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Climate Science Seminar: The Northeast Regional Earth System Model (NE-RESM): Translating Biogeophysical Dynamics into the Strategic Environmental Planning and Management Domains

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Date(s): March 26, 2014, 2 - 3:30 PM

Location: Room 4128, William Jefferson Clinton West Building, 1301 Constitution Ave., NW, Washington, DC

Contact: Carl Pasurka, 202-566-2275

Presenter: C.J. Vörösmarty

Description: by C.J. Vörösmarty(1,2), F. Duchin(3), J. Melillo(4), R. Paaswell(2), B. Rosenzweig(1), W. Wollheim(5) ,E. Linky(6)


1 CUNY Environmental CrossRoads Initiative, City University of New York

2 Civil Engineering Dept., The City College of New York

3 Dept. of Economics, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

4 Ecosystems Center, Marine Biological Laboratory

5 Water Systems Analysis Group, University of New Hampshire

6 EPA Region-2 (Project Advisor)


The Northeast region (NE) exhibits many of the environmental changes taking place across the nation's landscapes and watersheds, and provides a unique lens through which to assess options for managing large-scale natural resource systems. The region has a rich history and well-documented of strategic environmental transformations, from early settlement, deforestation and land clearing to industrialization, urbanization and mega-city growth to post-industrialization. Such human actions will continue and arguably be more difficult to manage under rapid climate change and continuing population growth. Because atmosphere, land, and aquatic systems are closely linked through the water, energy, and biogeochemical cycles, change to any one of these entities holds the potential for system-wide feedbacks, tipping points, and unintended consequences. In the context of climate change and long-term ecosystem response times, environmental management decisions made today will reverberate throughout the remainder of this century. Operational responses are equally challenging, for example, how best to co-balance energy production and aquatic habitat protection during episodic heat waves or drought.

In the context of these complex and interwoven issues, scientists are advancing the understanding of how human-environment systems interact over the fully regional domain and over multiple sectors, yet this knowledge is poorly transmitted into the planning and management domains. In this talk, we describe a new Regional Earth System Modeling effort (NE-RESM), a framework and accompanying science-to-policy process developed by an interdisciplinary research team drawn from academia and government, and with expertise in biogeophysics, engineering, energy, economics, and policy. Using several examples drawn from our recent work, we shall demonstrate the value of frameworks like the NE-RESM that embeds bioegophysical dynamics within an environmental policymaker and planning dialogue. The talk will discuss how a RESM-type framework can be used support EPA research and regulatory agendas at both national and regional office scales. We also describe a set of “must-haves” in the regional science-to-policy translation process: (i) toolkits to support fully-regional scale perspectives; (ii) multi-sectoral impacts and tradeoff assessment; (iii) quantification of long-lived legacy effects arising from human decisions and lags in environmental system response; and (iv) a central role for ecosystem services to define the performance of a regional economy.

The effort has engaged strongly with stakeholders, focusing on energy and food security; landscape management and build-out trajectories; and, strategic investments in water quality management. We conclude with a short prospectus on creating a regional Collaboratory representing academic, government, private sector, and NGO partners, who will continue this policy engagement process. We also discuss plans to develop an operational (near real-time) version of the NE-RESM, and thereby create relevancy to a still broader cross-section of stakeholders who manage human-environment systems on a more immediate timeframe.


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