europe. The handling and recycling of solid waste has resulted in a considerable reduction of deposits in large parts of the world. This basically natural scientific knowledge has also influenced the development within e.g. economy and jurisprudence and today ecological economy and environmental law assume ecological systems as fundamental.

The complexity of ecosystems and environmental issues can only be understood by use of advanced scientific tools such as modelling as a base for establishing interdisciplinary co-operation. Each component of such models will of course be an approximation, but validation and verification of the models will serve to make them useful. An ongoing research project at Mid Sweden University aims at building a complete carbon and energy balance model of an entire Swedish region, based on the Danish Samsø-model. Such models will make it possible to refer to a robust scientific base, thereby making it easier to argue for appropriate measures and actions. At the same time it will be clear what data these actions rest upon thereby making it easier to identify possible errors or limitations.

Systems analysis and subsequent modes are constructs. According to systems theory and model development they are strategies as the best representations of nature, we can make. At the same time it must be assured, that a continuous adaptation and improvement in a studied area is possible - i.e. that model outcomes are matched with phenomenological observations and that empirical work also is carried out. Model development can therefore be characterized as a dynamic and iterative process.

Governance in the Anthropocene must be based on an understanding of the problem picture at hand, and learning how to appropriately address increasingly complex issues. For identifying potential solutions and consequences of policy implementation, systems modelling on relevant levels will be one necessary tool. The current project developing an environmental regional model, illustrates how modelling can provide decision support for the county of Jämtland regarding management of energy resources and planning of future infrastructure, as well as serving regional and national information purposes.

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